Will 2008 Be the Year of the Diesel?

For decades, the diesel engine has played the role of ugly stepsister in the internal combustion engine’s Cinderella story. But all that just may change in 2008, when the diesel engine will take center stage as auto manufacturers, anxious to deliver fuel-efficient vehicles for a car-buying public weary of high gasoline prices, will unveil existing diesel models with cleaner engines, as well as new models equipped with efficient diesels.

Volkswagen, which has been delivering cars with diesel engines for years, announced in early January that it will introduce next year a “Clean TDI” diesel engine, which will be dropped under the hood of the 2008 Jetta. The primary goal of the new TDI (turbo direct injection) diesel will be to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, which it will achieve thanks to a reservoir catalytic converter. According to VW, the Clean TDI will produce 90 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions that present vehicles. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine will meet California emissions standards, which are the most stringent worldwide, VW notes. The car will be sold in early 2008 in all 50 states.

But the 2008 Jetta TDI will be just one of several new diesel-powered vehicles in showrooms next year. Atcoording to reports on the Internet, BMW will be equipping its X5 SUV with a 245-horsepower, direct-injection diesel engine, which will be available in mid-2008 and will get over 30 miles to the gallon on the highway. And reports are that Subaru will be equipping some of its European models with diesel engines, though there’s no definite word whether a diesel-powered Subaru vehicle will be available in North American anytime soon. But given the current trend, we speculate that it’s not a question of if, but when.

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