The rise and rise of diesel

As this is an US-focused group diesel gets a relatively rare mention. When it does, not a lot of defenders write in.
Yesterday's review in the UK Sunday Times of a diesel vehicle gives a good
perspective on the popularity of diesel engines cars in Europe.
http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12929-1142126,00.html
Overlook the fact that the car reviewed is a Jaguar (and the journalist doesn't like the shape) -- focus on the comments on the engine. This article is written in Britain, where there is no fuel-price advantage vis-a-vis petrol.
Chief rivals are, of course, Merc and BMW. See the comment on the BMW (530d): "formidably better, in almost every way, than petrol version"
North American (sceptical) readers take note...
For those who are interested and have trouble following the link I have pasted the whole article below my signature.
DAS
June 13, 2004
Jaguar S-type by Andrew Frankel of The Sunday Times It's a beauty - if you close your eyes
Do you know someone whose natural talents are being held back by an outside force beyond their control? A bright, vivacious person full of good ideas, destined never to be properly appreciated because of something intangible that restrains them? If that person were a car manufacturer, it would be Jaguar. Having spent their recent past selling under-engineered cars on the strength that they were beautiful, they've now managed to turn the tables. Today's Jaguars are impressively engineered, more reliable than Mercedes cars, and usually pretty good to drive. Yet all, save the aged XK coupé, are to some extent held back by their appearance.
It's not that they're ugly, merely that they're inappropriate to Jaguar's 21st-century aspirations and likely to lose potential sales in exactly the same way that GQ magazine would if sold with Country Life's front cover. The X-type and S-type saloons look odd and old respectively, while the technologically groundbreaking and otherwise convincing XJ looks designed to appeal to those with ambitions no greater than mounting a bloodless coup for the chair of the local golf club.
It may look old, but in fact the car in the picture is the brand new V6 diesel model. By S-type standards it's sure to sell by the barrowload, but you can say as much about any diesel executive relative to its petrol siblings, so significant are the extra travelling range, fuel economy and reduced tax burden these cars afford. But is that enough to place the newest S-type on the shopping list of those who have hitherto thought of BMW, Mercedes and Audi as the only serious players of the executive game?
This is the best engine yet to find its way into an S-type; indeed, if fitness for purpose is your guide, I will argue that it's the best engine to be used by any Jaguar since the V12 of the E-type in 1971 (and possibly the classic twin-cam six first seen under the bonnet of the XK120 in 1948).
This twin-turbo diesel V6 develops 206bhp and a thumping 320 lb ft of torque at under 2000rpm, and offers highly competitive economy and emissions. In these regards it compares well with the best engines offered by its rivals, but where it exceeds even their lofty standards is in its refinement. Even the best diesel engines become distinctly vocal in the upper reaches of their rev ranges . . . but not this one. Although I haven't tried them side by side, I doubt that even Audi 's 4 litre V8 diesel in the A8 could beat the Jag motor's eerily smooth and silent running. This engine will see the S-type past 60mph in 8.2sec and on to the far side of 140mph, its six-speed automatic gearbox proving the perfect partner. And it will do 36mpg in normal running.
It is hard to find any fault with this S-type, as long as you confine your observations to the manner in which it dispatches all roads, from urban to rural. Its ride is pleasant, firm enough to imply sportiness yet sufficiently smooth for Jaguar comfort, while its handling is engaging enough to make up for the ultimate technical superiority of BMW's 5-series.
Living with it is a different matter though. A minor restyle - can you spot it? - has done little to alter the perception that, visually at least, the S-type shape remains the automotive equivalent of the Blues Brothers 2000 movie - an ill-conceived attempt to plunder an original classic that should have been left well alone. That swooping body shape is not exactly space efficient, as anyone who has travelled in the back of one knows.
Given these limitations and the fact that they can only be properly addressed by an all-new car (still a couple of years away), it is to the S-type's considerable credit that it remains so likeable. Indeed it is little short of astonishing when you consider how easy it was to dislike when new in 1998; unlike wines, cars rarely improve with age, though the S-type undoubtedly has.
As a company, Jaguar has an interesting future ahead of it. All its current product was styled under a regime that ended five years ago; now a man called Ian Callum is in charge and his credits include the Aston Martin DB7, Vanquish and (some say) no small part of the DB9. The first all-Callum car will be next year's XK8, followed in 2006 by the new S-type.
If Callum can make Jaguars as good to look at as they now are to drive, the company clearly faces a very distinguished future.
VITAL STATISTICS
Model: Jaguar S-type 2.7D Engine type: V6, 2720cc Power/Torque: 207bhp @ 4000rpm / 320 lb ft @ 1900rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Fuel/CO2: 36.0mpg (combined) / 208g/km Performance 0-60mph: 8.2sec / top speed 141mph Price: £31,670 Verdict: The best S-type, even if looks are dated Rating:
THE OPPOSITION
Model: BMW 530d, £31,900 For: Formidably better, in almost every way, than petrol version Against: Looks likely to split opinion, avoid silly variable-speed steering option
Model: Mercedes E270 CDI Elegance, £30,925 For: Refined, frugal, comfortable and spacious Against: Lacks punch of some rivals, hit-and-miss dealer service
--
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Sounds like a mighty find combination that we'll never see in the U.S. It makes me wonder what it would be like to drive a diesel that would rev that high. Very interesting. I wonder what the redline is.
I was less impressed with the writer's judgment about the styling. This past month Road and Track (I think) reviewed 6 or 7 comparable sedans (including the Chrysler 300 Touring) and they stated that ALL the reviewers thought the Jag the best looking, even though everything else had more current styling.

