It’s been decades since diesel-powered cars lived up to the old stereotype perpetuated by those old soot-belching Mercedes-Benzes beloved by today’s hipsters. Yet the perception of diesels being slow and archaic persists, at least in this country. Across the pond however, things are different, as proved by the introduction of BMW’s 2012 M Performance Line.
Starting with the BMW M550d xDrive, M550d xDrive Touring station wagon, X5 M50d, and X6 M50d, BMW has created a new 3.0-liter inline triple-turbocharged six-cylinder for its midsize vehicles. It develops 381 horsepower and 546 pound-feet of torque—a force you’ll feel as your tongue is lodged into your throat under fast acceleration.
It propels M550d xDrive sedan and Touring to 62 mph in 4.7 and 4.9 seconds, respectively, which is quicker than almost every other car BMW sells. The heavier diesel M versions of the X5 and X6 do the same feat in 5.4 and 5.3 seconds. All four of them will eventually top out at 155 mph.
But the biggest benefit of diesels is fuel economy. The M550d sedan achieves an estimated average 37 mpg on the high side, and the least-efficient X6 M50d still gets more than 30 mpg. By comparison, the 2012 BMW M5 is estimated to get around 20 mpg highway, and the X6 M musters just 17 mpg.
Because of the massive power and torque, all-wheel drive is mandatory on all models, as is a specially designed eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Each model also comes with accouterments exclusively to the M Performance line, including 19-inch inch wheels on the 5 Series vehicles, 19- and 20-inch wheels on the X5, 20-inch wheels on the X6, an M-exclusive available Ferric Grey paint color, standard Alcantara and Nappa leather interior, and BMW Exclusive’s Anthracite headliner. That’s a fancy way of saying micro suede.
But you can’t have any of them, forcing you to settle with the standard gas-powered models. Why? Until our perceptions about diesels change, they simply don’t sell here too well. If you want one, we suggest joining the hipster colony at Occupy Spartanburg, the home of BMW X5 and X6 manufacturing, protest. We wish you and the other 30 protesters the best of luck.