AC Schnitzer cooks up a 400-horsepower, triple-turbocharged diesel BMW 1 Series
A mountain of torque in the ACS1 5.0d concept car makes diesel a better candidate for performance than you might otherwise believe.
Andrew KrokReviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
The Essen Motor Show is Europe's chance to get crazy. It's similar to SEMA in that it's a chance for the aftermarket to display its wares using a wide variety of uniquely styled vehicles. Some cars are a bit less traditional than others, and German tuner AC Schnitzer's ACS1 5.0d concept definitely strays from the standard definition of performance.
AC Schnitzer's concept began life as a stock BMW 120d, a small, ordinary diesel hatchback. The company then immediately jumped off the deep end and swapped in the triple-turbocharged, six-cylinder engine from BMW's European lineup of performance diesel vehicles. With a little bit of tweaking after the engine swap, this 190-horsepower not-so-hot-hatch now puts out 400 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.
BMW's triple-turbo layout is quite unique. First, a small turbocharger builds up boost pressure early on in the rev range. As engine speed grows, a second unit kicks in to provide additional power. Eventually, the third turbo also spins up, leaving the motor with a nice, flat torque curve. The driver won't feel any of it happening, but will notice that the car never seems to lack forward thrust. Torque is what pushes you back in your seat, and diesel engines are quite engaging for that reason.
The engine swap puts the ACS1 5.0d concept in some very powerful company. The diminutive hatch reaches 62 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. Its acceleration is on par with the Alfa Romeo 4C, Aston Martin DB9 GT and Bentley Continental GT V8 S. That's some good company.
Given that the Essen Motor Show is all about hawking wares, AC Schnitzer made sure to outfit its Bimmer with a few aerodynamic and aesthetic upgrades, including a lowering kit and a flashy new set of alloy wheels.
Sadly, AC Schnitzer isn't offering up the ACS1 5.0d for sale. Engine swaps are hugely complicated endeavors, and considering the relative newness of the tri-turbo engine being swapped in, a full and proper car like this would probably cost the customer twice as much as a standard 120d. That said, if you have the means, AC Schnitzer might be willing to work with you on creating a swapped monster of your own.