Diesels in the USA: Time for a renaissance
After decades of success in Europe, diesel-powered vehicles are staging an impressive comeback in this country. Are we finally getting on board with oil-burning power?
Audi's latest 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine, used in the Q5, A6 and A7 (above), is a smooth, quiet and powerful performer, and could help break Americans of long-held beliefs that diesels are noisy, smelly and boring to drive.
Push-you-into-the-seat acceleration. Hybridlike fuel-economy numbers. A driving range of 600 or even 700 miles from a modestly sized fuel tank. A longer-lasting engine and better resale value. These are things you want, right? What if you could have all these benefits now, in your very next car?
With increasing fuel costs, drivers are putting a premium on fuel efficiency — but it seems we aren't ready to sacrifice performance and behind-the-wheel grins for the sake of better fuel economy. This is where diesels come into play, offering the torquey power of much larger engines with the fuel efficiency of gas-sipping 4-cylinder powerplants.
The case for diesels
Diesel engines may not have the peak horsepower numbers of gasoline motors, but the amount of torque and, more importantly, the broader power band over which they produce that torque are more directly applicable to everyday driving.
We recently had the opportunity to sample Audi's latest 3.0-liter turbodiesel in three new applications: the Q5, A6 and A7. Even as diesel advocates, we were shocked at how much fun the company's new powerplant proved to be in each offering. Even more shocking was how much sense the diesel engine made in very different cars. In the A6 or the A7, you mash the accelerator and use the torque to power out of tight hairpins without the added drama of having to downshift two or three gears. In the Q5, you can scale any incline with the ridiculous oomph of the turbodiesel, or you can use the 5-passenger SUV just to drive the kids to soccer practice — up to 600 miles away.
Automakers embrace diesel technology
It's not just Audi jumping on the diesel-powered passenger-vehicle bandwagon. Chevrolet introduced its Cruze sedan with a diesel option, and Mazda will make available an oil-burning option for the new Mazda6. Nissan is also poised to release a Cummins-supplied 5.0-liter V8 turbodiesel to the Titan lineup at some point in the 2014 model year. Add those to the mix along with BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Dodge and Jeep and you realize you can find a fantastic diesel option in just about every segment.
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Having lived in Europe and Asia, where clean diesels are everywhere, it continues to baffle me that we in America are still having hybrids shoved down our throats. Most of my driving is on the highway - what's the point in lugging around heavy electric motors and a trunk-full of batteries that aren't being used?
CNG is the way for the U.S. to go. Clean burning, engines last much longer, way cheaper than gas or diesel and we have more of it than we know what to do with. We could be totally self sufficient in 5 to 10 years. Only problem is infrastructure, we have got to invest in filling pumps at about 20K per.
Electrics are Ok for city dwellers, try taking one from New York to LA and let me know how that works out for you. Most of our electricity is produced from coal, so don't tell me how wonderful and "green" they are.