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Auto Shows, BMW, Diesel — February 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

BMW M550d xDrive: Another Awesome Diesel Americans Can’t Get


Everyone knows I’ve always been a diesel fan. I’ve recently sampled VW’s 2-liter turbodiesel in two new Jettas, a sedan and a Sportwagen. This motor delivers nice power, excellent economy and clean, quiet operation. Too bad it’s one of the few oil-burners available stateside while Europe has a huge selection of quick and efficient diesel automobiles.

That selection is about to get bigger and badder. Premiering at the Geneva Motor Show is a luxury sedan that incorporates a powerful diesel motor and an eight-speed automatic to deliver superb performance and economy. That it’s a BMW suggests it may boast superb driving dynamics, too. The M550d xDrive is one of three new M Performance line vehicles that slot between the standard Bimmer fare and the outrageously high-performance M models from the company’s in-house tuning division.

Powering the M550d (and the new M Performance X3 and X5 models) is a triple-turbocharged 3-liter inline six-cylinder diesel that makes 381 horsepower and churns up a massive 546 lb-ft torque. With the added traction of all-wheel drive, it’s enough to send the M550d from a standstill to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph.

Yet European fuel economy estimates are equivalent to 37 mpg in combined driving or better than 40 mpg on the highway. At 33 mpg, even city economy is about 50% better than many gasoline-powered luxury sports sedans. An engine start-stop function and brake energy recuperation contribute.

So the M550d is (relatively) good to the Earth, but I’m more interested in how bad the car looks tearing across its icy surface. And I’m wishing we had more cool diesels like it (or the M550d Touring, its wagon sister model) here in the US.