By on December 11, 2015

2016 BMW X5d

(Update: With EPA comment and clarification on their tests.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved for sale Friday the 2016 BMW X5d after new tests of that car revealed that it did not use an illegal “defeat device” to cheat emissions standards, Reuters reported.

Well it didn’t use a defeat device as far as they could see, anyway.

“Our screening tests found no evidence of a defeat device in the 2016 BMW X5,” EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen told Reuters. “No evidence” is hardly a clean bill of health from the environmental agency, but at this point we’ll take what we can get.

The test results are the latest in the ongoing saga of “Everyone is Cheating/Just VW is Cheating” and could rebut claims that American investigators are specifically targeting German manufacturers.

The GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado and BMW X5d were the only cars awaiting certification from the EPA and all three have been approved for sale.

BMW issued a statement Friday that said the automaker would be delivering the car to dealers soon.

“Production of the 2016 BMW X5 Diesel had been deferred until EPA testing had been completed. The vehicle will be going into production shortly at our manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The 2016 X5 Diesel is expected to be available at showrooms in January, 2016,” BMW spokesman Hector Arellano-Belloc told TTAC in a statement.

It’s unclear how long production had been delayed for further testing.

In its report earlier this year, the International Council on Clean Transportation noted that its on-road testing had revealed that the BMW X5d could comply with emissions tests. In the same report, it noted that two Volkswagen vehicles were polluting up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxides.

That report led to Volkswagen’s admission in September that its cars had been fitted with defeat devices.

Clarification: An earlier story identified the GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado and BMW X5d as the only non-Volkswagen vehicles selected for testing. The GM trucks and SUV were the only vehicles awaiting certification from the agency. The EPA will continue to test 2015 and 2016 light duty trucks and cars under new testing protocols. That testing is ongoing. 

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39 Comments on “EPA Gives 2016 BMW X5d Clean Bill of Emissions, Kind Of...”

  • avatar

    Would this be the same EPA that somehow neglected to test the on-road emissions of those VW diesels even though they were pulling off an engineering feat that seemed to elude every other auto maker? Of course, VW’s competitors must have overlooked it too. Sure they did.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with the overall spirit of what you are saying — quite a few parties should have questioned claims and could have pursued answers.

      Perhaps you are correct about the EPA *neglect* to road-test this technology claim. I don’t know how well-funded they are to do this routinely and preemptively for all kinds of automotive “breakthroughs”. Urea-free small diesels, isn’t quite the same as claiming that GDI is better than port-injection, but it may turn out eventually that the emissions from GDI are just as problematic. The bottom line is that advances in fossil-fuel engines are far smaller than the rapidly increasing demands from of the changing world. The question is, how fast can someone come up with an IC engine that can dramatically increase its efficiency from 35% to 75%, with current emissions standards. It’s not like car makers are pushing the envelope by experimenting with 6-stroke engines or other wildly-disruptive approach to extract more energy from the same fuel.

      In hindsight, we can all say the EPA should have road-tested those diesels. But they are just like any other entity that is the product of the political process: many stakeholders, interests, and various missions and constituencies to satisfy.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe EPA’s mandate doesn’t go that far. VW’s diesel competitors were acting with no such constraints. I find it impossible to believe that none of the people who were under the gun to figure out how VW did it never thought to test emissions on the road. Why none of them blew the whistle would be an interesting story.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Last I heard the EPA had roughly 16 employees in charge of overseeing the entire automotive industry, and the industry likes it that way. No time for extra tests, no time to dig deeper than the test reports and the information the manufacturers provide.

      It’s long been assumed that the massive per-car-produced penalties for cheating will keep manufacturers honest. Now it’s time to actually verify that theory.

  • avatar

    Hey – I have an idea. Why don’t we borrow from Greentastic Subaru, who’s halfway-pregnant PZEV moniker always makes me laugh (what is partial zero – is this an example of ‘new math’?).

    After the EPA testing is complete, we’ll just label all diesel passenger vehicles with MCDV, for Maybe Clean Diesel Vehicle.