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Well, when low-sulfur fuel is introduced throughout the US (end 2005?) and people forget the old GM diesels...?...
DAS
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Dori A Schmetterling wrote:

People have already forgotten them, but what we're constantly reminded of (by being stuck behind them in traffic) are Benz and Isuzu stinkpots. Cummins Rams and Navistar Fords emit less black spooge than an early 90s Benz :-p
But even with low sulfur fuel, low-particulate emissions (already there in the Cummins Ram), absence of diesel rattle noises (also already eliminated in the Cummins), and good overall emissions, a diesel will still SMELL like diesel and a lot of people won't like to be in traffic with them.
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Steve wrote:

Why do you say that? Modern cars smell nothing like the cars of the 60s. Every now and then I get behind one of the old cars on the road and it is amazing how bad they smell. Also, I spent some time in St. Petersburg Russia a couple of years ago and you can't believe how bad it is to sit in traffic with none catalyzed vehicles.
When low suplhur fuel (source of much of the bad smell) is available and diesels have catalyzed soot traps on them, I'll bet the old familiar diesel smell will be all but gone just as the old gasoline exhaust smell is all but gone ... except for those stinkin Hondas and a couple of other car brands that smell terrible even with the converters.
Matt
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On Tue, 15 Jun 2004, Matt Whiting wrote:

"Clean" diesel exhaust smells the same as "dirty" diesel exhaust.
-Stern
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I can only go by personal experience. Back in the gas crunch of the late 70s a friend of mine at work bought a diesel Rabbit (aka Golf). We drove in it a lot because it was the cheapest ride when a bunch of us wanted to go out for lunch. It stunk, as well as being noisy and gutless, but nobody cared because it used so little fuel and it was roomy and comfortable.
In 2000 when I was looking for a hatchback to replace my ageing Dodge Shadow I gave up waiting for Chrysler to introduce a hatchback on the Neon and had boiled my choice down to a Focus or a diesel Golf. I took two lengthily test drives in each. I chose the Focus for various reasons (something I've never regretted) but the point relevant here is that I was impressed at how completely different the Golf was to my friend's Rabbit. It was vastly quieter and peppier, and there was no discernable diesel odour at all. Undoubtedly a lot of that had to do with things like control of fuel tank vapours, but the point is that the whole driving experience had completely transformed in 20 years.
In Europe, Ford offers a diesel version of the Focus and if they sold that here I'd be looking at it.
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

What engines are you comparing as being clean and dirty?
Matt
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On Wed, 16 Jun 2004, Matt Whiting wrote:

I was referring to the fuel, not the engines.
The TDI VWs smell just like the '83 Oldsmobile diesels smell just like the Ford PowerJoke trucks smell just like the International DT-466s smell just like the Mercedes 240Ds. Much less black soot comes from the TDI, but the exhaust smells the same.
-Stern
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

The exhaust of a late model VW TDI does not smell at all except for the first few seconds after cold startup.
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

Of course the fuel smells the same. It was the exhaust we were tealking about.

