This Is How the Original BMW X5 SUV Went From Idea to Reality

We could watch Frank Stephenson sketch cars all day.

Frank Stephenson-YouTube

Some of us are well versed in the process that takes a vehicle from idea to either concept or finished production model,  but that's not to say that it isn't mesmerizing to see the process behind the design phase of a specific car, especially one as important as BMW's first-ever SUV: the X5.

Frank Stephenson is the closest thing the automotive design world has to a living legend these days, and his new “How I Designed” series on YouTube pulls back the curtain for us to see how he worked his magic with a variety of models. In his latest video, he sketches the original BMW X5 SUV and tells us how he helped take it from a BMW executive's wish to an actual finished product.

Stephenson says the X5 came about as an exercise to see what a BMW could look like if it were styled like a Land Rover. Chris Bangle, BMW Chief of Design at the time, offered to produce sketches of the new vehicle, but the demand given to the design team was to create a full-size model of the vehicle for company executives. Stephenson says the designers were given just six weeks to take the SUV from conception to the finished model. 

Together with three guys that worked on the Lamborghini Miura decades earlier, Stephenson worked up a model for the X5. Following the company’s purchase of the Rover brand, BMW had access to the platform that would go on to underpin the new SUV, so the rest just had to be created out of thin air—and that's where Stephenson's mastery came in handy.

Stephenson claims that creating a sketch can be a challenge, but it’s actually better to start from scratch. The design can be almost anything the designer wants it to be, as long as it holds true to some element of the brand’s DNA. Stephenson shows this element in his X5 sketch as a deep, straight line down the vehicle’s flank and the Hofmeister Kink, which is a kind of double angle in the window by the SUV’s D-Pillar. The team also added lines and shapes into the hood for a more dynamic look. 

Frank Stephenson via YouTube

Though the end result was impressive, Stephenson’s portfolio goes much deeper than just penning a BMW SUV. His name appears on the credits for the Maserati GranSport and MC12, Ferrari FXX, and F430, along with several other cars under the Pininfarina banner—and not to mention his success at McLaren, too.

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