Gone are the days when a BMW M creation automatically meant a high-revving naturally aspirated petrol engine, track-tuned suspension that made it hard to live with on an everyday basis and far-out-of-reach pricing.
Sure, the M Division will continue to churn out its usual series of hardcore flagship models, albeit with turbocharged engines, but the Bavarian carmaker has now unleashed a division (called M Performance) that sits between the latter and BMW's ordinary model line up.
The idea here is to offer performance that's not too far off traditional M cars, but with better comfort and economy and a more realistic price tag, something like the M535i was to the M5 back in the '80s.
Quite fitting for today's obsession with efficiency, the first fruits of this new sub-division are all diesel-powered, but they're far from tame.
Set to make their first appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the M550d xDrive Sedan and Touring and X5 and X6 M50d models are all powered by a 2993cc six-cylinder turbodiesel powerhouse complete with three variable-geometry turbochargers, direct injection with piezo injectors and an aluminium crankcase.
Before you get too excited, though, the M550d models are not coming to South Africa, but the X5 and X6 50ds will reach our shores in June this year.
While the engine's power output of 280kW between 4000 and 4400rpm is certainly on the decent side, the real talking point is its maximum torque of 740Nm, available in a very accessible range - between 2000 and 3000rpm. The engine will also rev as high as 5400rpm if you so desire.
How do they perform? Well, if we use BMW's claimed figures for comparison sake then they're not lying about performance close to traditional M levels.
Consider that the M5 takes 4.4 seconds to screech from standstill to 100km/h, while the M550d does it in 4.7 seconds - who would ever have expected that from a diesel? The X5 and X6 M50d models do it in 5.4 and 5.3 seconds, respectively, compared to the X5 M's 4.7 seconds.
Of course, these M diesels have a huge economy advantage too and while we're not going to pretend that their claimed figures are going to be achieved in the real world, consider that the M5's claimed overall consumption amounts to 9.9 litres per 100km, while the diesels sip between 6.3 (M550d) and 7.7 l/100km (X6 M50d) on the same cycle.
All four oil burners make use of M Division expertise in areas beyond just the engine, with detailed modifications to the suspension, steering, aerodynamics and the eight-speed Sports automatic transmission that channels its torquey aggression through a specially optimized xDrive all-wheel drive system.
What's more, the M550d xDrive Touring and X5/X6 M50d are fitted with automatic, self-levelling air suspension on the rear axle. The 550 models can also be ordered with Dynamic Damper Control and Adaptive Drive, the latter feature standard on the X5/X6.
M-style visual aggression is also the order of the day on all four, examples including Ferric Grey exterior mirrors and air intake bars, trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes; BMW Individual High-gloss Shadow Line and bespoke 19-inch alloys on all but the X6, which gets a 20-inch footprint.
It's a similarly enticing scenario inside the cabin, where various M logos are joined by M sports seats (Alcantara/Cloth in the 550s and Alcantara/Nappa leather in the X models), M leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, Anthracite roof liner and a wide range of comfort amenities and driver assistance systems.
I don't like BMW, but they are doing a great job with diesels. I will never buy anything that runs on turpentine again. Diesel engines are lighter and Honda is now doing it better than anyone else.
Much as I love the X5 apart from climbing the curbs in Sandton and car parks I never saw its purpose. Enter the Grand Cherokee, much cheaper to buy; just as plush in terms of quality and refinment but most importantly . . . . an SUV that can actually go Bundu Bashing!
Chris W, wrote
@Small spender. I can guarantee you that a 3-litre inline 6 diesel weighs much less than the V8 used in the M5. I wouldn't worry about it in any case, because a BMW engine's mass is not concentrated on (and ahead of) the front wheels.
Does it come with a disposable engine? Don't imagine they building this thing to last. With all that torque on a 3 l engine. I think its a step in the right direction. VW is already doing it with the 1.4 and 1.2 high output engines, and that has proven very reliable.
Allan H, wrote
Motorplan extension on 2008 M3. 20000km or 1 year = R49900.00 Somebody help me.
As this soft technology invades BMW and turbos blow and blow as Pauline says - Its OK Mike, then you just extend the maintenance plan and pay, and pay and pay and pay and pay.....some more until BMW has milked you dry.
Small spender, wrote
Nice, in a straight line. Now lets see the diesel cars plow their noses through corners because of their heavy noses!
Jack E. Black, wrote
hahahaha, good one!!! now there are three turbos to blow.
BM ALL THE WAY PAPA X5 JOJO ITS A FIRE THAN ANIMAL
@pursuit of perfection........ you wont find it in lexus!!
Audi Fan, wrote
@ Mike.....Good one...*laughing 4 dayz*
Lexus aka toyota...BMW all the way :D
oh my goodness, X5, hayi i respect this car, come hell or gih waters, nw with M product included, wololo
pursuit of perfection, wrote
lexus..... all the way
Its OK Mike, then you just extend the maintenance plan.
God help us when the Maintenance is over???
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