Diesel engines have been around for a much longer time than many people realize. Diesels are coming back to America, in a big way, but I still don’t quite think it’s enough. Over the past couple of years, diesels have started trickling back into the United States due to new regulations on additives in diesel fuel. But, as of now, there is still only a small number of model lines offering a diesel engine for sale here. And I think that must change.
Volkswagen AG offers the Jetta, Golf, and Touareg, as well as the upcoming Passat, with a TDI engine. Audi, meanwhile, offers just the A3 and Q7. BMW offers the 335d and a diesel X5, and Mercedes offers an E-Class diesel, as well as an oil-burner of the M and GL-Class. But, other than VW, no one is offering any diesels for cheap, and the only other new vehicles on the market that offer this sort of engine are large pickups. While I see the point (General Motors ruined diesel’s reputation in the United States back in the Seventies and Eighties, but that’s another story), diesels should be, by now, a very formidable force in the market. Consider this: The price of gasoline has spiked numerous times since 2006, and this past spring, they nearly hit 4 dollars per gallon on the East coast (and $5 on the West Coast). Although diesel is more expensive, it’s a more efficient way of powering an engine.
Diesel fuel is denser than gasoline and has more potential energy, which means less of it is needed per cycle to produce a similar amount of grunt in two identically-sized engines. This is the primary reason why compression-ignition engines put out higher gas mileage than spark-ignition engines. In addition, despite the higher price of diesel, thanks to the increased mileage, your range will increase, lowering the cost of fuel per year–a sizeable budget change for pretty much any American family.
With the diesel market sparse in the USA, there is much room for competition. I am aware that in Europe, automakers offer a myriad of diesels to choose from. They’re also great driver’s cars–when Nick vacationed in Europe a few years ago, their rental was an Audi A6 diesel, which he recently described as “terrific.” Numerous journalists and enthusiasts have been clamoring for them for a good amount of time now, and with higher gas prices, there is a case to be made. Diesels are more efficient than gas-powered cars, probably have a longer useful life than a hybrid (no battery to decompose), and are a lot more fun to drive than their hybrid equivalents.
So, the Germans should wake up and start offering more diesels here–if Mercedes has been having so much success with the E350 Bluetec, then BMW should begin selling a 535d here. On the same page, with the BMW 335d selling fairly well after just a couple of years, Mercedes-Benz should send us a diesel version of the C-Class with the Bluetec’s engine–since these engines are already approved for U.S. sale, and since (in BMW’s case) the 535d is already sold in Europe, it would not be a lot of trouble at all. With sales of the ones that are already here at a good level, there’s no reason why the Germans shouldn’t do this. I’ll be first in line if they do.