Opposite Lock: M Diesels Take the Stage

BMW M, Featured Posts | January 31st, 2012 by 14
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For some time BMWBLOG has been a proponent of M diesels. Why? Because we knew they could do it, and well. Also, because we have …

For some time BMWBLOG has been a proponent of M diesels. Why? Because we knew they could do it, and well. Also, because we have a hankering for ungodly sums of torque. Torque is fun. M cars are fun. So why not a diesel M car?

Sports car drivers and performance drivers (not often synonymous) are a very demanding sort. In our world, cars must become greater than the whole of their parts. They must transport us to a magical place of acceleration, neck straining cornering, and otherwise mind-bending performance. They must dance with us as willing partners on the racetrack or over a curvy road. They should wink at us naughtily from the sidewalk. And their sound should raise fine dorsal hairs. Sports cars, must steal our hearts. Why else would we buy them?! They are depreciating, impractical assets only slightly less foolish than boats.

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The obvious question is this: can a diesel be sexy? Posing this question more than a decade ago would have mustered laughter toped with scorn. But times have changed, and so have diesels. The mainstay of commercial heavy equipment and ’18 wheelers,’ they have been heavily developed by the Germans. Well, that is somewhat of a redundant statement since the Germans developed the diesel engine in the first place. Our friend Rudolf Diesel gave us the first diesel engine in 1893, and the monstrous single cylinder whacking at the ground like a pile-driver was impressive and maybe even a bit thrilling (for fear of your life should you get too close), but nothing close to sexy. In the decades that followed the diesel became porridge ordinary and fell well under the radar of sports car designers.

The next most obvious question in succession would be: what makes an engine sexy? There’s a freebie for the comment section – go nuts. In my opinion, high revs are a key ingredient in the sex appeal. I want my engine to scream all the way to a lofty redline. Loud screaming is exciting, frankly. And yes we’re still talking about cars. Next, the engine must connect with the chassis and give it life – vibrant, exuberant life. This kind of vitality requires high output, so naturally, high horsepower and torque figures bring cachet and appeal to a sports car.

We mentioned screaming in the context of revs, but the sound of the engine is important all over the rev range. An interesting study conducted by a university in the UK objectively proved the sexual attraction of exotic engine sounds. The university took baseline saliva samples from all subjects and measured their testosterone levels (a central sex hormone in both males and females). All test subjects were female, and came from random backgrounds from all walks of life. The subjects were then given several soundtracks to listen to through high fidelity speakers. The first soundtrack was compliments of a Ferrari F430. The second came from Lamborghini. Several other exotica followed with their voices gloriously filling the room. The results came back with remarkable consistency. All subjects were considerably turned on. Just to ensure it wasn’t the professor’s cologne, the subjects were then submitted to the soundtrack from a late model Chrysler Neon. The results again showed consistency, but this time all subjects showed much lower than baseline testosterone levels in their saliva – they were effectively “turned off.” The moral of the story is clear. Don’t buy a Chrysler. Seriously, the study scientifically proves what we’ve known all along: a beautiful sounding engine raises the mood and for serious car enthusiasts constitutes baby making music. Sound is important. In a sports car, melodious engine notes are essential.

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Finally, exotic metals add the the allure. Knowing that the materials used within were selected specifically for their unique strength and low weight adds curb appeal – at least in my books. As opposed, I suppose, to knowing your engine was made of low grade steel and plastics where they probably shouldn’t be – or is just an ordinary “run of the mill” unit. Similarly, high-tech adds to the allure of the engine, knowing it was crafted by the most talented engineers in the world, and knowing they poured over the design, sweating the details. It always feels good to own, “the best.”

So how does BMW’s new M diesel fare when measured against these sexy yardsticks? Rather well by most accounts. To start off, the new 3.0 liter revs to 5,400 rpm. Okay, this redline is low in sparked engine standards, but for a diesel this figure is caffeinated. Consider also that near-peak torque is available from below 2,000 rpm, and you end up with a wide powerband, despite the lower redline. Will the revs send shivers down my spine? Not likely after getting used to 14,000 rpm sport bikes – the S1000RR not withstanding. But considering that the revs are very high given the engine type and that the powerband starts with tire-spinning torque near idle, we’ll let this aspect slide.

Next up is the sound. We won’t be able to judge this until we’ve gotten our hands on a copy. Can a diesel engine sound sexy? After hearing the Peugeot or Audi diesel LeMans prototypes in action, the answer would be yes – though they are quieter than typical race cars. We’re confident that M will do their utmost to tune the 3.0 for a confident, throaty soundtrack. We just hope they embrace the diesel soundtrack within and embellish it, instead of trying to apologize for it by silencing it. All M engines must be heard.

This M diesel seriously seduces with its output. With a specific output of 127 hp/liter, the new M diesel matches the new M5’s mill for power output. Stunning, and yes… dead sexy. 381 hp will be ample to get the job done, and this is already seen from the provisional 0-60 times stated in the press material, showing the M550d sedan making the sprint in a scant 4.7 seconds. A driveshaft knotting 546 lb-ft of torque is always at the ready, and we know exactly how much fun this figure will be in practice. Clearly, this engine will add life to its chassis, and become one with the driving experience.

The triple-turbo is extremely high tech. From its common-rail fuel injection pressures of nearly 32,000 psi to its three separate variable-vane twin-scroll turbos, this engine oozes sophistication. It is proudly the most advanced diesel on sale and given its all-aluminum architecture and brilliant performance, I feel the new 3.0 liter is at least as sexy as its inline 6 gasoline stable mates. Actually, I feel it’s considerably more exotic.

Until we get behind the wheel we cannot conclusively offer our opinion of the new M diesel, but given the above, we’re quite confident it will impress. We are confident it will feel special, as an M engine should. Perhaps it would feel even more special in a lighter chassis. We know it could fit – why not toss it in the 3 series’ engine bay? The M335d. That could spice things up a bit – mindful of the 546 lb-ft of torque on tap. If the whole car was put on a diet and weighed-in less than the current M3, we might even place bets on it being faster. For that matter, throw it in the 1 series. The 1Md. Think the 1M is a lunatic? Imagine the performance! And yes, give us a manual – we would thoroughly enjoy being one with this engine, connecting through the gated stick-shift.

Think we’re jumping on a band wagon? Think again – we published this article over two years ago, advocating for an M diesel based on the incredible performance BMW have been able to extract thanks to advanced diesel technology.

We look forward to bringing you the latest coverage of the new M diesels and indeed, showcasing their performance through video, photos and words.

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