Driving Euro diesels from Audi, BMW, Chrysler, and Mini

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From Consumer Reports:
September 18, 2008 Driving Euro diesels from Audi, BMW, Chrysler, and Mini More than half the cars sold in Europe are high-mpg diesels. So given the opportunity to
sample four models directly from the Continent, we hoped to find out if modern European diesels are good enough to entice American drivers.
Small-displacement engines with big torque and fuel economy numbers have long been considered forbidden fruit to the U.S. market. With the revised, ultra-low-sulfur fuel recently adopted in the States, we are seeing a slow influx of European diesel models reach our shores. Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have lead this wave of new diesels, and several other automakers have announced plans to bring more here.
So, what do we have to look forward to? We got a taste last week by attending the annual International Motor Press Association (IMPA) track days at Pocono Raceway, where we piloted several imported diesel models provided by Bosch. We sampled four European-market diesel models: 2009 Audi A4 3.0 TDI Quattro, 2007 BMW 123d hatchback, 2007 Chrysler 300D, and 2008 Mini Cooper D. (Bosch supplies some of the fuel injection and emissions control equipment for these cars that allow them to meet stringent air quality standards in Europe. They say the cars could also be made 50-state compliant in the U.S.)
In our review of the Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec diesel last year, we raved that its modern diesel engine was not only clean, but also felt as smooth and powerful as a gasoline engine. (Watch our video road test.)
In driving the four European cars at IMPA, it is clear that modern diesels are much smoother and quieter than those engines Americans may remember from the 1980s. But not all are as refined as gas engines, or as that E320.
I was very impressed with the Audi A4 3.0 TDI. This A4 has 236 hp and a whopping 369 lb-ft of torque, giving it impressive acceleration. The car was also quiet, relaxed, and refined in driving on the street. Its rated at a combined 36 mpg on the European fuel economy test cycle. And several of us came away from a lap around the road course wearing wide smiles.
The Mini Cooper D gets impressive fuel economy (rated at 60 mpg combined on the European fuel economy test cycle). The Cooper D driven at Pocono didnt require as much shifting as our base Mini Cooper with a manual transmission to stay in the power band, but it had a notably gruff engine sound. The same was true for the torquey and entertaining BMW 123d hatchback, which was rated at 45 mpg overall. Both the Mini and the BMW included an auto-stop feature that shut the engine off when the car was stopped to avoid wasting fuel when idling.
Bosch tells us the Chrysler 300D uses the same 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine as the Mercedes we tested. It was plenty powerful in the Chrysler, but not as smooth as in the Mercedes. (Also, we smelled diesel fumes after making a U-turn, whereas we couldnt smell a thing in the Mercedes, even with our nose near the tailpipe while it was idling.) Its rated at 35 mpg overall.
In the end, the lesson is that while modern technology has dramatically reduced diesel vibration and sluggishness, they arent as smooth as the best gas engines. Powertrain noise and vibration suppression are a combination of engine design, noise reduction under hood, and engine mounting technology. Nevertheless, the sacrifices to drive a diesel are much smaller than they once were, making the fuel economy improvements and abundant torque all the more compelling.
Now if only diesel fuel prices were closer to regular gasoline
Eric Evarts
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Tough to beat those Mercedes diesels!
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Diesel engines put more carbon in the air per gallon burned because of their higher btu content. Financially, a gallon of diesel is about the same as a gallon of gasoline, but carbon wise, the diesel has a greater cost on the environment.
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heav wrote:

This is a case of twisted numbers. Yes, diesel puts out more carbon *per gallon* but when you factor in the fuel economy relative to a similar gasoline car the net carbon output is less *per mile driven*. Analogous to this is the fact that my '92 Mercedes 300D costs $0.06/mile *less* to drive on diesel @ $4.05/gal than my '05 Taurus burning $3.56/gal ULR. On that basis even old tech diesels have a lower carbon footprint than their gasoline powered brethren.
JD
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Also... with only 3% of the US passenger car as diesel... WHAT FOOTPRINT?
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Correct. My 25 years old 190D gets 38 miles per gallon. Similar size of gasoline engine (2.2 liters) around that age (or even newer) probably get no more than 25. Even with more carbon in a gallon, the carbon per mile is still MUCH less than gasoline.
JD wrote:

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And if burn biodiesel you have a net zero carbon footprint (the only carbon released is that removed from the atmosphere by the plants that produced the oil). Not to mention ZERO sulphur.

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I have never understood why the car companies refuse to sell high mileage cars in the USA. In Europe you can by a new E Class that gets 48 mpg highway, and 38 mpg combined. That's better than any car currently sold in the US except the Pius.
They even make things like Diesel Chrysler minivans and Jeeps in the US for the European market, that they won't sell in the home market.
Even something as seemingly fuel efficient as the Smart Car is crippled for the US. The US version gets a combined 36 mpg, while in Europe you can get a Diesel version that gets a combined 71 mpg.
It wasn't always this way. In 1987 you could buy a Honda Civic that got an EPA combined rating of 54 mpg.
Why are the car companies screwing around with hybrids and other complicated solutions, when the obvious answer could be on the road tomorrow?
TFN
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Yeah I don't understand either
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Maybe they are in bed with the oil companies?
TFN wrote:

