Editorial: Where’s my Diesel?

Diesels. They’re a big part of BMW’s future with cars like the Vision EfficientDynamics Concept and just as big throughout their past. However, American consumers …

Diesels. They’re a big part of BMW’s future with cars like the Vision EfficientDynamics Concept and just as big throughout their past. However, American consumers are none-the-wiser about the incredible potential that lie within these torquey, glow-plug equipped powerplants.

Being a European company, BMW are familiar with the needs of a market oriented first upon fuel economy and emissions output and second upon performance. As a result, diesel-powered cars have come to represent a large portion of sales abroad where taxation on cars is based upon emissions.

However, that’s not to say that diesels don’t provide the same type of driving pleasure derived from the gasoline powered brothers in arms. BMW have proved this point already ad nauseum.

Beyond the realm of road cars, BMW have had a successful showing in motorsports with diesels. One example being the E36 320d that was entered into the 1998 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Not only was the little 2.0L diesel able to withstand the punishment of the Green Hell but it also managed to take first place over all representing the first time a diesel-powered car won the fabled event. I haven’t even mentioned the E46 330d the boys from Top Gear entered in the 2007 Britcar 24 Hours of Silverstone. In 2006, BMW even ran a pair of 6-Speed manual-equipped 335ds at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill returning an impressive 3rd place in their first and last outing. You can read the official press release prior to the race here – we hope to have more on these lovely twins in the near future.

    B69F5678 654x438

Comparing the torque figures of a 335i and 335d, the performance gap advantages of the “d” begin to play their hand with the 335i returning 300 lbs-ft of torque with the 335d ringing up an impressive figure of 425 lbs-ft of torque. For further comparison, the 2010 E60 M5 with an extra four cylinders to its V10 and 2 additional liters of displacement can “only” muster 383 lbs-ft of torque against the 335d’s 425.

So that long, winding path brings us to the point: The current. When will we see more diesels from line-up currently available? The 335d and X5 xDrive35d have proved highly suitable platforms to deliver a new generation of diesels to a wide range of U.S. consumers but when can we expect more?


We’ve driven the 335d and X5 xDrive35d extensively and each time came away impressed with what was on offer: performance – both in terms of driving prowess and fuel economy. Moreover, I was given an opportunity to drive the littlest Bimmer, the 123d, late last year and for reasons beyond comprehension still cannot understand why this model isn’t on sale in North America. It’s torquey, efficient, clean and most of all fun. None of the BMW DNA leaves the 1 Series despite the lower rev limit and slightly off-tune diesel engine note. This could prove a critical pricing point to introduce diesels as well showing that you don’t need to spend $45,000 to enjoy the performance of a BMW while earning a pleasurable return on your monthly gas expense.

Case in point is the commitment to diesel products already made by Audi vis-a-vis the 2010 Audi A3 TDI. This smallest Audi of the U.S. market has gone from a diverse model line-up of gasoline and diesel engines to strictly a diesel-only line-up with a petite 2.0L turbocharged four – and we all are cognizant of Audi’s associate with diesel as it is. But, at this writing, there isn’t a comparable Munich-sourced alternative in this segment. With diesel-powered 1ers running around Europe and a warm reception by of the 128i and 135i here, why not knock Audi off their duffs in this segment while providing consumers with a more economical solution than the rather expensive 335d or X5d.

After all, recent diesels have been successful at proving to the American car buyer that perhaps there are more compelling for fuel efficiency than the Prius or even a Tesla. With continued commitment by Audi and BMW to diesel vehicles for North America this market saw a massive jump of 41% in the diesels available. This fact is punctuated by the point the X5d and 335d have enjoyed steady sales of over 600 and around 300 units per month YTD in 2010. So with steady sales, surely there is more room for BMW to inject diesel engines into the existing line-up.

In addition to motorsport application, the Bavarian diesel has found a special home in the history of BMW in terms of production cars. Cars like the E28 524tds and the E46 diesels with the international award-winning M57 engine – ironically what powered Clarkson and the boys to finish at the 24 Hours at Silverstone.

In terms of the future, BMW have pointed to diesel power as means of phasing in alternative fuel sources through the ultra-chic and very sleek Vision EfficientDynamics Concept. The VEDC combines a small, three cylinder diesel engine with electric motors as a means of providing clean, fossil fuel-generated power along with good, old fashioned battery power for M3-rivalling performance. And why shouldn’t the diesels be the way of the future? With nearly unparalleled fuel economy from gasoline counterparts plus the new generation of clean diesels, why wouldn’t more consumers be jumping all over these cars?

