Blue Velvet: BMW Releases Pricing and Info for BluePerformance Diesels

By David Surace

11.13.2008

This week, BMW revealed some key information about its new clean diesel products to be sold in North America, and held an online press conference to answer a few questions about how BMW plans to market its twin-turbo oil burner, BMW’s first diesel offering in the States in 22 years.*

It bears noticing that this follows fresh on the news that Honda and Acura are getting cold feet about their own clean diesel initiative, and considering holding off the release of its i-CTDi-equipped Acura TSX. (source: Automotive News, sub req’d.)

First on the list, and the main crux of the press release issued the same day, is pricing for the two new models on offer, the 335d ($44,725) and x5 xDrive35d ($52,025). For both models, the diesel represents about a $4000 premium over its gasoline counterparts, which turns out to be a fairly thick stack of lettuce compared to what other diesel-loving consumers are being charged ($2000 extra for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, and a scant $1500 extra for the Mercedes ML320 CDI, both figures from this morning’s Automotive News article, sub req’d). Bearing in mind that diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline by a country mile in the States, this sounds like a raw deal, but BMW insists that its fuel consumption savings (roughly 30% over its petrol counterparts) might just be worth it.

BMW also insists that some of that extra cash is offset by the federal tax subsidy (the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit) which has been put in place for high-efficiency vehicles, of which your purchase of the 335d can nab you $995, and the X5 xDrive35d will net you $1550.

There is also a great deal of technology in play with the new engine on offer, BMW’s 3-liter M52 twin-turbo diesel. Both turbos adjust to infinitely variable pressure, and the engine supports direct injection. Unlike most diesels which use cast iron, the M52’s engine block is purified magnesium fused to an aluminum core, which sheds a bunch of weight.

And, to get the embarrassing subject out of the way, it’s confirmed that the Tier 2 Bin 5-beating emissions numbers are made possible by the chemical magic known as “urea-injection”, although BMW’s brand meisters are very hesitant to use those words in succession for fear that customers will laugh hysterically.

So instead they’d like you to remember the name BluePerformance, which refers to the odorless, non-toxic blue urea solution, which is squirted into the exhaust manifold just before it reaches the catalytic converter. The urea (a chemical compound derived from ammonia) serves to split the oxides of nitrogen which makes diesel exhaust stinky, and render those components into harmless water and di-atomic nitrogen. The entire process from start to finish is called Selective Catalytic Reduction, or SCR for short.

For you chemistry geeks out there, the previous paragraph can be expressed like this (courtesy Wikipedia):

 

4NO + 2(NH_2)_2CO +  O_2 \rightarrow \; 4N_2 + 4H_2O + 2CO_2

 

The urea solution itself goes by the name AdBlue, though according to BMW’s sources it will not be marketed under that name, since its trademark is registered overseas exclusively to a German engineering standards organization. BMW dealers over here will most likely refer to it as Diesel Exhaust Fluid. Its technical name, aus32, indicates its contents: aqueous urea solution, 32%. It actually ends up being 32.5% urea, and 67.5% purified water. The product is engineered in the confines of a (presumably very clean) lab, non-toxic and completely odorless.

The Diesel Exhaust Fluid is stored in two tanks, one “Active” tank to disperse the fluid, and another tank which stores the majority of the fluid until it’s needed. The system was designed from the outset such that, once fully filled, a tank of Diesel Exhaust Fluid should last you precisely until your next oil change, depending on how maniacal a driver you are. So, give or take about 9000 miles. And what happens when it runs out? The engine is programmed not to start without Diesel Exhaust Fluid. After they mentioned this, BMW’s engineers hastened to add that you’ll have plenty of warning before that time comes, since the car’s ECU constantly samples exhaust gases and temperatures, the big yellow warnings should start at about 1000 miles from empty. At 200 miles from empty, the warnings would be very hard to miss. Presumably, this measure is in place to sew up any loopholes about the engine’s air-quality compliance.

Lastly, the engine promises boohoodles of torque, 425 lb-ft to be precise, at 265hp. BMW simply couldn’t source a manual transmission that could handle that much twist, so it’s six-speed automatic only for both models, but surely there must be some fun to be had there. Perhaps pulling tree-stumps.

A small fleet of BluePerformance cars will be available for a quick drive around the block, at the LA Auto Show in a couple weeks. After that, demonstrators will be shipped to BMW dealers across the country, in the hopes that a quick drive will be enough to convince buyers to take an oil-burning Bimmer seriously. Or simply take one home.

* – the E28-body 524td, imported from 1985-1986.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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2 Comments

  1. Good post, very informative, 425 lb-ft of torque in the BMW is WOW!

  2. a lot of us are waiting for the eurodiesels to get to this side of the pond so we can drive a modern car on biodiesel or even SVO (ignoring for the moment that it voids the warranty usually). until now our only option for a “modern” diesel in any thing except for a full size pickup has been the VW 1.9l TDI. A nice engine to be sure, but not as powerful as their 3.0l TDI that’s available in the A4 and A6 in europe.

    personally, i was really rooting for the jeep gladiator concept to be built. this country really needs a compact diesel pickup.

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