Normally, car manufacturers ask marketing departments and their customers which models are currently popular or will be well received in the future. But there are exceptions for almost every brand: unusual ideas, bordering on madness, dreamt up by creative minds but not included in the production series. And now we have the BMW X5 Le Mans!

Gallery: BMW X5 Le Mans (2000)

We were able to admire this crazy SUV at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2024 at Villa Erba, also on Lake Como. The vehicle was presented 25 years after the premiere of the BMW X5 Le Mans. Unfortunately, it was parked a little awkwardly under the trees, but that didn't detract from its fascination.

BMW X5 Le Mans (2000)

More than just an SUV

Although it seems that every luxury manufacturer nowadays launches an SUV with exorbitant performance that dares to race on the Nürburgring's Nordschleife, this X5 inspires madness. The name comes from the V12-powered LMR racing car with which BMW won the 24-hour race in 1999. Its engine has been increased from 580 to 700 PS for use in the all-new X5 (E53).

Meanwhile, the 2,130 kilograms also had to be moved dynamically. For this task, none other than Hans-Joachim Stuck (a famous German driver) grabbed the lever of the six-speed manual gearbox. In June 2001, he pushed the X5 Le Mans to 193 mph, to achieve a time of 7'49"92 minutes on the Nordschleife. But for all its capabilities, BMW decided not to mass-produce the SUV. There is now a X5 M as its spiritual successor, which currently produces up to 625 PS from a twin-turbo V8.

BMW X5 Le Mans (2000)
BMW X5 Le Mans (2000)
BMW X5 Le Mans (2000)

One of the last of its time?

Twelve-cylinder SUVs have been and remain the exception: back in the 1980s, Lamborghini built the very off-road LM002 with a 455 PS V12 from the Countach, and Audi offered the 500 PS Q7 V12 TDI from 2008 to 2012.

Also worth mentioning are the Mercedes-AMG G 65 and the Bentley Bentayga W12 Speed, which boasts 635 PS. Rolls-Royce offers the Cullinan with up to 600 PS, while Porsche injects up to 739 PS into the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid. And let's not forget the Lamborghini Urus Performante, which develops 666 PS.

Gallery: BMW XM Label Red (2023)

The most powerful SUV currently available from BMW is the controversial  XM Label Red (see above). With its plug-in hybrid, it is even more powerful than the X5 Le Mans, developing 748 PS. The combustion engine itself is a V8 that develops 'only' 585 PS.

Gallery: 2000 BMW X5 Le Mans concept