Last year, BMW sold more than 67 percent of its cars in Europe with diesel power (X5 M50d above). Diesels were bought by 66 percent of Audi buyers. In total, German drivers bought 49 percent of their cars with diesels in 2011.
In the U.K., 981,594 diesels were sold in 2011—that is, 51 percent of all cars.
U.S. drivers have been slow to take to diesel, because they don’t understand how good they have become. My buddy tgriffith today seems to glorify the fact that the new gas-powered BMW 328i is the equal in fuel economy (1 mpg better) and performance (one-tenth second faster to 60 mpg) than the heavier, more expensive 335d.
Well, yeah, but that is still apples and oranges. The best gas engines can now compete with diesels in fuel economy. But they cannot beat the new diesels in torque (raw power off the line) or in longevity.
Diesels are best for long-distance driving and, like some hybrids, for high performance. BMW is announcing a new line of diesel-powered M5 cars with 381 hp and 545 lb-ft of torque—though not for the U.S. right now. The company is also making a 4-cylinder turbo 2-liter with 201 hp.
The U.S. market—only about 3 percent diesel last year—will evolve as gas prices shoot up and long-distance drivers come to their senses. Still, our buyers have a pretty wide choice if they want diesel power: See this list of what’s available now. As the piece notes, the high cost of diesel here is largely due to certification for U.S. emission standards.
Mazda is bringing its 2.2-liter Skyactiv diesel (with 310 lb-ft of torque) to the U.S., probably in the CX-5 crossover. Next year, the Chevy Cruze diesel (likely with a 2-liter from Holden) will be available here. Some have said the target for this car is 50 mpg.
Yes, diesels cost more. They also last longer and, in some situations, perform better. It all depends on what you need and how you drive. I find that most drivers who have done some kind of cost-benefit calculation and bought diesel—well, they love ’em.
Given what you can afford and how you use a car, would a diesel be right for you?