BMW X5 LM – The X5 With a Le Mans V12
If you're not aware of the time when BMW put a Le Mans V12 into their X5, you will be after reading this. You're welcome.
The BMW X5 is not a car I'm particularly fond of, which when translated into blunt English means, I detest the thing with a frightening amount of vim. My passionate hatred is mainly fuelled by the fact that it's nothing more than a piece of metal that's designed for people who know absolutely nothing about cars, but want their car to tell people that they're rich.
That said however, I am more than willing to abdicate my prejudices for one particular X5; one that you won't find in the production range. And that's because it was fitted with an engine from a Le Mans racing car. I am talking about the one-off special X5 LM.
The recipe for the X5 LM was classic and simple: take what was in 1999 the newly released BMW X5; slot in the 6L normally aspirated V12 from the BMW V12 LMR that won Le Mans in 1999; give the car the suspension, brakes, wheels, tyres, and roll cage it needs; and Bob's your driving God. While the recipe sounds simple enough when wrote like that, the result of it was absolutely staggering!
BMW V12 LMR that won Le Mans in 1999. Credit: bmwblog
Due to the fact that the engine didn't have to adhere to any racing regulations, BMW could roam freely outside of the normal power restrictions that would strangle it. The X5 LM therefore produced a colossal 700bhp, and 520lb-ft of torque. And to top it off, that power was delivered to the road through a 6-speed manual gearbox that BMW had plucked from their M-Division.
The result of all that was a car that was capable of getting around the Nurburgring – in the hands of someone called Hans-Joachim Stuck – in just 7:50. What's perhaps even more amazing however is the fact that the LM was reaching speeds of 192mph on the lap – despite the fact that it had the aerodynamic properties of a barn! But if anything, the most astonishing thing about it isn't the speed – it's the noise.
Fitting a Le Mans V12 in an SUV, you end up with a rather bizarre scenario. When you hear it coming, you're expecting to see a racing car; however, when you do see it, you're greeted with something that's about as far away from a racing car as cars can get. The noise and the shape just do not mix – and it's all the more insane because of that. It's the automotive equivalent of hearing a tiger's roar, and then seeing the animal responsible for that growl is a squirrel!
Of course, the bitter narrow-minded cynics amongst you may be wondering why BMW would want to even bother putting such a seemingly pointless car together. I mean, it's not like it's going into production; it's not a viable track-only special; and its lap doesn't qualify to break any records for SUVs because it's not a production car.
Sometimes with cars however, searching for a point too logically makes you miss their point - their point being that they're completely pointless. The X5 LM is one of those beautifully mad one-offs that's done just because it can be done. Not to meet anyone's approval, or to serve any particular or useful purpose – but just because they wanted to do something wonderfully berserk. And thank God that such cars exist!
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Written by: Angelo Uccello
Tribe: Speed Machines
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