    If you are driving a late-model TDi, get this vanity plate: NOX2HI

  • avatar

    I would say that “no evidence” is a pretty good statement under the circumstances. There is never an absolute certainty that there is no hidden code.

    But if the car behaves in real world tests,it’s about all we can ask for.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah; I mean, what else *can* the EPA ever report?

      They could look at the source for the ECU program and train up a team to understand it well enough to confirm it was clean…

      But it might be [depending on the ECU functionality for programming] *impossible* to confirm that that’s REALLY the code that shipped in the cars.

      All we can do is black-box output in real world conditions; if it passes that, that’s it.

  • avatar

    ” …if the car behaves in real world tests…” Wasn’t that exactly the problem with the VW diesels — they did NOT behave in real world tests.

    OTOH, we have this unsolicited research done on VW diesels by university people with their own anti-oil agenda. I would give them more cred if those same people would now conduct those same real-world tests on the BMW diesels.

    My guess is that the BMW diesels would also fail in the real world. The real world is so different from factory-performed tests under controlled conditions.

    That’s why the EPA was so embarrassed when it was revealed by independent and disinterested testing facilities that the EPA had turned a blind-eye toward these emissions tests conducted by the OEMs, and the mpg claims of some other automakers.

    • 0 avatar

      Those tests were done by WVU.. the state flagship university of one of the most pro Oil, Gas and Coal states in the country, maybe Texas edges them out, but doubtful.

      If you’d bother to actually read the initial reports, you might have found that WVU also tested the X5 Diesel and found it to be compliant for the most part: .

      But no, please, continue to go ahead and spew BS.

      • 0 avatar

        DubVBenz, I did read more than the actual reports before I made my comments, and it is great that you carry their water for WVU but that doesn’t alter the facts that few, if any, tiny diesels are compliant with the EPA mandates, VW cheating firmware routines not withstanding.

        These researchers had to peddle their findings to get them verified; it took 14 months to get others on board willing to duplicate and verify their findings. They made a name for themselves, no doubt, but embarrassed the EPA all to hell.

        Others have posed the question, “Why did these WVU people go after VW?” and “What initiated this unsolicited research?”

        Maybe you can expound on that since you think I’m spewing BS. No one has tested these people or their own agenda. I’m sure many readers would like to hear your spin on this matter since you chimed in.

        Now let’s see if these same WVU people will go after other diesel-car makers with the same zest to uncover if they are “compliant for the most part.”

        “For the most part” doesn’t hack it though. They’re either 100% compliant with EPA mandates, or they’re not. And I bet they’re not. Too many variables outside the controlled testing conditions.

        Let’s start with the Italian VM 3.0 diesel offered in both the Grand Cherokee and the RAM. Ever seen one take off from a dead stop at full throttle?

        Yeah, it ain’t pretty and it doesn’t smell good but that is the way many people drive their cars in the real world. And the EPA knows this.

        What WVU did was rub the noses of the EPA in it to prove that emissions were different in the real world. Hell, the EPA knew this already and didn’t need the diesel owners of America to get riled up because of some alarmists with their own agenda trying to make a name for themselves or scratching for more grant money.

        I actually owned a 220D and a Caddy Eldorado 350 Diesel and none of them complied with the mandates of their time. Each spewed tons of emissions, as do my gasoline-fired vehicles.

        The real world is far removed from the controlled testing conditions required by the EPA. Your defending the “research” does not reveal the motivation behind it.

        I’m doing research on whether buttermilk pancakes and biscuits cause gas. Like the research on EPA-approved tiny diesel engines, my research is also totally unnecessary.

        • 0 avatar
          Lack Thereof

          This is silly.

          No one has complained about the driving habits on the tests. Everyone knows a lead-footed driver will produce different results.

          The kinds of testing that the EPA is talking about here, is an on-road driving style that mimics the lab test (or vice versa). That’s how VW got caught; a steady-state 55 mph cruise on the freeway was producing completely different results than the simulated 55 mph cruise during the test cycle in the test booth.