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On Wed, 24 Sep 2008 23:17:14 -0400, TFN wrote:

A few thoughts come to mind:
- a "US" gallon is smaller than an imperial gallon - are you comparing apples and apples here?
- comparisons of mileage ALWAYS involve stats from the sales brochures for the vehicle/fuel/continent favored versus stats from actual drivers for the vehicle/fuel/continent not favored.
- the US of A really should lose their "SUPER-SIZE ME" culture that affects them, and the rest of the world, adversly in so many ways. If all they were doing was contributing to the further undoing of their own economic and social structure, it would not be of such great concern to me, but the reality is that when they shit their pants in New York, it smells bad in Tokyo, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai, and even way down in Sydney!
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Happy trails;
The figures I have used in all cases were either the official EPA 'window sticker' numbers, or the official published EU "Euro cycle" numbers for the Euro models. While the methodology does vay somewhat between the two systems, the US EPA test uses slower speeds and normally results in higher mileage numbers.
The conversions from Litres/100 km to miles/ US gallon were all done accurately.
TFN.
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On Sep 24, 11:17pm, TFN wrote:

Diesel fuel is more expensive than gas in the US -- usually even more expensive than premium, by often up to 70 cents a gallon. Depends on the time of year. Also, low-sulfur fuel was just required last year; no diesel could meet the then-current Calif. standard and the now- current national standard with the old high-sulfur diesel. Plus, the US has particulate and NOx standards that are much more rigorous than Europe does, and diesels make more of those two.
But Mercedes has a diesel, VW is introducing one, BMW is introducing one. Honda promises one very soon.

The EPA has changed its way of computing mpg several times. You can't compare one 20 years ago with one now.

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After the (small) tax advantage on diesel fuel was abolished in the UK a few years ago the price of diesel rose to similar levels as standard 95 octane (c. 91 US) petrol. Now diesel is a lot dearer than standard petrol here. Still people buy diesel vehicles. But in my case (< 5000 miles p.a.) it would make no sense.
One contributor to the relatively high price of diesel is -- so I read a while ago -- that demand for it is in greater proportion than its fraction in the distillation process. This means that whereas previously diesel was 'byproduct' of petrol distillation and could be sold at a 'marginal' price, now the distillation has to run more for diesel, whose fraction in the process is smaller than petrol's.
Put crudely, so to speak, you are running a big expensive process to extract a 'minority' product, so a greater proportion of the costs have to be loaded onto it.
Either reduce demand for diesel or increase the demand for petrol. Roll on the big petrol-powered 4 x 4s... :-)
DAS
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wrote:

Currently true, but as someone who has driven Diesels for years, I can report that this is a recent phenomemon. In the past it typically cost somwhere near mid grade, or at times less than regular. The Federal government and most states charge more tax per gallon for Diesel, which makes no sense from a business standpoint as most goods are trasported by Diesel trucks and trains. In Europe, Diesel is significantly less expensive than regular gas.
Also, low-sulfur fuel was just required last year;

True, but Diesels produce far less hydrocarbons, almost no carbon monoxide, and have far lower CO2 emissions which contribute to global warming.

The EPA has changed their methodology once. They have since published "new" MPG figures for older cars going back to 1985. Even using these questionable updated figures (no new testing was done) The 1987 Honda Civic HF still gets the exact same overall figure as the 2009 Pius, and significantly better highway mileage than any car sold in the US today.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/calculatorCompareSideBySidePopUp.jsp?column=1&id )11
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/compx2008f.jsp?year 09&make=Toyota&model=Prius&hiddenField=Findacar
My theory is that the steady slip in mileage figures over the last two decades was getting too embarrasing for the EPA, so they needed to rewrite history a bit.
TFN.

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On Fri, 26 Sep 2008 21:33:27 -0400, TFN wrote:

Except in the UK where the UK tax (May 2008) was 0.55 per litre for diesel (any amount of sulphur) and 0.52 for unleaded petrol - both plus VAT at 17.5% on the total including the tax (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocarbon_oil_duty ).
The diesel I bought today was 1.219 per litre (at a supermarket), so it cost me 60.95 for 50 litres (rough conversion for merkians is $112.20 for 13.20 US gallons or $8.50 per US gallon)

But diesel does produce particulates which has all sorts of health side effects (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_particulate_matter ). I drive a diesel despite this :-(.

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Lloyd turned on the Etch-A-Sketch and wrote:

I've read about that several times.
Actually the '87 Civic did get way better mileage than a '08 Civic. Current EPA estimates show the mid-80's Civic got about 45 MPG.
It weighed almost a thousand pounds less, since it had no structural ridgitity, no airbags, less support for seats, and a lighter engine.
One Honda engineer remarked that it would get great mileage, but he wouldn't want to have been in an accident while driving one.
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PerfectReign wrote:

Maybe that's part of the problem. We drive our armored cars like idiots thinking that we'll survive. I drive my old Merc the same way I ride my motorcycle; like I don't want to get in an accident.
JD
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JD wrote:

I think the time is long overdue for replacing the very heavy steel rust-pots and replacing them with the latest in fiber reinforced plastic - like airplanes. That should greatly increase the fuel efficiency and safety.
RF
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which airplanes are you referring to? __________________________________________ Never argue with an idiot. They'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
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