With a few formally announced diesel-powered SUVs that are due in the U.S. by 2008 and a Grand Cherokee diesel shown at Detroit, it appears the diesel is gaining ground. To see what Europe may have to offer in the growing diesel battle, we went to Germany to drive a diesel BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery3 (aka LR3), neither of which have been announced for sale in the U.S., but you never know what may be coming.

BMW and Land Rover have had diesel power in North America before, BMW with the 524td sedan and Land Rover with Defenders for the military. We expect a BMW diesel here by 2008, probably a thirsty premium vehicle. In the meantime, the best we can do is to head to Europe to drive the X5 and Discovery3.

Our examples were automatics; market research suggests they'd sell better than those equipped with manuals. Apart from slight changes to lights and bumpers, instruments, snow tires (the same size and speed rating as standard), perhaps slightly stiffer spring rates, intercoolers behind the grilles, and exhaust systems, the X5 pipes come out below the rear valance, not through it--they're similar to North American units.

Quieter Than Gas
When we first turned the key on the Discovery3, our eyes focused on the instruments, looking for a glow plug or wait-to-start indication. What stood out instead was a gauge indicating a whopping 820 kilometers' range on the tank. This equals just under 510 miles. Even using fingers for the math this was way more than any benzene-burning LR3 ever gave us.

The TDV6, the diesel version of the Discovery3, uses a PSA/Ford-developed 2.7-liter V-6. An iron-block, aluminum-head twin-cam with four valves per cylinder and common-rail injection, the Land Rover variant uses a single variable nozzle turbo and, as would be expected, the oiling system and seals are modified for extreme-angle off-road use.