With so much money, and lets face it hype, being poured into cars like the Prius and the Volt, it is encouraging to see manufacturers have not turned their backs on continuing to make the most of the vast investment and expertise the industry already has sunk into the standard internal combustion engine. In the pursuit of ever cleaner and more fuel efficient cars, Mercedes brought out the C220 diesel powered BlueEFFICIENCY (quite why they feel the need for the capitals is not clear) this year which manages 0-60 in around 8.5 seconds and fuel efficiency of 58mpg (European gallon, that would be 49 miles per US gallon) not bad for a four door mid size saloon. Now BMW have bought out a 3 series called the 320d Efficient Dynamic turbo charged diesel that manages 0-60 in 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 137mph while still returning 68mpg (over 57 miles per US gallon). The new car is to be launched at the Frankfurt motor show this year and uses a host of innovations to achieve the efficiencies among which BMW claim a new all aluminum crankcase and reduced drag coefficient (0.26 CD) as key contributors. Interestingly in a feed back from technologies used in hybrids the new 320d uses brake energy regeneration to boost electrical energy for the on-board systems without placing any additional demand on the normal charging system ” which would use fuel.
In addition to being super frugal, the car also has very low emissions due to a new design of catalytic converter and particulate filter placed close to the outlet of the engine. Emissions of 109g/km are claimed which puts it in the super mini category and at least for European drivers, means much lower tax brackets. Just in case you were thinking a four cylinder diesel engine is going to be too rough to be widely accepted, it would seem BMW is in agreement with you. By way of various clever features such as double mass flywheels and a centrifugal pendulum system, the engine is remarkably smooth, even at low revs, encouraging drivers to keep in a higher gear (and hence lower revs and fuel consumption) than they would do in a standard 320 diesel.
All in all, the car seems to offer many of the advantages of a hybrid with almost none of the compromises. Hats off to BMW, maybe the internal combustion engine isn’t dead after all.