Diesel engines, long reputed for being loud and dirty, are making waves in the U.S. Although they accounted for just 3.2% of U.S. auto sales in 2012 (about the same as hybrids), the number of diesels on American roads will double by 2018, according to research firm LMC Automotive.
Automakers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even GM are both fueling and benefiting from that growth, and the number of diesel models available to American buyers will triple to 60 by the end of 2017, an LMC analyst says.
Here are 10 reasons you should buy one:
1. Diesel is no longer dirty or loud.
Thanks to new engine technology and the mandatory transition to ultra-low sulfur diesel, today’s diesel cars run quietly, and don’t spew black smoke all over the road.
2. More power.
There’s a reason trucks run on diesel: The fuel provides more torque, which means more towing power and more power off the line. Audi’s new 3-liter TDI diesel engine (used in the A6 and A7) produces 428 pound-feet of torque. The 3-liter TFSI gasoline engine generates 325 pound-feet.
3. Germans do it.
In 2011, diesel car sales made up for 51.8% of the European market, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In Germany, 41.9% of cars sold that year ran on diesel. If nearly half of German car buyers — who have access to the Autobahn — are willing to give up on gas, Americans should consider following suit.
4. Diesel cars hold their value better than gasoline cars.
According to research firm ALG, compact diesels held 63% of their value after 36 months. For gasoline cars, the number was 53%. Hybrids, 55%.
Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst at KBB, said that’s partly because there are fewer diesel cars on the market, so used ones command higher prices. They are also “tremendously fuel efficient,” Gutierrez said, a big selling point when gas prices are so high. “Demand is outpacing supply,” he noted.
5. The EPA doesn’t overestimate their efficiency.
Last week, Ford (voluntarily) dropped its estimated fuel economy for the C-Max Hybrid to 43 mpg, after EPA testing showed it didn’t meet the claimed 47 mpg mark. In March, some C-Max and Ford Fusion Hybrid owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the automaker, claiming they had been cheated by false mileage claims.
But when we test drove three of Audi’s new diesel models (the A6, A7, and Q5), we beat the EPA’s estimate each time — and by nearly 10 mpg on the A7.
6. You go to the pump a lot less often.
Diesel may cost more than regular gasoline (about $US0.24 more per gallon, per AAA’s current figures) but it’s much richer in energy — between 25% and 30% richer. The new BMW 328d (d for diesel) gets better mileage than the gas-powered Smart fortwo coupe. And it produces 180 horsepower, compared to the Smart’s measly 70.
7. If you’re buying a fancy car, diesel fuel isn’t actually more expensive.
The current national average price for premium gasoline is $US3.866/gallon. For diesel, it’s $US3.876/gallon. So for anyone driving a luxury ride, gas costs just as much, and you need a lot more of it.
8. The price premium over a gasoline car is lower than for a hybrid or electric car.
Per figures from LMC Automotive, cars running on diesel cost $US2,500 more than the cars with a gasoline internal combustion engine, on average. For a hybrid, the difference is $US4,100. For a fully electric car, it’s $US13,000.
All three types of vehicles will save you money on gas, but you’ll overpay the least for the diesel.
9. It’s easy to find a place to fill up.
The big problem with electric cars is that the public charging infrastructure is just beginning to be built. But because diesel has been a common fuel for trucks for decades, it’s available at more than 50% of American gas stations.
10. Diesels win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Since 2006, every car to win the famous endurance race — the Audi R10 TDI, Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, Audi R15 TDI plus, Audi R18 TDI, and Audi R18 e-tron quattro — burned diesel on the way to first place.
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