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Eric
07-19-2006, 10:11 PM
Diesel deliverance in 2007?
By Eric Peters
for immediate release

They say you can't have your cake and eat it, too -- especially when it comes to high-mileage cars. The price you pay for passing the pump (or at least, stopping less often) is a downsized, down-powered ride that's not as roomy -- and definitely not as quick.

But "they" are misinformed.

Diesel-powered passenger cars offer fuel-efficiency comparable to the real-world performance of gas-electric hybrids -- typically, 40-something mpg on the highway and 30s around town -- in a larger, more satisfying package and without the high cost or the technological complexity. And they do so with superior, built-in longevity than either hybrids or conventional, gas-powered cars.

A well-cared-for diesel should run reliably for at least 200,000 miles; many routinely go 300,000 or more miles before requiring significant repair work. Few gas-powered cars reach 300,000 miles without some significant rehab. Most are getting tired around 150,000. And the "best case" life of a hybrid vehicle's battery pack(s) is about 8-10 years. Since hybrids are relative newcomers to the market, it's unclear what the cost will be to replace those battery packs when they are no longer able to hold a charge -- but the low end estimates are at least a few hundred dollars, or comparable to the cost of a transmission rebuild or major brake work.

If you factor in the longer service life/lower "over-the-road" upkeep costs of a diesel-powered vehicle vs. the more frequent repair/replacement costs of buying a new gas-powered (or hybrid) vehicle, the overall savings can be considerable.

Modern direct-injection diesel passenger car engines are also remarkably quiet, don't spew noxious clouds of sooty smoke -- and are capable of impressive high-power/performance. For example, the mid-sized BMW 330d turbo-diesel sport sedan offers 231-hp -- and nearly 400 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,700 RPM. It can accelerate from 0-60 in just 6.7 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph. It also returns as much as 43.5 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving. That's better mileage than most gasoline-fueled compacts -- and 10-15 mpg better than an otherwise similar in size/power/performance mid-sized sedan.

Unfortunately, the 330d is not yet available in North America. In fact, only a handful of diesel-powered passenger vehicles are currently offered for sale in the United States. These include the 2006 VW New Beetle TDI (base price $18,390) and Jetta TDI (base price $21,605) -- and alone among large luxury cars, the Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI (base price $51,050).

BMW does not offer the diesel versions of any of its passenger cars in the U.S. -- although they are widely available in European and other markets. Ditto Land Rover and several other automakers, who sell diesel-powered versions of many of their most popular models outside the United States. But not here.

The reason? The low quality of currently available diesel fuel in this country -- which has a high sulfur content relative to what's available in Europe. This makes it harder for modern passenger car diesel engines to pass strict emissions control requirements.

In addition to the federales, there are related concerns having to do with warranty/drivability issues.) Diesel fuel can also be harder to find in some areas of the country -- especially areas that aren't near major highways (and truck routes) or agricultural locales.

As a result of these factors -- and also because diesels have an undeserved "rep" for being noisy, slow-moving stinkpots (thanks, GM) -- automakers have been reluctant to offer them for sale here in large numbers.

The good news is the EPA has mandated that low-sulfur diesel fuel be available in the United States for air quality reasons beginning next year (2007). So that issue should be solved. And the escalating cost of gasoline (and the price gouging that's taking place on hybrids owing to their current popularity) means market conditions have never been more favorable for diesels. The keystone is the night and day difference between the diesel engines of the past and modern diesels -- which start immediately, even on cold days (no more waiting for the glow plugs to heat up) and are so smooth and quiet it's hard to even tell they're diesels without popping the hood.People who try them generally love them.

You probably will, too.

Expect to see a wider selection of diesel-powered passenger vehicles in all categories over the next few years. The economics are enormously appealing; the cars themselves, even more so. Excellent fuel economy; superior durability -- and power/performance every bit as good (if not better) than their equivalent gas-burning counterparts. It's a win-win deal.

They'll be well worth the wait.

END

Kwozzie1
01-17-2007, 07:35 PM
Since your posting, have any of the European diesels started appearing on US shores yet.

mrblanche
01-18-2007, 07:33 AM
One important fact about diesels and longevity is that the closer the engine comes to be "automotive" rather than "commercial," the shorter its life is likely to be.

To get your Volkswagen TDI, for example, to truly long life would require that it be engineered with excess lubricant filtration, heavy-duty injectors, over-sized bearings, etc. The effect of those changes, unfortunately, is to reduce performance and increase weight.

My Cummins ISX, for example, with 500 hp and 1850 lbs/ft of torque, weighs nearly 3,000 pounds and has a displacement of about 900 c.i. But right now it has 555,000 miles on it.

Eric
01-18-2007, 08:31 AM
Since your posting, have any of the European diesels started appearing on US shores yet.




