This BMW Bonkers SUV packs a V12 from a McLaren F1
When you think of a family SUV, like the Bmw X5, you imagine daily school trips, occasional trips to the supermarket and a tachometer that has not exceeded three thousand revolutions since its inception. Many buyers choose this type of vehicle because it is spacious and feels safe. The majority of these prestigious SUVs hardly ever go out of their comfort zone. Most do nothing but the boring daily auctions of ordinary families, and invariably they do so at snail speed in heavy traffic on local roads.
So when someone at BMW had the crazy idea of ââputting a McLaren F1 engine in one, they must have been laughing. Engineers have loved to push the limits since the dawn of time, and taking a racing V12 engine from a McLaren F1 racing car and cramming it under the hood of a BMW X5 is certainly one of them. But in 2000, that’s exactly what the guys from BMW’s M division did.
They called it the BMW X5 Le Mans, in honor of the winner McLaren F1 GTR racing car which triumphed in grueling endurance races at Le Mans 24, 1995 and 1999. BMW presented this unique concept car at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show to spark interest in its new family SUV, the X5.
Let’s take a closer look at this insane piece of engineering, which is encroaching on supercar territory.
Under the hood of the BMW X5 Le Mans
When you look under the hood, the first thing you see, besides a glaring lack of space, is the BMW Motorsport V12 script on the bonnet. And then, it’s pretty hard to miss the bulky 6.1-liter BMW McLaren P75 V12 engine, packed so tightly that it looks like it wants to unwind like a compressed jack-in-box ready to roll out of the engine bay. This impressive, race-ready, twelve-cylinder hump has the equivalent of 700 horsepower.
And what’s really funny is that the original Le Mans race car, which used this engine, had to be reduced to 570bhp to meet the racing regulations of the time. So the X5 Le Mans SUV actually packs more power than the McLaren F1 when it was on the racetrack! BMW engineers were able to unleash its full potential by getting rid of the engine’s air restrictors and installing a bespoke exhaust system, giving the V12 the ability to breathe fully.
And it certainly did the trick, because according to BMW, this unrestricted beast of a family wagon has 531 lb-ft of torque and can reach peak torque at just five thousand revs. Even with the huge V12 engine occupying the front of this car, engineers managed to get the right weight distribution ratio on the axles; 51% at the front and 49 at the rear.
So, when we start to look at the performance of this car, bearing in mind that twenty years ago now, the engineering team in BMW’s M division can afford to be sufficient. Because, according to their numbers, this family SUV can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, and climb to an official top speed of 172 mph.
However, when the team took the NÃ¼rburgring in June 2001 and handed it over to their touring car racing driver (and production test driver) Hans-Joachim Stuck, he managed to reach speed staggering peak of 193 mph on the DÃ¶ttinger HÃ¶he part of the famous circuit.
And it was on the Ring that Stuck managed to achieve the remarkable lap time of 7 minutes and 49 seconds, tying the previous record set in two decades. Three seconds faster than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 and six seconds faster than a Caterham R500. Not bad for a first-gen SUV that hits the scales at around 2 tons, and is about as aerodynamic as a garden shed.
Exterior of the BMW X5 Le Mans
At first glance, Le Mans looks like the standard car E53 X5. Only when you take a closer look do you start to see some of the refinements the engineers have made to turn it into one of the coolest SUVs on the road. The Le Man’s carbon fiber hood has a large opening down the center, forward, which helps keep the gigantic V12 cool.
Some body panels have been slightly widened, but they are not very visible, and the chassis has been lowered by 3 centimeters. 20-inch BBS Le Mans wheels in gold and silver fill the X5’s slightly widened wheel arches, and if you look under the car you can spot the cleverly customized exhaust system, with its two neatly bolted center tailpipes. square.
When you see Le Mans up close, you just have the feeling that there is a lot more to this car than it looks. Because he’s so unassuming in appearance, you could almost imagine that he’s that calm and courageous little transformer robot standing in the background behind Optimus Prime, in one of the Transformer movies, waiting for that. the battle begins. And when the action starts, or you turn the ignition key, it turns into something completely different; an almighty silver superhero who is able to crush his foe when commanded.
Interior of the BMW X5 Le Mans
The Le Man’s dashboard comes from an E39 M5, and aside from a few extra gauges, the dashboard is pretty much standard. But when you’re inside, the huge roll cage, racing carbon-kevlar bucket seats, the metal oars surrounding the front seats, and the fire extinguisher behind them, are all kind of a dead gift. That’s when you know this SUV is really serious and it’s not just a family ride.
When you turn it on, the V12 spits out a deafening roar, which sounds like you’ve just opened the cage door on a trapped lion that hasn’t eaten in days. It is incredibly loud. And with acres of power transferred to the rear wheels (yes – its rear-wheel drive!), It’s a blast to drive, too. Le Mans has a six-speed manual transmission, no swinging paddles, but to make the driver’s life easier, this machine is hard-core. Those lucky enough to have driven it inform us that apart from the understeer loads and expected weight shifts in the turns, this is an absolute riot to drive.
But Le Mans isn’t the only attempt to bolster a family SUV. Renault did the same with its Espace mini-van. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, they took a Formula 1 V10 engine from Alain Prost’s Williams race car and stuck it in the bland SUV. With the uni 3.5-liter V10, producing 789 hp and spinning at 13,800 rpm, they were able to hit a zero-to-sixty stopwatch in breathtaking 2.8 seconds and push the SUV into the shape of a brick up to 193 mph.
So if this car is just a historical feasibility study of what can be achieved with a family SUV if you tinker with it. Or if it is an extremely clever marketing tool, which succeeded in propelling the BMW X5 to the top of the SUV market at the time. Or if Le Mans is an honorable tribute to a ’90s race car that had some really cool podiums. It does not matter.
Because what BMW did was they messed up the physics. They had fun with a family SUV and, in the words of Captain Kirk, “Boldy has gone where no man has …”, well, you know what I mean. They defied the norm. They did something crazy and produced something that back then was second to none and quite remarkable even by today’s standards.
So hopefully more car makers in the future will give their engineering teams the same freedom to experiment, build machines that continue to push the limits, and show us what is technically possible, even if it seems. at first impossible and very frankly crazy.
Someone captured the supercar in Savile Row, a famous street in London.
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