In what will be seen as the most controversial move yet by the German manufacturer, BMW has unveiled 4 new M models – all of them powered by diesel engines. In a subtle play on words BMW have named the range, BMW M Performance Models, distinguishing oh-so-subtly from their core BMW M Models such as the M5, M3, 1M and soon-to-be-launched M6.
BMW describe the new cars as representing “..a new category of vehicle from BMW M GmbH. Based on current BMW models, they have been selectively refined in terms of technology and design using the expertise focused at BMW M. They therefore offer greater agility, precision and emotion in the BMW M style.”
This new category of M car starts with 4 new models – X6 M50d, X5 M50d, M550d xDrive Saloon and M550d xDrive Touring, which will be joined by further models during the course of 2012.
These are the first BMW M Performance cars fitted with a high-performance diesel engine combined with the all-wheel drive xDrive system and despite the bullish claims of their sporting prowess fans of the blue-propeller-badge will be aghast that the once-purist sub-brand could move so far away from its high-revving, normally aspirated, rear-wheel drive roots.
BMW say these new models are clearly not as focused in terms of driving feel as the core BMW M cars- the ‘M Automobiles’, which themselves demonstrate the highest form of performance sports car within their own segments, but that the everyday usability which is typical of all BMW M products is especially tangible in the new BMW M Performance Automobiles.
If that sounds like a cop-out, BMW then go on to explain that what characterises an M car is the coherence between drivetrain, suspension technology and design (no mention of the engines…) and this has been achieved by means of an optimised set-up of the all-wheel drive system and 8-speed automatic transmission, as well as suspension components which have been modified in detail – together with light alloy wheels developed exclusively for these models.
All modifications to the suspension and damping, steering, brake system, suspension control systems and all-wheel drive are geared towards the specific performance characteristics of each car. The result: even in dynamic driving situations, the transmission, steering and brakes provide clear-cut, predictable responses to the commands conveyed by the driver via the accelerator, steering and brake pedal.
Self-levelling air suspension is fitted to the rear of both X6/X5 models and the X6 M50d has electronically controlled dampers with BMW Adaptive Drive active anti-roll function as standard too. It is optional on the X5 M50d.
With their bespoke chassis configuration, the X5 M50d and X6 M50d drive through all four wheels via BMW’s intelligent electronic xDrive system. By integrating with the DSC stability control, xDrive allows a typically BMW rear-drive bias, but can intervene in milliseconds to enhance stability through the Performance Control system on the X5 M50d or the Dynamic Performance Control system on the X6 M50d. Both systems achieve this by braking the appropriate rear wheel while simultaneously increasing engine power and redistributing torque to other wheels with more traction.
The 2,993cc six-cylinder in-line engine is the most powerful diesel ever to come from BMW, and the first to feature three turbochargers as an extension of the company’s TwinPower Turbo technology.
The integration of two small variable-geometry high-pressure turbos and one larger lower-pressure turbo ensures instantaneous response throughout the rev range by ensuring the charge pressure is maintained at exactly the right level for the load being put upon the engine at any moment.
One of the two small turbochargers is activated at engine speeds just above idle, allowing its low moment of inertia to instantly respond to any movement of the accelerator. As the revs increase to 1,500rpm the flow of exhaust gas reaches the large turbocharger, ensuring that peak torque of 740Nm is attained and maintained from 2,000rpm until 3,000rpm.
At 2,700rpm a vacuum-modulated exhaust flap opens allowing exhaust gas to flow past the second small, low moment of inertia turbocharger creating additional charge pressure, allowing maximum power of 381hp to be available from 4,000-4,400rpm. If the large turbocharger is spinning at particularly high speeds a vacuum regulator opens a wastegate valve to relieve pressure and so avoid unwanted exhaust backpressure.
The new engine delivers a peak output of 381 bhp, which translates to just over 127 bhp per litre (well above an M3 for instance). No less impressive is the maximum torque of 740 Nm (546 lb-ft), available from an engine speed of just 2,000 rpm.
Spontaneous response combined with a high output and high revving characteristics (for a diesel engine) make for a driving experience which BMW claim surpasses virtually anything previously possible with a diesel engine.
Another important facet bears out regarding the quality of the engine performance: in the context of its maximum available output and fuel consumption, the new diesel engine is said to offer the best efficiency figures ever seen in a serial production engine of this type. Never has such a low level of fuel consumption been available with such high performance.
Their performance – 0-62mph in 5.4 and 5.3 seconds respectively – is matched by supreme efficiency as a result of the EfficientDynamics measures fitted as standard. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions for the X5 M50d are 37.7mpg and 199g/km, while for the X6 M50d they are 36.7mpg and 204g/km.
As you can see from the pictures, the new M Performance Models differ only subtly from the standard models on which they’re based and likewise avoid looking too similar to the pure M Cars that the brand is known for.
Each new model uses distinctive design components for the exterior and interior, including those lightweight smoked-finish alloy wheels, BMW M badges on the door sills, steering, boot lid, engine cover, gearshift lever and instrument cluster whilst a range of unique sporting alcantara/nappa leather trim options are provided with Brushed Aluminium Shadow interior trim.
Pricing has yet to be confirmed for the M550d models, but BMW has confirmed that the BMW X5 M50d goes on sale 16 June 2012 with an on-the-road price of £60,325, while the BMW X6 M50d will be available from £62,260 OTR.