This bulletproof BMW X5 is one car you don’t want to (and probably physically can’t) mess with

The BMW X5 Protection VR6 is able to protect against automatic rifle fire, hand grenades, roadside bombs, and more

Munich, Germany

This is a very special BMW X5, and in its own subtle way, probably the coolest BMW SUV ever.

The BMW X5 Protection VR6, to give it its full name, is the latest in a long line of armoured cars made by the company.

It’s built to withstand bullets, grenades, even C4 explosive. We’ve jokingly put forward idea that the ultimate crossover is actually a tank – but this X5 as close as it comes to a tank on wheels you can buy.

VR6, by the way, isn’t a reference to an old Volkswagen engine. Rather, it refers to the car’s ballistic protection rating.

Would we ever see an X5 Protection VR6 in Singapore? It’s hard to say, but given the Singapore Police Force’s current links with BMW (the Traffic Police’s 325d M Sport highway patrol vehicles), and the age of their Volvo XC90 VIP escort vehicles, it wouldn’t be totally outlandish notion.

For anyone else in fear of coming under attack in Singapore or Malaysia, you might be able to buy one: BMW says they will review individual customer applications on a case by case basis.

For brevity (and presumably security) reasons, BMW doesn’t go into details about how exactly the VR6 is armoured – typically this entails measures such as laminated glass sheets, kevlar fabric and possibly composite plates.

But it does list what the car can stop: all hand-held firearm ammunition up to 7.62mm caliber, which is what an AK-47 uses (our local SAR-21, remember, is chambered for 5.56mm), and lateral blasts from 15 kg of TNT at a distance of four metres.

There’s underfloor protection as well for protection from hand grenades, and an armoured roof is that can withstand 200 grams of C4 explosive is also available as an option, in case of an attack via drones.

Other standard protective features include a self-sealing fuel tank, an external intercom, “panic mode” button, and naturally, run-flat tyres.

The X5 VR6 is powered by the same 530hp/750Nm 4.4-litre V8 engine as found in the X5 and X7 xDrive50i and M850i, which BMW says makes it the most powerful car in its segment. It’s not specified how much extra the VR6 weighs compared to a regular X5, but performance is certainly blunted; top speed is limited to 210km/h and the 0-100km/h sprint takes 5.9 seconds, compared to 4.7 seconds for the normal X5 xDrive50i. The suspension is also specifically tuned to account for the extra weight.

On top of all its protective qualities though, the X5 VR6 is of course, still a luxury car, so all the creature comforts that we loved when we reviewed the regular X5 are still present and correct. That includes the leather interior, quad-zone climate control, ambient lighting, soft-close doors, and massage + ventilated seats.

BMW says that it’s been in the armoured vehicle business since 1978, when the E23-generation BMW 733i High Security was introduced. And though real-world examples of the effectiveness of armoured vehicles like these are hard to come by, one particular car became famous in 2016 when its owner put his car to the ultimate test: a Kurdish soldier used his secondhand E32 BMW 750iL Security to shield, rescue and transport civilian casualties during a surprise ISIS attack on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, with the car surviving an estimated 120 shots and saving about 70 lives in the process. 

about the author

Jon Lim
CarBuyer's staff writer was its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s and is enthusiastic about vintage cars and old machinery.