Well, in the United States, the general perception is that diesels are clattery, dirty engines. This is true ofdiesels – only about 20 to 30 years ago. Modern diesel technology keeps oil-butners from ever outputting the un-ending plumes of blue smoke or dirty bi-product that created the stigma associated with this type of engine. The other stigma of diesels is the general lack of performance – another major falsehood.

For the uninitiated, the oil-burning powerplants provide a nearly towering wall of a Teutonic torque that will allay any fears of lacking performance by shoving you so far into the seat you’ll expect to be sitting in the truck once you lift off of the throttle. Diesel powerplants feel like a shrunken Saturn 5 rocket under the hood of the 335d – all while returning better fuel economy than similarly powered and priced gasoline equivalents – did we mention that the Internal Revenue Service offers a nice little credit for buying fuel efficient cars like the 335d? What’s not to like about these types of engines?

One enthusiast agrees. After a recent letter in the current issue of Roundel proclaiming these same benefits, John Stoj started a fan page on Facebook called “BMW, please bring 4 cylinder diesels to the USA.” John’s page serves as a place where enthusiasts can both voice their love of the Bavarian brand and the desire for a more diversified engine line-up in North America. I contacted John to determine what his thoughts were on potential models and why there is such a strong desire for diesels:

I would like to have the option of more BMW diesel engines in the USA, especially the four pots. BMW is an industry leader in terms of driving dynamics, and even efficiency with their EfficientDynamics – as evidenced by their green award winning 118d – but as yet we have not been able to purchase these fantastic products in the USA. Discerning drivers want an option to purchase a fun, efficient vehicle. Who better than BMW to provide one? – John Stoj


So with BMW’s commitment to oil burners through the 335d and X5 diesel, what is the second act going to be? What should the follow-up be? Can consumers expect a continued commitment that will result in a wider array of available diesels for both the performance and luxury crowds alike? We would like to think so, having sampled some of the “d’s” available here and abroad. And if our opinion of diesels isn’t enough for you, this brief review of a diesel 3 Series by Fifth Gear should help to push you over the edge.

Reports have indicated that four cylinder diesel engines are imminent for the North American market. However, we’re still waiting with baited breath for confirmation of just when and in what models we’ll see these engines materialize.

(335d photo credit to BMW NA)

25 responses to “Editorial: Where’s my Diesel?”

  1. Casey says:


    Pretty please.

    Pretty please with sugar on top

    Pretty please with a cherry on top.

  2. Leslie says:

    What about the X5 xDrive40d? They are built here and exported. Why not sell them here as well?

  3. 100% agreement here
    I just drive the new 530 d on my last trip in Germany and loved it.

    Especially in some of the really heavy cars like the X6; 5GT or 7 series a high torque engine is so much more fun to drive then a high HP gasoline engine.

  4. drivendriver says:

    Interesting article.

    But it’s “ad nauseam”, not “ad nauseous”.

  5. plaxico says:

    ive said it ones , this guy Andrew knows what his doing
    Excellent article , really normal , down to earth approach to every topic .
    Molnar and H.B. ,take notes.
    but usa and diesel…..now that just aint gonna work

    • Andrew says:

      Give it time. If you can get people into these cars to see the benefits and how “normal” they are for most types of driving then you’ve pretty much sold a potential buyer right there.

      • Daniel Hoang says:

        Only 1 out of 5 Gas Stations acually service Diesel down in Texas and most of them are in Rural places. We pay $2.59 for Gasoline while Diesel is $2.89. Unless the price of diesel is cheaper than Gas and most Gas Stations sell them, I doubt it will catch on.

        • I disagree and here’s why:

          Assume a 335i automatic vs. a 335d automatic.

          Assume roughly a tank size of 16.6 gallons for both cara.

          Assume diesel is $2.99 per gallon and premium is $2.70 per gallon.

          Based on the average of city/hwy(with an automatic) from BMW’s site, the 335i has a range of about 373.5 miles while the 335d provides a range of 489.7 miles with the cost of the diesel fill-up being only $4.80 more for a full tank.

          If you break it down to the cost per mile, the 335d comes out to be about $.02 per mile cheaper than the 335i. So, the diesel is cheaper per mile to run in terms of fuel costs – assuming a pricing differential of about $.30 from premium to diesel and similar sized tanks.

