Can Diesel-Powered BMWs Wear An M Badge?

By | January 27, 2012

BMW M-Diesel Vehicle Lineup

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.

Instead of sleek sedans that were built for performance from the ground up, BMW decided to inject extra horsepower into their X5 and X6, tweak around the suspension a bit, and slap M-badges on both.

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.


Tracey on January 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm.

M3, M5, 1M are all great. Anything else M is no good, including any M diesel. SUVs or CUVs in the M family are just plain silly. No matter how good you make a CUV on the track, the sedan is always going to be better. BMW should not dilute the M family. Have you ever noticed that it seems like every Mercedes on the road is an AMG? That name doesn’t mean what it used too.

Mark Pace on January 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm.

I agree, I really like the M3, M5 and 1M but I do also like the SUVs, actually, those are one of my favorite cars.  Hey Chad, do you know a affordable web host? I need to do my video portfolio. I don’t know much about that. Thanks man.

Shah Brionez on January 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm.

Great article Chad.  I think we can safely say we all love the M5, M3 and new 1M.  These are amazing vehicles with near supercar performance.


In my opinion BMW makes these vehicles because:
1) They can.  The M division has been around since 1972, and you can never have enough HP.  Plus all the talk about a “racing pedigree”.  Everyone needs a place to show off the goods from the race teams.
2) To flex.  There is something to be said about making a huge HP sedan because it’s not practical, right?  (S65 AMG anyone?  630 HP in a limo, really!?)  Everyone has a high performance coupe, even BMW has them.  But the high performance sedan is the new black.. make that old black (see X5M)
3) THEY SELL!!!  Simple as that.  These vehicle sell.  If I drive a BMW 550i sedan, that vehicle is amazing… until I’m at a light and the next guy has a M5.  Then I’m making excuses why I don’t have one.  They cost too much, the insurance is outrageous, fuel economy blows…  Simple fact is these vehicle sell!

Let’s look at the X5M and X6M.  These vehicles are even more impractical.  Our world is still in love with the SUV’s and now the crossover.  That’s why these high performance crossovers are the new black.

Have you ever been in a X6.  Room for 4, no thanks!  Even our Lord Jeremy Clarson took us on a worldwide review of the X6 (See Season 14 Episode 7 if you are playing along at home) and he hated it!

That leads us to the new diesel powered infants in the M family.  Do they deserve to be there.  I don’t think so, but I don’t think the X5M or X6M deserve to be there either.  These vehicles make no sensce, but they make perfect sense for BMW.  Crossover + Performance + Diesel = $$  These are all huge buzz words in our car world and they will make a killing!

Maybe the question is do these vehicles dilute the M3 & M5?  To me they do.

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