          It’s not a matter of the test doing zero-to-sixty in 30 seconds while Joe Average does it in 15. That’s a whole other debate (and one in which the manufacturers have lobbied very hard to keep the status quo). It’s a matter of vehicles being rigged to behave differently when they are being tested.
          You have the VW 3.0 diesel which runs “clean” upon startup for exactly the duration of the EPA test, and than immediately switches to a completely different tune. You have the 2.0 TDI that uses steering wheel position, ambient air temperature, and even barometric pressure to detect that it’s in an EPA-spec test booth, and changes to a completely different tune in that case. Nothing about these tactics involves the difference in driving habits between the simulated test driver and Joe Average.

          But, you know, I’m all for including some 10-second 0-60 runs in the official emissions and fuel economy testing cycles. Good luck getting GM and the industry lobbyists behind it, though.

        • 0 avatar

          “Why did these WVU people go after VW?”

          I said it right there in my original post. They also tested an X5 Diesel, which happens to be made by BMW, not VW.

          • 0 avatar

            HDC is one of those posters around here who produces large quantities of words while being unable to read or understand them.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I do like your comment as it is the truth.

      I’d bet my balls not one motor vehicle on the road in any country (OECD) would pass their FE or emissions test when driven by the average Joe or Jane for that matter.

      Even EVs and hybrids generate pollution. We only seem to concentrate on a vehicle emissions after it leaves the factory. How much coal is used to produce a vehicle?

      Don’t forget we must process ores (even aluminium). Even with the supposed FE advantages of using aluminium it is staggering the amount of energy used to turn bauxite into aluminium. Are we really saving?

      Here’s an interesting cut and paste and link;

      “During the same period Australia, one of the world’s largest producers of aluminium‡, produced about two million tonnes of aluminium and 250 billion kilowatt hours of electrical energy; this means that more than 12% of its electrical supply was used to extract aluminium.”

      So, the world will use wind power and solar energy? To bad when it’s raining for a week or two, we’ll just close down the plant and let billions of dollars worth of renewable energy generation sit idle.

      How about the plastics in motor vehicles? Or, better still the pollution from electrical and electronic production?

      Where does all the billions of tons of rubber particles go when tyres wear? What is problems is this causing the environment? Has anyone ever done a study on where the minute pieces of rubber go? Down the river systems.

      Even brake dust. Any dust that is around a couple of microns is not so good for your lungs. So, the worst place to cross a road as a pedestrian would be at an intersection.

      I do believe that we are concentrating on the wrong areas if we want to reduce pollution. Nuclear energy is the answer.

      I do think the EPA might be some left wing public service.

      Why don’t we just plant billions of trees? They are the lungs of the earth, along with algae.

      Here in Australia when we have restrictions on water usage it is the residential properties that are hit and yet it was found 70% of fresh water is used in agriculture, 25% in commercial and industrial applications and 5% for RESIDENTIAL. Sort of makes sense.

      We live in what can be described as a world based on perception rather than common sense. Votes are based on perception.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “I’d bet my balls not one motor vehicle on the road in any country (OECD) would pass their FE or emissions test when driven by the average Joe or Jane for that matter.”

        First of all, I wouldn’t do that.
        Secondly, standardized tests are created to eliminate the ‘average Joe’ as a variable. Whether the average Joe’s driving habits comport with the test protocol is irrelevant.

        The life-cycle energy consumed by vehicles has been studied and discussed endlessly. It is well known that lightweight construction saves fuel over the life of a vehicle. The fraction of the grid used to produce aluminum says more about the grid than the value of aluminum as a fuel-saving product.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          SCE of AUX,
          First up, as you are most definitely aware please address me as Big Al from Oz, Big Al or just Al, even Alan.

          Second up, in my occupation we do extensive testing and fault finding.

          The testing we do uses REAL LIFE scenarios.

          How would you feel the next time you are in an aircraft and the FAA has allowed some form of testing not taking into account real physical variables?

          This isn’t hard to do.

          The reason emissions and FE testing is carried out the in the fashion it is done is to allow for ambiguous standards.

          Do some research and you will realise that the auto manufacturers do have significant pull with the EPA, NHTSA, etc.

          It comes down to trade and barriers.

          Why not look at those EcoThirst Ford engines for starters.

