As the first-generation X5 celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, there’s no better way to commemorate this milestone than by showcasing the most radical iteration of the E53 to the public. Introduced in March 2000, the BMW X5 Le Mans took the center stage at this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza. The one-off delighted over 10,000 visitors at Villa Erba on the public day of the event.

In the world of automobiles, there are creations that defy the conventions of their time, cars that are born not out of necessity but from the sheer will to push boundaries. The BMW X5 Le Mans is one such marvel, a vehicle that encapsulates the spirit of racing within the body of an SUV.

Celebrated the win at 24 Hours of Le Mans

The story of the BMW X5 Le Mans begins with a triumph, the kind that writes history. In 1999, BMW achieved a monumental victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the V12 LMR. To commemorate this success, BMW’s engineers embarked on an audacious project: to transplant the heart of a Le Mans winner into the body of their first Sports Activity Vehicle, the BMW X5 (E53).

The result was nothing short of extraordinary. The BMW X5 Le Mans was equipped with a 6.1-liter V12 engine, the same powerhouse that propelled the V12 LMR to victory. Unleashed from the constraints of racing regulations, this engine roared with over 700 horsepower and a colossal 720 Newton-meters (531 pound-feet) of torque; a figure that was almost mythical at the turn of the millennium.

7.50 seconds around Nurburgring

With a top speed recorded at 278 km/h and the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 4.7 seconds, it shattered the mold of what an SAV could achieve in 1999. And yet, it was Hans-Joachim Stuck’s record lap at the Nürburgring that truly cemented its legacy, clocking in at 7 minutes and 50 seconds—a time that stood unchallenged for nearly two decades. Stuck drove the beefy SUV in a lighter two-seat configuration in June 2001 when he hit 193 mph (311 km/h). It also has a six-speed manual gearbox.

Despite the huge engine, it had a near-perfect weight distribution of 51% front and 49% rear. The BMW X5 Le Mans tipped the scale at 4,695 pounds (2,130 kilograms), even after implementing a series of weight-saving measures. It sat on exclusive 20-inch BBS LM wheels with 315/35 front and rear tires, and was lowered by 1.18 inches (30 millimeters) by the M division.

Lots of carbon fiber

Even just by looking at the hood, you can’t tell this isn’t an ordinary first-generation X5. Made from laminated carbon fiber, the bonnet as the British say had a massive opening necessary to cool the engine. Decades later, this car still manages to impress the connoisseurs. In many ways, the BMW X5 Le Mans is not just a part of history; it is a legend that continues to inspire.