My memory was jolted as I perused BMW Blog's photos of the secret underground M garage. OH YEA! There was that one time BMW shoehorned a V12 from their Le Mans winning LMR Prototype into an X5. Fucking nuts.
Using the internet, I found this old German news video where they appear to do a little report on it. Alas, when I was in college I only took German long enough to learn how to say "schnell fahren mit präzision", so that video was pretty underwhelming for me. Whoever mixed the audio also butchered the true sounds of this rare beast, quite obviously overlaid from the fastest flybys and loudest pulls.
With my whistle whet for some wailing V12, I dug up this glorious GoPro video from Graeme Lambert, along with his short write-up on Car Enthusiast:
The first thing Martin Tomczyk says to me as I slide into the seat is "It's nothing very spectacular, but you will see - it's a lot of power". I don't often disagree with a tame racing driver when he's behind the wheel of a vehicle designed purely for use on a circuit, but this is one such rare occasion.
You see, from my point of view, sat atop the leather clad passenger seat in this particular car I'm sure it could be more spectacular than all of the others gathered here. And that includes the M1 Procar further down the pit lane. Not because it'll be quicker to complete its lap, handle better, hang on for longer or sound rawer, but because we're sat in a BMW X5. A car designed for school run mums and the occasional jaunt off road, not for lapping the Nürburgring short circuit.
Of course this is no ordinary X5, despite the three-point seatbelt, wood dashboard, heated seat buttons and carpet under my feet. It is of course the X5 that was built to lap the legendary Nordschleife, using the same V12 engine found under the clamshell of the firm's Le Mans racer. Even when static it has a prevailing sense of the spectacular.
Crawling down the pit lane Tomczyk suddenly buries the throttle, and I'm thrown back into the seat, my body sliding violently across the leather. Before I know it we're well into third gear and braking hard for the tight hairpin and back onto the power at the exit. The noise made by the 6.0-litre V12 engine is as brutal as the performance (700hp is enough to hit a top speed of 186mph) and would leave a Cayenne Turbo S behind. It's clearly still a weighty beast, with a centre of gravity higher than my driver would like, but there's no shortage of grip.
In the hands of Hans Stuck it set a record round the ring, completing all 12.9 miles of twisting tarmac in eight minutes and five seconds, and in the hands of Martin Tomczyk it's all about the balance. His turn in is aggressive, usually on the brakes, to get the nose to point in the required direction before he's hard on the power again. From my position it feels like there's some roll, but it's exaggerated by the standard seat, and compared to any other SUV the X5 Le Mans is positively flat past each and every apex.
We're only out there for a couple of laps (each one sub two minutes) and it's clear the X5 is a very strange beast. The concept of hot-lapping in an SUV certainly doesn't do it for all - evidenced by the short queue for the passenger seat compared or the liveried racers here today - and to see it bump up on a red and white kerb rather than a concrete pavement is certainly incongruous.
But that's part of the appeal. This car is the underdog today, overshadowed by the noise of the M1 Procars, the kerb-riding of the E30 M3 and the sheer pace of the DTM racers, but to see, and experience, this X5 hammering round the short Ring is without doubt the most spectacular of the lot.
lede photo credit: Top Gear