          • Laszlo says:

            to that add the higher purchase price, a higher servicing cost. Diesels are only make sense if you drive them a lot and in a congested areas, you keep them at least 6 years and they don’t fail on you. Then you sell to a poor sucker who will struggle to keep it alive at around 160-200k miles and will die a slow death.
            Diesels are expensive to repair once they are past their sell date (6-7 years and around 170k miles) these are NOT the old diesels which ran forever on catpiss.
            These needs clean sulfur free diesel fuel and needs expensive solenoids, sensors, filters, etc. A servicing cost is (has been) higher on a diesel then gasoline. If your saving is 0.02c per mile then its really not cheaper.
            The US is primarily diesel haters for several reasons, and rightfully so. The diesels pollute more and have a bad reputation of being really dirty once they are not in their prime condition.
            Europe is totally different. Gasoline price is 7-8usd per gallon and diesel fuel is 25% less, also the sales tax is reclaimable for business. IF you own a business and have a diesel truck, its easy to cheat a little and get the sales tax on your personal car as well. Maybe not the whole thing but a few hundred dollar worth each year. Its all add up and people who drive a lot will make it work for them.
            US sales tax is 6-9% so nobody cares. European sales tax is usually 20-28% so there is a good portion of money to be saved ! 25% of 8usd is 2usd on each gallon !!! If you use 600gallon a year, that’s 1200usd savings !

          • David says:

            Laszlo most of your analysis is wrong by a good margin. You confirm that diesel could be sold too with some good information to the misinformed like you.
            The thing about each european running his own business and then using diesel for his private use is particularly funny.

    • Neal says:

      It’s working for some car makers and it’s woking for me. My new TDI makes me happy every day. What if it were a BMW?

  6. Parker says:

    I want my next car for the wife to be a 320d. With her commute it would be perfect!!! Please BMW bring it to the USA!

    • Luca says:

      They never bring the good stuff here! In 2006, I was hoping they would bring the 1 Series 4 bangers state side….instead they bring the 1 series six! Oh well, love driving my VW Passat 2.0T, and passing the 3’s and 5’s even past the gas station too!

  7. Matt Stokes says:

    It is almost comical reading the hype about diesel in the US at the moment.. In Europe it has been so commonplace for so long that we take it foregranted.

  8. Richard Aaboe says:

    I have a 2010 X5 35d. Bought it in March, 20210. After putting 8,000 miles on it, all I can say is, the diesel motor in the X5 is simply fantastic. I will never go back to a gas motor again. I am now waiting for the day when BMW offers a diesel in the 7 Series. I will trade in our 2008 750i for the diesel version in the immediately if BMW offers one. The massive torque you get from the diesel is so much more fun to drive than having high horsepower gas motors. My one complaint is that diesel fuel in the US is more expensive than gas. In Europe, diesel is cheaper than gas. What is that all about? Even so, diesel is just slightly more than premium gas in the US. Not a big deal for the performance and great mileage you get from the BMW diesels. PS: Also, the fuel gauge never seems to move on my X5 diesel. I average 26.7 mpg, overall, city miles included. Pretty good mpg!. Especially after owning a 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser. What a gas guzzler.

  9. don says:

    2011 x3 diesel

  10. Peter says:

    I’m hoping for my dream car!!
    Does any one know, if there will be a BMW 135 Diesel???
    It’s sounds perfect for me.

    Fast, Economical en Small :D:D

  11. Mirko says:

    I have a 2008 E81 118d. Fantastic car, even after 75,000 km in it.

  12. Alex says:


  13. Luca says:

    A Diesel BMW? Not sure if I were in the market for a diesel, I would choose BMW…in – line six? Yes. Best to leave the diesels for the two German Automakers that have it right – VW and MB – the only two car companies that have bragging rights to vehicles with over a million actual miles on their diesel engines.

    • Alex says:

      Luca,don’t think that if engines are durable they are necesarilly a masterpiece. Also,maybe VW and MB had vehicles with diesel engines that lasted 1 mil miles but that was many years ago. I never heard about a vw,but the only mercedes I can think of,is the mercedes w115, and the ones i read about had at one point major works or spare engines. Matter of fact is that people in the press and enthusiasts as well agree that bmw produces some of the best diesels in the world.

  14. Matt says:

    A bit late to the party here, but thought i’d chip in.

    In the UK diesel is more expensive than petrol, yet the 320d is the most sold version of the 3 Series. Yes, it is frugal, and as quick as you should ever need on a public road. EffcientDynamics is fantastic, making a huge difference to the fuel consumption.

    However, if you do more town driving then the diesel will still drink the fuel like a petrol would of a similar displacement. In town, a much smaller engine would be king. If you are a motorway driver, then there is nothing better than the 320d.

    As for servicing costs, I notice no difference to my previous petrol BMW – still high, still a rip-off – £120/$189 for an oil change – from the dealer.

    Would I have a diesel BMW again, without a doubt!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.