MOSCOW – BMW AG launches the latest in its line of armored vehicles – the BMW X5 Security – at the auto show here.

The X5 Security follows in the footsteps of the 5-Series Security and the 7-Series High Security, all of which boast armored body panels and bulletproof glass.

The Security models differ from the 7-Series High Security in the amount of protection they offer, says Michael Gallman, general manager-security and special task vehicles.

“The Security can stop anything up to a .44 magnum, and the High Security can stop any assault rifle,” he tells Ward’s.

While BMW performs the armor work in-house in order to maintain its trademark handling and driving dynamics, ballistics testing is handled by the German government, Gallman says.

In testing the X5 Security, 600 rounds of varying caliber size were fired at the cross/utility vehicle from a variety of angles.

“That’s one of the big differences of our cars,” Gallman says. “Normally, cars are only tested from 90-degree angle, and we test every angle.

“You can only imagine you try to get away and someone shoots at you and the angle could be completely different than 90 degrees,” he says.

The X5 Security costs an additional €50,000 ($73,230) over the base price of a typically equipped vehicle and takes about five months to build. The armor adds about 661 lbs. (300 kg), and all models are equipped with a 355-hp 4.8L V-8 engine.

The underbodies of the vehicles can be armored at an additional cost, which Gallman does not disclose.

The engine bay cannot be armored, as it would inhibit vehicle performance by blocking airflow. But BMW has found that in nearly all cases, its vehicles will remain operational long enough, even if damaged, to get out of harm’s way.

“If somebody attacked you, you won’t go for another 500 km (311 miles),” Gallman says. “The only point is to get away from the threat, and that normally always works, even if (the engine) is not protected.”

The customer base is difficult to pinpoint, he says, because it can change from year to year.

“Quite often, cars are purchased by (national) authorities,” he says. “And it can happen that you have an authority in one country that purchases 150 cars in one year. So for that year that country is our largest customer. But maybe during the next five years they don’t buy one single car.”

In addition to governments, Gallman says, high-level executives buy the armored vehicles for themselves and their families, especially in South America and other developing countries.

bpope@wardsauto.com