Diesel cars are noisy, rough and dirty. So say many Americans, whose negative impressions of diesel power continue to be reinforced by the noisy, rough and dirty diesel cars built 20 and 30 years ago that remain on the road today (longevity is a diesel strongpoint, afterall).
With cleaner diesel fuel and new engine technologies, today's diesel cars are actually about as quiet, smooth and clean as their gasoline counterparts. Combined with more off-the-line oomph (more low-end torque) and greater fuel efficiency (by about 30 percent), the case for diesel has never been stronger.
Essential to the coming clean-diesel revolution is ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, which all retail diesel pumps have been dispensing since 2006. ULSD makes possible the use of catalytic converters, soot and particulate filters and other emission-control devices on diesel engines.
Many Americans are surprised to learn that almost half the cars in Europe are diesel-powered. Once they begin getting a taste of today's diesel technology in vehicles like the 10 below (listed in the order in which we might see them on the road), it will all begin to make perfect sense.
|2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
As a 42-state vehicle not available for sale in the "California Eight" states, the diesel-equipped Grand Cherokee isn't a full-fledged member of Diesel 2.0. With its Mercedes-built, 3.0-liter, turbocharged V6 diesel engine, though, it's almost as convincing an argument for diesel as any of the coming 50-state cars. Delivering 215 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, the diesel Jeep can tow up to 7,400 pounds or almost 3,000 pounds more than the vehicle's own weight.
|2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Several diesel-powered vehicles are scheduled to show up for sale in all 50 states within the next year, but the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI will likely be the first, and is sure to be the most affordable. The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 140 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The EPA says the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI will get 30 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway when equipped with a six-speed manual.
|2009 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI
We've already driven the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI scheduled to arrive in early 2009, and we're looking forward to driving it again. Except for better mileage (25 highway mpg, perhaps) and a rush of low-end torque (406 pound-feet) that does wonders for the heavy SUV's around-town responsiveness, there isn't a whole lot of differentiation between the smooth, quiet, diesel-drinking Q7 and the gas version.
|2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC
Mercedes has offered the ML320 CDI diesel SUV since 2007, but it wasn't clean enough for states employing the California standards that are stricter than European regulations. For 2009, the ML320 BlueTEC wil feature a system that injects into the exhaust stream a chemical that combines with otherwise smog- and acid-rain-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) to create harmless nitrogen and water vapor. The bigger GL-Class SUV and R-Class people mover will offer the same engine.
|2009 BMW 335d
Sporting a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder diesel engine said to make about 265 horsepower and a huge 420 pound-feet of torque, BMW claims the forthcoming 335d will accelerate from rest to 60 mph in about six seconds. The engine has two turbochargers: a small-diameter unit to produce low-speed torque and a larger turbo for higher-rpm horsepower. BMW claims anticipated EPA mileage ratings of about 23 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
|2010 Acura TSX i-DTEC
In early 2008, Honda chief executive Takeo Fukui said the company would offer a diesel-engined vehicle in the U.S. by 2010. It's a safe bet that the 2.2-liter, four-cylinder i-DTEC diesel will first appear in the 2010 Acura TSX. The i-DTEC will have a significant advantage over its German rivals in that it will not require the addition of chemicals into the exhaust system, and thus no extra tank that needs refilling.
|2010 Toyota Sequoia
The glory days of the big sports utility vehicle are likely over, but there are still plenty of families with a legitimate need for a big, brawny SUV. They'll be happy to hear that Toyota has announced plans to offer a diesel-powered Sequoia (and Tundra full-size pickup), perhaps in 2010. Toyota already produces several diesels for use in other parts of the world, including a 4.5-liter V8, 4.5-liter inline-six cylinder and a 3.0-liter four cylinder.
|2010 Ford F-150
Full-size pickup sales have taken a big hit from rising gas prices, which makes the forthcoming clean-diesel F-150 even more important for both Ford and the people who rely on pickups to earn a living. Details are scarce at this point, but rest assured the Ford marketing folk will be sure spread the word when the times comes.
|2010 Chevrolet Silverado
General Motors is working on at least two new clean-diesel V8s for the U.S. market: an updated version of the current 6.6-liter V8 for larger trucks and, more importantly, a new 4.5-liter V8 for the company's half-ton pickups. Both engines are scheduled to debut in the 2010 model year Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
|Audi R8 TDI Le Mans Concept
This one might not be made available any time soon, but just knowing that Audi has bothered to wedge a big V12 diesel engine into its delicious R8 semi-exotic car makes every diesel in the world that much more attractive. According to Audi, the 6.0-liter mill produces 500 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque, good for 4.2-second sprints past 60 mph and a top speed of more than 186 mph.
|Okay, 11 Cars...
Audi R10 TDI Racecar
In 2006, the Audi R10 TDI racecar became the first diesel-powered vehicle to win the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. It successfully defended its title in 2007, and won again in 2008. What does this mean to you? It just means you're going to have a tougher time hanging onto your perception of diesel cars as slow cars.