AT THE WHEEL REVIEWS: TRUCKS
Diesel Does It: The BMW X5 3.0d Euro Version
By Frederick Staab Cruise Control Radio.Com
Neal Sedaka said it best: “Breaking up is hard to do.” With pressure from sky-high gas prices and scowls from green groups, the once-solid love affair between American drivers and the high-and-mighty, 22-foot long, never-meet-a-gas-station-I-could-pass-up SUV is showing some cracks. Those cracks may be on their way to becoming gaping holes with news like Hummer reporting a 24 percent drop in sales so far this year and other manufacturers showing sales drops of more than 15 percent.
Although they still love the interior space, that long hood and in-your-face styling, cost-conscious drivers tired of $100 fill-ups are starting to flirt with the new breed of crossover vehicles and even that honey from the past, the good old station wagon. Is there no hope for this big SUV and driver-love relationship?
Well, I had a chance to drive a bit into the future in a vehicle that just might be able to patch things up between the love birds. The folks at BMW provided me with an X5 3.0d currently only available in Europe. Power came in the form of a straight six-cylinder turbocharged diesel that made use of all the latest tech, including efficient common rail fuel injection, a variable vane geometry turbocharger and four valves per cylinder. The horsepower may not seem too impressive at 184, but the mind-blowing 302 lb.-ft. torque that maxes out in the workaday 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range is what may make you crave a diesel.
The X5 3.0d Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) gives up none of the luxuries of its gas-powered family members; it still has all of its size, looks and road manners. Yes, the permanent four-wheel drive is part of the “D” package, and if you are looking for a bit of glitz, the X5 3.0d sport model adds 19-inch alloy wheels and a sports suspension and a number of other up fits.
When it comes to performance on the road, I know what you’re picturing. It’s a flashback to the late ’70s and early ’80s: You’re stuck in traffic behind the guy with black smoke pouring out the back of his diesel car that’s clattering to get out of its own way. Back then, you could easily tell who owned a diesel by the soot caked on the back of the car. It’s time to erase all those memories.
The X5 Euro tester fired up easily. While all our testing was done in warm weather, the 3.0d is capable of starting immediately in temperatures down to 23 degrees, and if it’s colder, a fast automatic preheating system allows two-second starts in subzero temps. The straight-six engine configuration is smooth by nature and exhibited just slightly more vibration than a gas engine with very little idle clatter. The three-liter diesel was teamed with a five-speed automatic that featured manual shift capability which definitely comes in handy.
Around town, the X5 behaved nicely and never gave away its love for diesel fuel. With an exhaust note somewhat like a V-6 gas engine, there was little or no trace of diesel fumes. Even with the sunroof and windows open, interior noise level was low as well.
I had the chance to put more than 500 miles on the 3.0d tester with a great deal of it being at highway speeds. From a dead start, the X5 will reach 62 mph in about 10.5 seconds –acceptable for a 4,667-pound SUV, oh, I mean SAV. Maintaining 65 mph or above was not a struggle. However, when picking up speed to change lanes or re-accelerating after a traffic slowdown, I had to make frequent use of the manual downshift capability of the five-speed auto. At times, it seemed like the transmission was holding the vehicle back more than the diesel engine.
But now to answer the question: can higher mpg diesel power rekindle the love affair between American drivers and large SUVs, and more importantly to the manufacturers, can diesels increase sales? When after heavy calculations and many kilometer-to-mile conversions, I figure the X5 3.0d got about 26 to 27 mpg on the highway. Not bad for a vehicle that runs clean and has gobs of torque for towing or hauling.
Since the X5 3.0d never exhibited any diesel stereotypes of black smoke or loud clatter, most people I encountered during the test drive thought I had your typical gas-powered BMW. Even the filling station attendant who came running up yelling, “Mister, do you know you are putting diesel fuel in that truck?!”
It’s worth noting that BMW has introduced a new version of the 3.0d engine putting out 218 horsepower with a stump-pulling 369 lb.-ft. of torque.
Cruise Control - America's truly unique automotive radio show continues to
attract more and more listeners with its engaging format. This two-hour automotive magazine program is heard live every Saturday from 10 a.m. to Noon, Eastern Time, on three national networks: the National Radio Network, Cable Radio Network (CRN), and USA Radio Network. Cruise Control is currently heard on numerous broadcast stations across the US as well as digital cable and internet affiliates. Unlike other car radio shows Cruise Control covers all aspects of the automotive industry including new vehicles reviews, new technologies and interviews with key automotive industry leaders.
TO HEAR THE PODCAST EDITION OF CRUISE CONTROL
FOR FREE CLICK AND WHEN ITUNES OPENS CLICK SUBSCRIBE
COPYRIGHT 2006 CRUISE CONTROL RADIO