Meets E53 X5 Le Mans

Meets E53 X5 Le Mans

7 minutes, 42.253 seconds: the current record lap time for SUVs on the Nürburgring’s legendary Nordschleife. And, in the broadest sense, the yardstick for what is technically possible in this segment in 2020. Before that, the previous record had stood at seven minutes and 49 seconds for almost two decades. This remarkable time set was set by race driver Hans-Joachim Stuck in June 2001, in an experimental vehicle which set important impulses for the future: the X5 Le Mans.

bmw x5 e53 Le Mans V12


  • 01Prototype based on the BMW X5 E53
  • 026.1 litre V12 engine
  • 03Max. output: over 700 hp
  • 04Engine from the BMW V12 LMR
  • 05Paved the way for the BMW X5 M

X5 E53 M Le Mans engine


Meets SAV.

When it premiered in March 2000, the BMW X5 Le Mans outshone every four-wheel drive that came before it. Under the bonnet of BMW's first Sports Activity Vehicle, a 12-cylinder engine developing more than 700 hp provided powerful performance. It came from the Le Mans-winning V12 LMR, which took BMW to victory in the world’s toughest endurance race in 1999. A study in feasibility, Technical Director Albert Biermann once again demonstrated the impressive performance possibilities of BMW M.

311 km/h

Stuck reached this speed with the BMW X5 Le Mans during his record drive.


In the V12 LMR, the 6.1-litre V12 engine was throttled down to around 580 hp by air intake limiters; at the time, this is what the regulations stipulated for vehicles such as the Le Mans Roadster (hence the LMR abbreviation) when racing. In the X5 Le Mans, the 12-cylinder was let off the leash. Breathing freely, this experimental vehicle had up to 720 Newton metres of torque to accelerate to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds. The official top speed of the super SAV was recorded as 278 km/h. This driving performance was unrivalled at the time and is still remarkable by today’s standards in the successful SUV and SAV segments. During Stuck’s record-setting drive, the BMW X5 Le Mans – setup without rear seats – even reached an incredible 311 km/h top speed.

X5 E53 Le Mans M


The large-volume 12-cylinder in the BMW X5 Le Mans is almost completely concealed beneath a weight-optimised carbon cover. The ‘V12 BMW Motorsport’ inscription almost makes it look like a gleaming prize-winner’s trophy. The race-proven engine developed its maximum torque at as little as 5,000 revolutions per minute, while the six manually shifted gears pushed the 2,130 kilogram SAV impressively towards Vmax.


At its public premiere at the 70th International Motor Show in Geneva, the BMW X5 Le Mans presented itself like an Olympic champion: perfectly trained, muscle-bound, but not an ounce of excess fat. Competition weight in the very best sense. The most striking feature was the large, pocket-like opening in the laminated carbon fibre hood, which allows the radiator exhaust air to escape unhindered, helping the X5 Le Mans to stay at ideal temperature. Further modifications can be seen in the widened panels on the front and rear bumpers, the wheel arches and sills, the wing mirrors and, of course, on the wheels.


Depending on the application profile, the front tyres are either 315/35 or 275/40, while the rear tyres measure 315/35 in both cases, with an ideal axle load distribution of 51 per cent at the front to 49 per cent at the rear. To bring the power perfectly to the road, BMW M lowered the chassis by 30 millimetres. The wheel arches are almost completely filled by exclusive 20-inch wheels. These are, of course, genuine BBS LM – also known as BBS ‘Le Mans’.


Inside, the driver and passengers experience the SAV’s massive torque from four distinctly sporty bucket seats. Although the large centre console is extensively covered, the interior largely resembles the comfort of the standard version. “The philosophy of our vehicles is based on the perfect interplay of dynamics, agility, precision and suitability for everyday use,” says Markus Flasch, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW M GmbH.


This is just as true today as it was when the X5 Le Mans provided a first taste of what models like the BMW X5 M were capable of achieving in the years to come. The latter’s M TwinPower Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine, with 4.4 litres displacement and 460 kW (625 hp), is the most powerful engine of all BMW production vehicles. Equipped with two twin-scroll turbochargers, high-pressure injection and Valvetronic, the high-performance unit in the BMW X5 M Competition sends a clear signal on the road and on the race track: 750 Nm torque, 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds and 0 to 200 km/h in 13.4 seconds. The X5 Le Mans would be very proud of its worthy heir.


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