I haven't been around enough diesel cars to get a good feel for them, but I could easily tell apart the HD diesels when I drove and worked on them regularly. The two-stroke Detriots had an especially pungent smell that would make your eyes water. The Cats and Cummins weren't nearly as bad.
Matt
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On Thu, 17 Jun 2004, Matt Whiting wrote:

Dense as always, eh, Whiting? Here, let me spell it out for you. Sound-out the hard words if they give you a problem:
Whether the fuel is regular old dirty diesel or special new clean diesel, whether it's burned in a TDI VW or a 350 Oldsmobile, it smells the same WHEN BURNED.
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

If it's burned *well,* it doesn't smell much at all. It's the impurities and/or imcomplete combustion that make exhaust smell.
nate
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go dry to reply.
http://www.toad.net/~njnagel
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

What part of WRONG don't you understand?
Matt
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On Fri, 18 Jun 2004, Matt Whiting wrote:

OK, you go out and stick your nose up the tailpipes of VWs and Oldsmobiles. I don't have to; I've been around enough of them in traffic to stand behind my statement. But then, you're the kook who likes the smell of diesel, so I'm not sure your opinion counts.
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Daniel J. Stern wrote:

Fuel, not exhaust. Are you still having trouble keeping them separate in your mind?
Matt
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On Fri, 18 Jun 2004, Matt Whiting wrote:

Ah. You have another name for "fuel that has been burned"? Other than "exhaust", I mean?
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my brother drives an '85 Mercedes diesel wagon -- 300D. He runs a lot of biodiesel in it, made from used vegetable oil. Burns 75% cleaner than regular petroleum diesel. Even dirty petroleum diesel doesn't put out any more pollutants than a regualr unleaded gasoline car. Plus you get 50mpg in a diesel. a diesel will run on canola oil, peanut oil, veggie oil, etc.. There are agricultural co-ops in the midwest where you can buy biodiesel made from canola oil that's grown in the midwest right here in the USA. Let's get off the Middle East oil teat and run clean burning biodiesel. let the ragheads keep their dirty petroloeum.
www.veggievan.org
"From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank" is a neat book.
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On Fri, 18 Jun 2004, Justin wrote:

Ditto the HempCar ( http://www.hempcar.org/ ), right down to the make and model, if not the year.
Biodiesel is a neat concept. My understanding, which may be incorrect, is that biodiesel is considerably more expensive than the petroleum-based fuel. There's a station here in town (Toronto) that sells it, but I haven't checked the price. If Biodiesel becomes widely available at comparable or lower cost to regular diesel, I'll give serious thought to buying a diesel-powered vehicle...and therein lies the rub. Short supply and high cost, so low demand. Low demand, so short supply and high cost. Round and round and round we go.

That's not true. NOx, SOx and PM10 are higher (sometimes *WAY* higher) in a diesel car running on diesel oil than in a gasoline-powered car of comparable model year. Given that the current state of the art in gasoline engines is "Damn near zero toxic emissions", you'll have trouble pushing the idea that diesel engines are cleaner.
I don't have enough info to know the emissions characteristics of a diesel engine operating on plant-based fuel, a specifically-biofuel-engineered engine running on plant-based fuel, etc. relative to a diesel engine on diesel oil or a gasoline engine on gasoline.

I agree that's a good goal to work towards, but I am not convinced biodiesel is the magic bullet, given the energy input vs. biodiesel output equation. Check this thread:
http://tinyurl.com/2sd6m
-Stern
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He bought the '85 MBZ wagon for $800 from one of those charity places that accept donated cars. The previous owner was a maintenance freak and obsessive, so he recorded every oil change and service (all done at a mercedes dealer) in the owner's manual "notes" section and put the receipts in a ziplock bag in the glove compartment. The car looks and runs like brand new (120K miles) and is a CA car, so no rust issues. It's a cool car. It looks like the one in that Alan Alda film "Four Seasons", the one that crashes through the ice. That was a '75 to '85 body style. the guy in the film calls his mercedes a "thoroughbred".
I do that to my cars also: record services/repairs in the notes section of the manual and keep the receipt. Helps for resale value. Those charity car places are a good way to pick up cool cars for next to nothing. I bought an unmolested '64 Dart sedan with only 80K miles for $400 at one. The Dart was VERY solid, with an almost like new interior. its /6 ran perfect, didn't burn or leak any oil, just had a faded red paintjob is all. I should have had it repainted instead of selling it! But I was in my "if I am going to fix up an old A-body, I want a Valiant wagon, not a Dart" mode. I made sure it went to an appreciative person though.
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