          They are designed to pass emissions and FE testing. This is really not must different morally than VW having software to evade targets.

          The only difference between Fords EcoThirsts and VW diesels is one is electronically controlled the other is via physical inputs.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            I got your initials right, but you got my name wrong, so I guess we’re even.

            Since you seem to be familiar with some testing – and so am I – I’ll remind you that flight testing of aircraft is mission-critical to preserving life, while emissions testing is not. However, in both cases, neither the FAA nor the EPA themselves do much testing due to resource constraints; this is left to the mfr to perform and report.

            Contrary to what you say, it is hard to do. The government doesn’t (currently) have the time or resources to perform emissions testing on every permutation of vehicle sold in the US. This is not a mere matter of drivetrains, but also trim levels which could affect their performance. Behaviors also affect the outcome, like towing, A/C usage, load, tire pressure, fuel octane range, and ambient temperature, humidity, and pressure.

            You can’t just let all these variables float about, uncontrolled.

            “Real life” conditions for your driving style would not be exactly the same as mine; hence, the need for standardized protocols which reduce the variability in the data.

            An Ecoboost engine may not achieve its EPA mpg ratings, but this isn’t because Ford cheats. For instance, the EPA highway test cycle averages 48 miles per hour. So if you drive differently than that, you won’t achieve EPA mileage figures.


            So if you don’t like the ‘real world’ fuel economy of vehicles, then lobby for a better test.

            VW actually cheated for a reason – presumably to achieve better fuel economy or performance numbers, or perhaps to extend engine life. The fix will still include electronic controls, but this time the emissions will be within limits.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            SCE to AUX,
            My comment didn’t have any relationship to the safety aspect of testing. I just stated it is quite easy to develop testing to suit whatever outcome is required.

            The manufacturers know this.

            From your comment then I would assume you don’t consider VW violated as opposed to erred?

            As for you comment on the impact different vehicle operators have, wouldn’t it be easy to find a mean average? Then develop a test to suit, don’t just find the most economical way to operate a vehicle as this is highly inaccurate.

            If this were the case you would find these little turbo engines will become passé and NA engines would reign, unless they are diesel.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          “I’d bet my balls not one motor vehicle on the road in any country (OECD) would pass their FE or emissions test when driven by the average Joe or Jane for that matter.”

          I played around with a Snap-On exhaust gas analyzer some years back with a friend who owns a garage. I drove around in my Saab while he read the emissions in real time. Turns-out it not only meets, but beats NOx, CO and HC standards by a wide margin.
          In fact, all three are close to zero in most driving conditions, rising slightly (but still staying well within regs) at wide open throttle.

          That same car has been beating EPA mileage estimates for the past 14 years, which I check at every fill-up. As you know, fuel mileage is essentially the same thing as CO2.

          You can keep your balls. That’s a repulsive offer, BTW.

          Most other cars we tested were well within emissions standards, unless they had specific issues (bad O2 sensors, weak cats, misfires, that sort of thing).
          We did not test any diesels.

          • 0 avatar

            hh, did Snap-On buy the Sun Exhaust Analyzer company?

            My experience is limited to the old Sun model which was huge and would not easily fit at all into a Saab.

            These days I’ve seen the smog stations in El Paso and Albuquerque conduct emissions tests on a Laptop by way of an intermediary palm-sized sensor interpreter.

            Pretty slick, but for printouts the Laptop has to be connected to a printer.

            I’ve been told the way of the future will be a Tablet linked to Blue Tooth devices like sensors and printers.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle


            This was a few years back, but it was more or less the size of a laptop, with a probe that you put in the exhaust and a long tube connecting the two.
            As you mentioned, it used the old Snap-On wireless printer protocol, you pointed one end at the printer, pressed a button, and the readings would be immortalized on a roll of cash-register paper.

            The unit was a demo, and my friend’s shop passed on it since it was only useful for diagnosing pre-OBD cars, and they deal mostly with current cars.

            He did set-up one old Volvo 242’s carb to exact factory specs, just for fun. It still idled like crap, but that’s because 1970s Volvos used a lot of valve overlap on US-market cars for EGR purposes (to lower NOx).

