By Bradley Hasemeyer
on 9.3.08

The Argument for Diesel Powered Vehicles

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2009 BMW 335d

GP.EDITORIAL.gif By Bradley Hasemeyer & Eric Yang: With the arrival of the 2009 BMW 3-Series Diesel, quite possibly the most ubiquitous of the German cars, it goes without saying that diesel cars are coming to America. Moreover they’re coming for the long haul. Taking aside the fact that, to us, hybrid vehicles are over-hyped fads and we know you’re not into fads. Proven technologies like diesel fuel are what power many of the world’s cars and contrary to your preconceived notions, diesel cars rock. Let’s discuss.

Both Bradley and I have spent time overseas so we can attest that the days of hand-me-down massive black-soot belching behemoths purchased during the last American fuel crisis are gone. With the advent of urea-injected technology from companies like Bosch, you’re now seeing diesel automobiles that are not only more economical than their unleaded and hybrid counterparts, but absolutely stick it to them in terms of performance. And with today’s fuel prices and ongoing recession, that’s a good thing. Our essay after the jump.

Why Diesel?

Diesel cars are becoming readily available in America. They’re refined, economical and best of all – powerful. Hybrid engines, though good for urban environments (think: taxi) where power efficiency is generated from stop & go traffic aren’t really effective in America where driving mostly occurs on the highway and suburban roads. As a matter of fact, they can sometimes be worse. Diesel powered vehicles like say, the Mercedes Benz E-320 Bluetec however, storm autobahn’s and thoroughways the world over with speed, poise and maximum efficiency. In some countries, diesel engines power more than 50% of vehicles.

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2009 Mercedes Benz E320 BlueTEC

32. That’s the number of highway miles per gallon you’ll experience in a Mercedes Benz E-320 BlueTEC (shown above). This coming from a turbocharged V6 280 horsepower/385 lb-ft torque engine compared to Toyota Prius’ meager 110 horsepower/variable torque engine. Beyond that, it’s a Mercedes E-Class, it’s bloody gorgeous – not some mish mash of aerodynamics, batteries, and plastic that only looks cool if you’ve got an Academy Award sitting on your mantle.

Even more approachable, and a car I’m seriously considering for myself is the aforementioned 2009 BMW 3-Series, a diesel tour-de-force if you will. It’s just like any fantastic driving machine you’d expect from BMW, but its six cylinder engine generates 265 horsepower and a whopping 425 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. For comparison, that’s more torque than a HEMI V8. Tack on 33 mpg on the highway and you might start rethinking that this fuel crisis means compromise. I’m certainly not.

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2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD

For those of you looking for an SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of our recommendations. Its buttery smooth V6 is actually sourced from Mercedes and we need not say much about it’s off-road capabilities. The Jeep reputation should be enough. Not to mention an SUV capable of towing 7,400 lbs with the gas mileage of a crossover is not something you see every day.

Facts & Figures

We compiled a few diesel vehicles and placed them into a chart that lays out a few key specifications. As white, blue and red blooded American men, we pay attention to figures like price, horsepower, zero-to-sixty, and now miles per gallon. Those are all here, but keep in mind – torque is where it’s at. Torque is measured in pounds per foot and long story short, when you’re in a car and you feel that momentum pressing you against the seat of your car, you’re feeling torque, not horsepower. It’s visceral. Car fanatics know this number and they know it well. Now, so should you.

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The Rundown

For you men with the concern that owning a diesel ride is ‘dirtier’ than your unleaded whip, consider this – cars like the BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen use technologies (you’ll start hearing terms like AdBlue, BlueTEC, Blue Performance) that actually make the air emitted from the exhaust cleaner than that going in. No exhaust smell, 25% less carbon dioxide and, again, more giddy-up. Of course, we don’t suggest you start inhaling the exhaust in hopes of a longer life or virility, but the point is clear (no pun intended).

Now the big question. You’re sitting there yelling that diesel is almost a dollar more expensive at your local gas station and it’s harder to find on the road. Well, yes and no.

If your gas mileage is improved by over 30-40% then an additional 15-20% increase in fuel price is completely negated. Simple math. Ask any car nut and they’ll attest that diesel’s are the way to go – hypermilers and hybrid junkies be dammed. As an aside, we strongly suggest you never consider FlexFuel or E85 Ethanol as alternative fuel sources. Those fuels are derived from corn, which is rapidly becoming one of our most expensive and least cost-effective resources – outrageous prices aren’t far behind.

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, sticker not included.

As for the notion that it’s harder to find diesel, you’re wrong. Nearly half of all gas stations in the U.S. carry diesel and it’s growing. Just because it’s not posted on that massive sign doesn’t mean they don’t carry the fuel. Not to mention, you’ll be visiting the gas station 25% less with a diesel powered car.

To quote the car experts at Edmunds:

“Remember, diesel technology can achieve the same net fuel consumption savings as a hybrid but without the added batteries, computers and mechanicals. A diesel works well in an urban environment and also performs adequately on the open road, where hybrids are just gas-engine vehicles with a bunch of batteries as unwanted ballast.”

What This Means To You

So if you’re a man (yes), you enjoy automobiles (yes), and consider yourself environmentally conscious (we hope) you might want to rethink your next car purchase. We know you’ve got discerning tastes so it’s doubtful a beige Toyota Prius is on your list, but those other hybrids: the Nissan Altima Hybrid, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid… go ahead and scratch those off your list. Can you imagine what happens after the warranty period expires? You’re sitting on a repair service time-bomb.

Next time you’re out, take a Jetta 1.8 TDI, BMW 335d or even a Ford F-150 or GM Sierra Diesel out for a spin. You might find yourself rewriting those memories of that hand-me-down clunker.

Don’t Take Our Word For It:

Footnote: Some of you may be wondering why not just make a hybrid-diesel and enjoy the benefits of both. Well… that might not be too far behind with Volkswagen’s 70 mpg VW Golf. Take that Prius.

Editor’s Note: Why did Gear Patrol write this article? 1. Because we obviously stand behind proven technology, not fads. 2. Because we can.

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