Thursday, December 25, 2008

BMW Clean Diesels Arrive, Powerful and Pricey

BMW announced pricing for its two 50-state clean diesel vehicles yesterday. The BMW 335d sedan will carry a price tag of $44,725, while pricing for the BMW xDrive35d SUV will begin at $52,025.

Top: BMW 335d.
Bottom: BMW X5 xDrive35d. 

The launch of the 335d and X5 xDrive35d—which will arrive in December and January respectively—was accompanied by statements from BMW that the vehicles will carry "the most fuel efficient engine we have ever offered in the US." The emphasis on efficiency, and the fact that the new models will burn diesel fuel instead of premium gasoline, doesn't mean the company is planning to shed its "ultimate driving machine" image though.

The diesel engine that powers both new vehicles turns out 265 horsepower and a stump-pulling 425 foot-pounds of torque. The latter number explains why the engine is only offered with an automatic transmission—BMW's manual transmissions can't handle that level of torque. While the engine meets the stringent California emissions standards, BMW President of Engineering Tom Baloga said the company and its suppliers are already working on an even cleaner version—one that would have tailpipe emissions comparable, or even cleaner than a Toyota Prius.

BMW 335d Sedan

  • Goes on sale in December
  • Fuel economy of 23 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway
  • Performance in line with BMW buyers' expectations: 0-60 in 6 seconds.
  • Pricing begins at $44,725—a $2,500 premium over the comparable 335 gas version
  • As a clean "alternative" vehicle, it's eligible for $900 federal tax credit

BMW xDrive35d SUV

  • Goes on sale in January
  • Fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway
  • Performance: 0-60 in 6.9 seconds
  • Pricing begins at $52,025—a $5,000 premium over the base X5 3.0-liter gas-powered version. (The X5 diesel is comparable in performance to the X5 4.8-liter gasoline vehicle, which starts at $55,625.)
  • The X5 xDrive35d is be eligible for $1,550 tax credit


BMW stressed the technical prowess of its "advanced clean diesel" and emphasized the company's 25 years of experience with diesels. In a presentation to journalists to announce the pricing, BMW engineers spent a significant amount of time discussing the diesel exhaust treatment system. After explaining that the sophisticated injection system allows very efficient combustion of the fuel, the engineers described the three stages of after-treatment, including an oxidation catalyst, particulate filter, and urea-based treatment system.
Presenters noted that the six-gallon urea-based system was designed to last between oil changes—which are free for BMW owners for the first four years. They added that it was designed "like a gas tank," with warnings that the fluid is running low.

Hedging with Hybrids

BMW is hopeful that consumers will embrace the new diesels, despite the price premium and the higher price for diesel fuel. Company executives echoed recent industry forecasts that diesel vehicles could capture as much as 15 percent of the new car market by 2015. But the company is hedging its bet on diesel, and is expecting to bring mild and full hybrid vehicles to the market in the coming years.



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