        • 0 avatar

          “Secondly, standardized tests are created to eliminate the ‘average Joe’ as a variable.”

          Or, more realistically, to reify a specific Average Joe frozen at an instant in time. While turning a blind eye to both his compatriots and his evolution.

          If you really want to make sure, test for worst case. Otherwise, you’ll always be gamed. And will in the process create a society where gaming is institutionally rewarded, over being a nice guy.

    • 0 avatar

      How many Petrol engines are emitting more Co2 and NOx, than the manufacturers have claimed? Whole Pandora’s box opening

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        GDI engines are emitting up to 1 000 times the particulates of a diesel. This will change within a couple of years. There are working documents on the use of GPFs with a GDI engine.

        Some manufacturers are down the route of using port and GDI to reduce particulates. I do think this is only a stop gap measure.

        Those DS4 Toyota engines are designed to reduce particulates.

        But, the US’s love affair or better still the US manufacturers love affair with gasoline will impede diesel.

        With the price of oil collapsing and the EU economically slower than a decade ago I’m wondering who the US is selling it’s excess diesel oil to. It has already impacted the price of diesel at the bowser in the US with diesel cheaper in some places than gasoline.

        This will spark an interest in the US for more diesel engines eventually.

      • 0 avatar

        RobertRyan, That’s the way I see it too. Gasoline and diesel engines emit more and more pollution and emissions from the moment they leave the factory floor and are pressed into use or service.

        One of my sub-contractor friends loved his Cummins-powered 3500 RAM Dually. But there was always this bellowing black cloud following him wherever he went.

        So when I asked him about it he told me that he was on his third O2 sensor and he was tired of losing his truck for a week to get it fixed. He couldn’t make money if his truck was in the shop.

        So he just became the personification of “Rolling Coal.” Not a problem in my area but it could be a huge problem in some air-pollution sensitive city.

        One day I followed my wife home and she was born with a lead foot. Man, that 2015 Sequoia spews some bad-smelling fumes when she hit the pedal to get up to speed on Hwy54. I bet it didn’t meet the emissions mandate; well, maybe for the most part……..

      • 0 avatar

        >> How many Petrol engines are emitting more Co2 and NOx, than the manufacturers have claimed?

        or worse stuff they’re just starting to discover:

  • avatar

    Do they sell enough X5d models for this to be much of a concern/relief to anyone? IMO the X5 is pretty:

    a) Overpriced
    b) Outdated
    c) Less than competitive with other options

  • avatar

    In theory, there can’t be a sure way to know that no cheating, or cutting of corners is buried deep inside silicon. Going forward, perhaps it will be harder to hide test-mode defeat devices, but there are bound to be other ways to use sophisticated means to infer when emissions devices might be under some sort of test or measurement cycle.

    One way to expose the internals of emissions management is the possibility of submitting source code to the regulators, or having it externally reviewed by a third party, or peer-reviewed for approval. It’s certainly not a minor expansion of the regulatory framework we have today. In the end, it might be simpler to continue to use severe penalties as a deterrent (emphasis on “severe”).

    One unanswered question is why there was no major challenge from other engineering circles when VW engineers presented their work in conferences. In any profession or area of active research any claim of a breakthrough will invite a great deal of curiosity, and follow up questions from many other people who are very knowledgeable of the problem space, and very very smart. VW was claiming a breakthrough that small diesels could meet standards with no need for urea injection.

    Based on a NY times piece VW claims they had a very insular approval process whereby the same engineers who designed parts also approved them for production, a stunningly backwards engineering practice for any modern company. OK, I’ll bite and take at face value their claim that their internal processes suck. But when they go into conferences and make these claims, what gives? Where is the peer review of all these breakthroughs, the duplication of results by independent researchers and all the other (imperfect) mechanisms present in other disciplines?

    (never mind the management failures)

  • avatar

    “I actually owned a 220D and a Caddy Eldorado 350 Diesel and none of them complied with the mandates of their time.”

    Equivocating the VAG issue with expertise gleaned from the “mandates” imposed upon the 220D and GM 6.2 is interesting.

