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.
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
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.
June 13, 2004
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
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
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.
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
Verdict: The best S-type, even if looks are dated
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
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling