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Mini D, 735d coming

D one: Mini D joins its petrol-powered stablemates here next year.

BMW ups the diesel ante to include Mini and the next-gen 7 Series flagship

21 Apr 2008

MINI will finally go diesel in Australia early next year, as BMW extends diesel availability to also include the next-generation 7 Series.

These are the latest additions to the diesel rollout that BMW commenced with the E53 X5 SUV in early 2003.

BMW Australia managing director Guenther Seemann revealed the latest diesel debutantes at the E82 1 Series Coupe launch in Albury last week, as it braces for soaring petrol prices and a dramatic shift towards diesel-powered vehicles.

Since the end of 2005, BMW has progressively introduced diesel versions of the 5 Series, X3, 1 Series and 3 Series, as well as a high-performance twin-turbo unit to join the popular X5 3.0d earlier this year.

Mr Seemann is adamant that BMW’s diesel strategy in Australia is already paying dividends.

“Our growth in the first three months came very much from diesel,” he said.

“Many new customers who bought their first BMWs chose a diesel. In January our diesel share was up to 40 per cent.” BMW has had a diesel-powered Mini on sale in Europe since 2003, when the now-discontinued R50 model first utilised a 1.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder unit purchased from Toyota.

Australian-bound Minis will probably employ the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine co-developed with PSA Peugeot Citroen and introduced last year in the second-generation R56 Mini. Known as the Cooper D, it produces 80kW of power at 4000pm and 240Nm of torque between 1750 and 2000rpm – with an overboost feature that can add another 20Nm to that tally.

It is unclear whether the emissions and consumption-reducing Start-Stop technology will be part of the Cooper D’s package for Australia due to our low standard of diesel fuel.

14 center imageFitted with this as part of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics system, the Mini Cooper D’s combined average fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions ratings are a petrol/electric hybrid-beating 3.9L/100km and 104g/km respectively for the six-speed manual (and 5L/100km/134g/km with the six-speed automatic gearbox). As well as rising fuel prices, it is the fast acceptance of diesel power in the premium small-car market that has prompted BMW to reconsider its position on a diesel-powered Mini.

At the launch of the R56 Mini Cooper range in early 2007, BMW Australia was adamant there would be no diesel in the local line-up.

“If you would have asked us the question (of a diesel Mini for Australia) one year ago, I would have said no. Mini buyers don’t want diesels. They are different to other (types of buyers).

“But today I can answer yes. I believe in the coming 12 months, we need to have a diesel engine for the Mini. At the moment we are working on the business case. Mini will become diesel.

“When I look at the segment where Mini is playing – such as the Volkswagen Golf – the growth rate in this sector is diesel only. Petrol is not growing. Diesel will (continue to) drive the growth, not petrol engines.” Mr Seemann believes that the image-conscious Mini buyer has switched from having negative associations with driving a diesel to only positive ones that go beyond greater refinement, better fuel economy and improved real-world performance.

“It isn’t the case anymore that a diesel engine drives like a dirty lazy dog. It has much better torque than a petrol engine and driving a diesel (no longer) says that I am driving a truck or a taxi – (instead) it says that I am responsible.” Meanwhile, the all-new F01/F02 generation 7 Series, due to be unveiled at the Paris motor show in September as the replacement for the E65/66 model released in 2001, is in line to offer a 735d diesel variant sometime in 2010 – about a year after it goes on sale in Australia.

This is expected to be a variation of the M57 2933cc multi-valve twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder unit seen in the X5 3.0sd earlier this year. In that vehicle, it delivers 200kW at 4400rpm and 565Nm at 2000rpm.

“We will launch next year the new 7 Series, and we are planning to bring a high-performance diesel... a 3.0-litre twin-turbo.

“Not because we believe that the target group for the 7 Series cannot afford petrol any more, it’s for social responsibility. We believe that 25 per cent of its total sales will be the diesel.

According to BMW Australia communications manager Toni Andreevski, the next-generation 7 Series diesel will not be available from launch in the first quarter of 2009.

“That engine will not be here at launch obviously, as we will start with the big engines. But it will arrive within about 12 months maybe,” he said.

BMW already offers a diesel in the 1 Series (120d), 3 Series (320d), 5 Series (520d, 530d), X3 (2.0d, 3.0d), X5 (3.0d, 3.0sd) and upcoming X6 (3.0sd). However, it is still uncertain as to whether the Australian public are ready for the coupe and convertible diesel models that it has already successfully rolled out in Europe.

“Theoretically and objectively we can offer diesels in every model range,” Mr Seemann explained. “There is always a business case. So if there is demand for diesel on a 6 Series, we can bring it. But at the moment there is no demand on diesels in a 6 Series.” Mr Seemann was also sceptical about the amount of take-up for a diesel in the 3 Series coupe.

“If we sell 1000 coupes and the demand is only for 10 diesels, then it does not make sense. There must be a business case and a desire behind it. Plus, diesels are more expensive than (their) petrol engine (counterparts).

“I believe it will only come when petrol prices jump to $2 or $2.50. This is when people will move immediately to diesel.

“I think it will be sooner than later. Oil prices are driven by demand and supply. And we will (probably) run out within 30 or 40 years, so I believe we have to get used to petrol prices that will double within the next two years.

“This is why BMW is preparing the foundation of diesels. Efficient Dynamics is just the first step. It is now, today tomorrow, it will be hybrid and other gimmicks, but for lifetime it will be hydrogen.

“Rising oil prices means rising inflation... so getting a car that gives 6L/100km and has performance like a BMW while paying 2.50 a litre is like driving a Holden V8 today, and every car manufacturer knows this so is really pushing very hard to get engines that are efficient.” However, with Australia’s diesel supply still lagging behind Europe’s for purity, BMW says it is frustrated that the Australian government has not yet stepped in to make clean diesel mandatory.

The relatively low quality of our fuels is hindering the introduction of all of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technology that includes the aforementioned Stop-Start drive and ultra-lean-burn diesel engines for significantly decreased fuel consumption and emissions.

“Australia wants to become the environmentally friendly country in the world,” Mr Seemann stated. “And it does a lot towards this. But this also means that in terms of emissions, I have heard the figure of $1 billion to build new refinements to get its petrol as clean as Europe’s.

“(But) I believe there is no way out (of this expenditure), because in less than 20 years (most car manufacturers) will not be able to offer any of their engines here. So I believe Australia will follow.”

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