    Aaron: Your wrote, “Well it didn’t use a defeat device as far as they could see, anyway.” I appreciate your reporting but why such editorial skepticism? Would you prefer that an administrative agency fail vehicles based upon bias rather than upon testing evidence? Sure, EPA dropped the ball, but the only solution is to implement a more rigorous testing protocol- often in the face of extensive counter pressure from industry lobbying. From my perspective, which is admittedly less well informed than yours, it appears that this is exactly what the EPA has done.

    The discussion around the VAG emission issue on this site often feels unnecessarily loaded with personal (and political) bias at the cost of factual analysis.

    To date, and so far as I am aware, the BMW diesels have passed testing relevant to US emission standards. Such an outcome seems parallel reported users’ experience of urea consumption and intake side carbon buildup related to semi-egressive EGR maps. VAG appears to have ducked some of the compliance downsides by, well, not complying.

    That said, it seems that the reporting and subsequent discussion of the VAG emissions program would benefit from less hyperventilation and more factual analysis. The intent of the persons who revealed the operating reality VAG software is unknown to us and irrelevant to the facts.

    In this instance and as reported by Aaron, the 2016 X5 3.0 diesel passed current emissions standards under the current protocol used to test those standards. Unless and until someone argues that the standards are insufficient or the protocol is ineffective, I do not see a cause to cast shadow.


  • avatar

    I see the armchair engine design expert (expert on anything at all for that matter) from Australia is present and on-duty today.

    Read the University of Leeds documents on petrol engine emissions, done at the same time as the diesel tests. The petrol engines passed, the diesels did not with regard to NOx.

    Here, this’ll give you a start:

    They also have courses on diesel particulate and NOx emissions for those who might actually want to learn rather than pontificate.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I do believe you should apologise to me.

      I have on numerous occasions on TTAC discussed how the lower cetane value of US diesel fuel affect NOx levels due to the increase in the compression ratio of US diesels.

      Another important fact. Where in my comment above did I even raise the issue of NOx emissons?

      Go back to the installing dashboards or whatever fantastic skills you have.

      Another apology?

      Just by your introduction in your the first paragraph in your comment it is obvious you are out for a troll, again big noting your assembly line blue collar skillsets.

  • avatar

    “Well it didn’t use a defeat device as far as they could see, anyway.

    ‘ “Our screening tests found no evidence of a defeat device in the 2016 BMW X5,” EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen told Reuters. “No evidence” is hardly a clean bill of health from the environmental agency, but at this point we’ll take what we can get.’– Aaron Cole

    Got implications, Aaron? Personally, I have “no evidence” that you are a fraud, an imposter or a terrorist, if only because I haven’t uncovered the truth yet. But I have all the evidence I’ll ever need to prove that you’re no journalist.

  • avatar

    Courts don’t find defendants “innocent,” but “not guilty.”

    “No evidence” is as good as it gets. Are you expecting the feds to say, “BMW is, like, totally awesome”?

  • avatar

    What a snarky headline.

    What a snarky article.

    You should be ashamed of your bias, Aaron.

    This is meant to be a CAR site (see title of site), not a blog for your personal leanings.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      From my own observations it appears TTAC is losing clientele.

      I don’t know if it is related to the quality or lack of depth across ALL vehicles. The lack of depth I’m discussing is the site is becoming very US centric.

      There is a whole swathe of vehicles globally TTAC can write up on. What ever happened to Marcelo? Why do we not have more articles on EU vehicles other than the constant VW bashing. Too much of this kind of sh!t will kill of TTAC commenters.

      Or, the other reason for the drop in TTAC traffic is how poorly or un-user friendly the site has become to use with all of the interuptions from advertisers etc. It can be almost impossible to submit comments, the site slows down to a pace where you just can’t type comments, etc.

      TTAC technical staff should look at speeding up the site making it easier to use.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree. 100%. On all points.

        Plus — excuse the shouting — I JUST DON’T WANT ANY DAMN POLITICS ON WHAT USED TO BE MY FAVORITE CAR WEBSITE! None. Either side. Cars. Trucks. Preferably many of them with stick shifts!

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