The story behind BMWâ€™s foray into diesel power in the U.S. was pretty interesting. BMW had developed the M21 2.4 liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel in the 1970s with fuel prices rising; it finally launched in the early 1980s with the E28 524td. But you probably best know that motor for its appearance in mid-80s American iron; an attempt by Ford to improve the fuel economy of its large executive Lincoln Continental. The marriage didnâ€™t work; although the M21 was a good motor (especially when compared to GMâ€™s diesel!), gas prices were falling and the economy was recovering by the time it finally came to market. But since BMW went through the effort to get the M21 legal for U.S. shores, they brought the 524td over here, too. It was a slow seller in the E28 lineup; equipped only with an automatic, BMW dealers shifted 3,635 of the diesels.
No surprise, then, that when the E34 launched, the diesel didnâ€™t come back with it. Though the U.S. market didnâ€™t see the M21 in the lineup though it soldiered on. The M21 was replaced in 1991 by a new version, the M51. Now displacing 2.5 liters and with an intercooler in â€œsâ€ version, the 525tds upped the power from the 114 seen in the 524td to 141 and it had 192 lb.ft of torque at only 2,200 rpms. This motor carried BMWâ€™s diesels through the 1990s, and was available in everything from the 3-series to the 7-series.
So itâ€™s a bit of a treat to see the M51 in North America. Itâ€™s more of a treat to see it in a Touring, and in great shape, and hooked up to a manual transmission. And, it has manual sport seats as well. Yes, the want is strong in this one!