For the past several years, BMW’s purebred, performance oriented M lineup of vehicles has been loosing sight of what the M badge actually means. The M division really first established its name in the early days by turning the already good 3-series into the sensationally good M3. The same can be said with the insanely quick yet very practical M5. These were cars that could not only handle an M badge but actually put the extra performance to use on and off the track. They were, quite simply, engineered for performance.
Move down the road a few years and zee Germans decide that M must stand for marketing and that having the badge on more vehicles could only be a good thing. But a ‘good thing’ is all about perspective and if it meant more sales and adding several more ridiculously expensive vehicles to the Bimmer inventory, then doubling the offer of the M line was a very ‘good thing’. But if it meant to enhance the BMW brand by offering more vehicles just as capable and functional as the M3 and the M5, then we argue that BMW has moved in the exact opposite direction.
Let’s be clear on something- these are not performance vehicles. They’re the pipe dream of someone who loves F1 and SUVs and wishes the two could live together in harmony. That’s something that just can’t happen; a square peg through the round hole. Instead, these vehicles cater to a crowd that get off on the fact they’re driving a BMW more powerful and less fuel efficient than their neighbor’s.
Of course, the counterpoint to all of this is the 1-Series M, a car that brought the M division back to its roots and earned praise from automotive journalists across the board including Jeremy Clarkson, who might as well be God. But- and this is a big but-all production units of the 1-Series Ms have been sold. It’s hard to take a car like that into consideration when only 2700 of those units have been produced (although BMW has taken that limit off and will produce as many as they can through the spring quarter of 2012….still, not many).
So, half the M vehicles may not be actual M vehicles and the only new M car we’d actually want can’t be purchased. What’s next for the division then, you ask? Well in a word, diesel. Diesel powered M vehicles are next, at least for the European market. What’s more, each diesel vehicle will have three turbos strapped to the inline-six that will be standard across the entire M diesel range. Holy crap.
Before you cast the first stone though, let’s look at some numbers here. This new diesel powerplant will be standard on the four M vehicles available today, which means will see a X5 M50d, X6 M5d, and a M550d, which will be available in both a touring and a sedan option.
But the real question here is about performance and I’m happy to announce that the stats on the new tri-turbo, six-cylinder motor aren’t bad: 376 horsepower and 545 lb-ft of torque, significantly more compared to the current diesel powered standard X6, X5, and 535d. In fact, BMW claims this new motor should let the M550d do 0-60 in an astonishingly quick 4.6 seconds and will keep going up to the typical limited stopping point of 155 mph.
So, not too bad, new diesel motor. In fact, that’s better than ‘not too bad’. That’s pretty damn good. But is it enough to make it M good? Or is this diesel movement just another round of BMW jumping on the branding bandwagon and further diluting M’s reputation as a hardcore, focus performance division?
Time will tell. You should too in the comments below.