Despite all of the stigma surrounding diesel engines in the past six months or so, thanks to Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal, you’d think that companies like BMW might be pulling back a bit with diesel engines. But that isn’t the case at all. In fact, BMW is very committed to diesel engines and even BMW’s CEO, Harald Krueger, drives around in a brand new BMW 730d. BMW likes its compression-ignition engines and isn’t going to stray from them anytime soon.
Unfortunately for us Yanks, most BMW diesels don’t make it here to the ‘States. For the myriad of reasons that I won’t get into now, Americans don’t like diesels, so they stay on the Eastern side of the Atlantic. But, in Europe, BMW sells many diesel-powered vehicles, most of them excellent. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to choose from and some of them actually offer very serious performance alternatives to similarly priced petrol variants. So which of these excellent diesel engines are the best from BMW? Well, let’s take a look.
5. BMW X5 xDrive35d – This is actually one that we get in the ‘States, thankfully. We made an argument awhile back that the BMW X5 xDrive35d was one of the best, if not the very best, luxury BMW on the market. Obviously, this was before the new G11 7 Series debuted, because nothing with a roundel is going to upstage that, in terms of luxury. However, it’s still an astonishing car and one that offers fantastic duality. It’s torquey, punchy and smooth, offering excellent performance and luxury with enough grunt to move the big X5 off the line with surprising authority. Plus, there’s just something so reassuring about starting up an SUV in the winter time and hearing the faint clack clack of a diesel engine. But on the flip side, it’s also incredibly economical, rivaling its own xDrive40e plug-in hybrid sibling in terms of efficiency. Personally, I actually preferred the xDrive35d to the xDrive40e after recently testing the new hybrid model. So the BMW X5 xDrive35d is absolutely on the list of the best diesel BMWs.
4. BMW 125d M Sport – The current BMW 1 Series hatchback is something that’s lost among most Americans. Being offered only in the European market, the 1 Series hatch is typically the one car that American BMW enthusiasts would want to import over here, as it offers an almost unbeatable blend of performance, efficiency, fun and affordability. It’s small, practical, inexpensive and great fun to drive. The BMW 125d M Sport is the most expensive diesel 1 Series in Europe, but it’s also the most powerful and therefor the most fun. If it’s the most fun diesel powered 1 Series, which is one of the most fun BMWs on the market, then it’s one of the best diesels in the Bavarian stable.
3. BMW 535d – We just spoke about how this car lost a Top Gear test to the Jaguar XF 3.0d S, but that isn’t necessarily a knock against the 5 Series. In fact, the current F10 535d’s ability to keep up with a brand new Jag, despite being almost six years older, shows just how good it is. It’s fantastic at blending performance and efficiency in a smooth, luxurious package that takes a brand new Jaguar to beat and the Jag only won by a very small margin. The BMW 535d is still one of the very best BMWs on sale today, regardless of engine type, as it’s able to be all things at once. For this reason, it’s on the list.
2. BMW 730d – The new BMW G11 7 Series is superb in every way. I’m struggling to think of a single area where the brand new 7 fails to be excellent, as there doesn’t seem to be a single one. The new 7 Series is fantastic and its 730d variant might just be the sweet spot in the lineup. It’s punchy enough to be fast, efficient enough to soften the blow of how expensive the car is and it’s got the range to allow for wonderfully long journeys in that gorgeous back seat. We previously mentioned that the 730d is the car that BMW CEO Harald Krueger drives (or gets driven in). He’s the damn CEO of the company, he can drive whatever BMW he wants. He can have a 750i xDrive, an M6 Gran Coupe or even the new M760Li (which he might switch to, as it could be too tempting not to), but instead he has the 730d. If it’s good enough for Krueger, it’s good enough to be number two on this list.
1. BMW 320d – It’s obvious, isn’t it? A BMW 3 Series diesel had to be number one on this list, as there’s no other car in BMW’s lineup, or in any car manufacturer’s lineup for that matter, that offers the blend of fun and efficiency as the 3 Series diesel. And the very best 3 Series diesel is the 320d, making it the best diesel car BMW offers. It may sound weird that a lowly 3 Series diesel could be better than the almighty flagship 7 Series diesel, but it’s true. The 320d is still a 3 Series, so it’s fantastic fun to drive. It has the same great steering, chassis dynamics and fun-to-drive personality as every other 3 Series but comes with an engine that has incredible efficiency and a range that would absolutely shame the world’s best hybrids. The 320d can pull 120 mph on the highway (unrestricted Autobahns only, if anyone’s asking), despite its little 2.0 liter diesel, it gets from 0-60 mph in around 7.5 seconds and can even get around 54 mpg. It’s hard to argue with its combination of excellence couple with affordability. The BMW 320d was the number one choice the whole time.