To mechanics of the Seventies, the phrase "Oldmobile 350 Diesel" is enough to cause heart palpitations. For many Americans, that particular engine was their first – and most definitely last – exposure to diesel. Doomed from the start by both a lack of a water-separator (you ever try compressing water?) and the head/headbolt pattern from the Olds 350 Rocket (which expanded from the heat of the non-compressible water), few engines have done more to destroy a brand's reputation quite as thoroughly as that engine. In many ways, General Motors is still paying for that corner cutting blunder.
But man, talk about unfair! First of all, those bad old GM diesels were designed and built over thirty years ago – much has changed. Furthermore, slightly more than half of all the cars sold in Europe today are glow-plugged oil burners. And diesel owners simply love their cars. Why not? Lots of torque, fantastic mileage and no spark plugs to change, ever. But we would be mistaken not to point out that there is a section of the automotive landscape still not smitten with diesels, despite all of these advancements. Who? Driving enthusiasts, that's who. Hey, it's hard to love a 4,500 rpm redline when all you want to do is pound it at 9/10s.
BMW is looking to change all that – at least partially. According to Erin Riches at Inside Line, the brand from Bavaria plans to introduce four-cylinder diesels mit turbos to the U.S. in a few years. Says Tom Baloga, vice president of engineering for BMW North America, "This engine needs to match the acoustic qualities of a six-cylinder, and it needs to match the performance, as well as performing better in terms of fuel economy and emissions."
You can expect to see these new engines in both the truckish X3 and X5, as well as the all important bread-und-butter 3 Series and maybe even the 5 Series. All we need to hear is the middle part, because if BMW puts the new four-banger turbodiesel in the 3 Series, the motor simply has to be sporty. Them's the rules. Note: the Inside Line article never explicitly mentions turbos, but does say, "Our four-cylinder diesel will be so good that people will readily accept it as a replacement for six-cylinders. The target is to produce enough horsepower to be comparable [in performance] to our N54/N55 six-cylinder turbos." So, obviously, these new diesel fours will get paired with some sort of forced induction goodness.
Can't wait? BMW already offers the stonking 335d in U.S. dealers right now.