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Before he was designing supercars and hypercars like the Ferrari F430 and McLaren P1, talented designer Frank Stephenson was penning more pedestrian vehicles.
One of these was the first generation of the modern Mini, which has become an icon in its own right. Another was the first generation of the BMW X5.
In a video posted to his YouTube channel last week, Stephenson, who today runs his own independent design firm, details how he designed the original X5.
The SUV was launched in 1999 and was immediately heralded for its car-like dynamics, which set it apart from many SUVs at the time which were still based on truck-like body-on-frame platforms. Interestingly, as Stephenson reveals in the video, the SUV was based on a platform that BMW acquired through its ownership of Rover Group, which at the time included Land Rover. After struggling to make Rover Group profitable, BMW split it and sold the Land Rover portion to Ford. That was in 2000.
Stephenson’s goal in designing the X5 was to come up with a BMW equivalent to the Land Rover Range Rover. He was working under the guidance of Chris Bangle who was BMW’s chief designer at the time and was under pressure from senior management to get the design out quickly. As a result Stephenson didn’t waste any time. In fact, the first sketches were completed during a flight. And to build the first scale models, he worked with three designers who were part of the team behind the Lamborghini Miura.
There are plenty of more stories behind the design revealed in the clip, making it well worth your time.