Not... yet. But 2007 is the first year we're supposed to see some of them, including, according to my sources, the Land Rover.

dBrong
01-19-2007, 01:23 AM
>Blanch is correct<

A disel engine needs to be real HD. There is a lot of thrust, compression, and extreme temps. I'm not a car engine expert, but I have work extensively with jet engines.

There is something called the 'average hot day', which relates to air density, and the power the engine can deliver.

IMHO, these diesel car engines are going to have to be way over engineered (thus weigh more) than normally aspirated automobile engines.

Kwozzie1
01-19-2007, 01:39 AM
>Blanch is correct<

A disel engine needs to be real HD. There is a lot of thrust, compression, and extreme temps. I'm not a car engine expert, but I have work extensively with jet engines.

There is something called the 'average hot day', which relates to air density, and the power the engine can deliver.

IMHO, these diesel car engines are going to have to be way over engineered (thus weigh more) than normally aspirated automobile engines.



I have had 5 European diesels and have not had any problems with them.... they now designe them for highspeed work on the autobahns.

My current diesel now has 20,000km service intervals but because of the type of runing and the climater here I give it an oil change and replace one of the oil filters midway

Jim Rose
01-19-2007, 01:47 AM
>>My Cummins ISX, for example, with 500 hp and 1850 lbs/ft of torque, weighs nearly 3,000 pounds and has a displacement of about 900 c.i. But right now it has 555,000 miles on it. <<

And weighs more and is larger than a VW TDI ;D

Eric
01-19-2007, 07:01 AM
It seems to me this has not been a problem for manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (or VW), which have been producing long-lived diesel passenger car engines for decades.

I'd be surprised if they changed policy and began to "under-engineer" their diesels, as this would piss away those very same decades' worth of high-esteem for their diesel engines in the minds of the buying public...

Kwozzie1
01-19-2007, 06:42 PM
It seems to me this has not been a problem for manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (or VW), which have been producing long-lived diesel passenger car engines for decades.

I'd be surprised if they changed policy and began to "under-engineer" their diesels, as this would piss away those very same decades' worth of high-esteem for their diesel engines in the minds of the buying public...


Also BMW, PSA group (Peugeot Citroen)

mrblanche
01-19-2007, 08:36 PM
I'd be surprised if they changed policy and began to "under-engineer" their diesels, as this would piss away those very same decades' worth of high-esteem for their diesel engines in the minds of the buying public...


Mercedes diesels have been traditionally over-engineered and underpowered. A few tricks can make a big difference; larger bearings and rings, just for starters.

And speaking of starters...a diesel starter has to be a true brute.

D_E_Davis
01-19-2007, 10:23 PM
And speaking of starters...a diesel starter has to be a true brute.

A Caterpillar D-9 used (or used to) an air-cooled gasoline twin as a starter.

mrblanche
01-20-2007, 07:57 AM
Yeah, they used to call that a "pony motor."

My Cummins has a starter that can (and fortunately hasn't had to) drag my 80,000 lb truck almost a quarter of mile before it runs the batteries down.

Eric
01-20-2007, 08:54 AM
"Mercedes diesels have been traditionally over-engineered and underpowered. A few tricks can make a big difference; larger bearings and rings, just for starters."

Recent Benz (and BMW) diesels have actually offered extremely good performance; for example, the E320 CDI reaches 60 mph in under 7 seconds.

mrblanche
01-20-2007, 09:03 AM
But only time will tell how they hold up.

I have to admit that I don't have any first-person knowledge of the MB diesel engines; I just know they have a reputation for longevity, and I know the way to do that is to increase the engines in the manners I have mentioned.

I can have my engine overhauled without removing it from the truck for about $10,000. That includes new cylinder liners, pistons, rods, rod and crank bearings, etc. The pistons and liners come as "packs," already assembled.

Eric
01-20-2007, 09:24 AM
"But only time will tell how they hold up."

The current E-Class engine has been in production for about eight years in its current form; and I believe the basic engine is much older.

"I can have my engine overhauled without removing it from the truck for about $10,000. That includes new cylinder liners, pistons, rods, rod and crank bearings, etc. The pistons and liners come as "packs," already assembled."

I can buy a brand-new "built to the hilt" fully assembled GM big block crate engine for less (but it won't last as long!)

The rebuild on my Kaw - using all first-class stuff - cost me about $800, including machine work....

mrblanche
01-20-2007, 11:53 AM
My engine, complete, would cost close to $30,000.

Eric
01-20-2007, 01:46 PM
My engine, complete, would cost close to $30,000.


I could get a rotisserie resto of my Pontiac for that!

mrblanche
01-20-2007, 02:03 PM
You probably could.

But my truck can produce an income of over $300,000 per year. Now, something like 70% of that would be expense, but still...

Eric
01-20-2007, 02:09 PM
You probably could.

But my truck can produce an income of over $300,000 per year. Now, something like 70% of that would be expense, but still...


..and mine's a pure money loser! But it's a fun money-loser!