Although it cannot be assigned to just one person (apparently it’s a bit of a mish-mash of several engineers over a period of time), since the Diesel engine bears the name of Rudolf Diesel (the man that first came up with the concept of ‘ignition by compression’ in 1892), we’ll use him as the figurehead and mastermind behind the invention.
German engineer and inventor Rudolf Diesel had a keen understanding of thermodynamics and around the time that the Automobile was being developed, he wrote a paper theorising that a ‘heat’ engine could replace the steam or combustion engines of the time - especially since they were far more efficient. Around the late 1800’s he developed the first (and second) prototypes and for the purposes of this particular piece, the diesel engine was born.
Since (due to its nature) the Diesel engine requires a more robust construction than say a gasoline engine, it was barely seen in planes, however, its use in more industrial applications such as stand-alone or agricultural machines and then of course submarines, ships, trains and trucks become a bit of a no-brainer. To me, yes they’re powerful workhorses that manage the grunt work but they’re not overly refined and certainly not exciting. Well BMW beg to disagree and gave me the X3 M40d to prove their point
Having driven the new BMW X3 both on and off road at its NZ launch I can attest that its attributes are both vast and far-reaching. From its Southern Hemisphere influenced design (Mr Luc is from our neck of the woods), to its capable drive virtually regardless of the terrain, it offers much of what you’re looking for in an SUV and then some. I was particularly partial t the power and performance that came with the M40i (twin-power straight 6 that takes you from 0-100kph in 4.8s and has 265kW/500Nm) but none of them are what you’d call sluggish.
So what of the diesel then? I hear you ask, well I’m glad you did. Firstly let me tell you the specs. It’s a 3.0L TwinPower high and low pressure Turbo base that develops 240kW from 4,400rpm and get this, 680Nm, yes 680Nm of torque from as little as 1,750rpm. 0-100kph comes in at 4.9s (that’s virtually the same as the petrol M40i), Top speed is governed to 250kph and it heats its fuel at a rate of 6.4L/100km (combined), the M40i runs at 8.4L/100km for those that want the comparison. So what BMW has created is a diesel-powered SUV that can hold its own against its flagship M-Sport sibling yet will stop at the fuel pumps around 30% less! Now I’ve got your attention.
Although the numbers above would suggest otherwise, the X3 M40d delivers its power in a more mature way than the M40i. It’s a little less gruff in its voice and marginally less in push back in your seat thrill, but as you can see, the result is not exactly lacking any performance. The power feels relentless as it goes through the 8-speed box and the BMW luxury that adorns the cabin is only slightly usurped by the technology that is on hand - I never get tired of gesture control.
On the road, there are a plethora of safety and driver’s aids to keep a watchful eye over you and your family but when you have completed your family chores I am sure that like me you’ll seek out some open road fun and give the X3 M40d the chance to show off its handling skills.
Despite spending a substantial amount of time behind the wheel of this diesel-powered X3, I returned it with the fuel needle still pointing in excess of halfway, which, was doubly impressive as I didn’t exactly feather the accelerator. To many, having a ‘d’ in the BMW M line-up would be an absolute no-no, but the overall result of speed, power and efficiency really does put the Phwoar in ‘Phwoarty’ - Rudolph would be proud (wherever he is).