Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Americans who appreciate diesel engines likely will be pleased to know BMW, a respected purveyor of compression ignition, is unveiling four new diesel offerings at the auto show here.

Too bad none of the vehicles is slated for the U.S. market – at least not yet.

Arriving in the coming months in Europe are the BMW 640d, 118d Urban Line, 116d and 520d, which represent a swath of both premium luxury and more-affordable entry-level cars.

The latter two spring from the auto maker’s EfficientDynamics product strategy to reduce fuel consumption without sacrificing performance.

Although these vehicles primarily are intended for the German home market, where some 50% of new-car buyers pick diesels, a BMW executive says another diesel engine may be headed to the U.S.

“That is definitely something we are thinking about,” Klaus Draeger, BMW board member-vehicle development, tells WardsAuto when asked if the U.S. will receive a 4-cyl. diesel.

“Our 4-cyl. and 6-cyl. diesel engines are high-performance engines with very low fuel consumption,” he says. “What the customer especially likes about these cars is the great range they have.”

BMW’s only turbodiesel offering in the U.S. is a 3.0L DOHC inline-6 that appears in the 335d sedan and X5 xDrive35d cross/utility vehicle. It earned Ward’s 10 Best Engines honors in 2008 and 2009.

Flooding the German market where diesels are popular makes sense because of high gasoline prices regionally and the superior energy density associated with diesel. In the U.S., only a scant 3% of new vehicles come equipped with diesel engines. But supplier Robert Bosch forecasts that penetration rate will reach 10% by 2015.

This is not the first time BMW has floated the idea of a 4-cyl. diesel for the U.S. Another BMW executive in 2009 told WardsAuto the auto maker saw “an opportunity” with a small diesel engine.

BMW already produces several diesel engines in Europe that could capably power the 1-Series and 3-Series cars, as well as the X3 CUV, in the U.S., based on WardsAuto test-drives of European vehicles.

When asked why the 640d luxury coupe, with its TwinPower 313-hp 3.0L turbodiesel, is not bound for the U.S., Draeger says the auto maker needs to continue testing the market with the 3-Series and X5.

“At the moment, we have no plans for the 640d,” he says. “We see more and more interest in the X5 diesel, and the share is roughly 25% (of sales in the U.S.). We will definitely bring further diesel models to the U.S., but the 6-Series is not yet decided.”

The 640d coupe produces a thundering 465 lb.-ft. (630 Nm) of torque between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm and can accelerate to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.5 seconds, achieving average fuel economy of 43 mpg (5.4 L/100 km), according to European test cycles.

Also on the product front, BMW displays here an all-new 1-Series that is longer and wider than the first-generation compact. Intended for Europe, it will be several years before a coupe version of the new 1-Series arrives in the U.S., a spokesman says. The current 1-Series was refreshed last year for the U.S.

BMW Group also displays at the show a Mini coupe, new M5 performance sedan, i3 electric vehicle, i8 plug-in hybrid and an extended-wheelbase version of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The i3 is slated to go on sale worldwide in late 2013, followed by the i8.

Near term, BMW is launching its compact, all-electric ActiveE this fall in the U.S. and other markets.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com