Diesel passenger cars
are resurgent in the American market, to the point where some analysts say their presence on U.S. roads will double by 2018.
Germany’s Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz are all bringing new diesels to the U.S. Even GM is getting in on the action, with the 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel.
Near the front of the pack is Audi, which brought me down to Washington, D.C. last month to test out the super fuel-efficient diesel versions of its 2014 A6, A7, and Q5 cars.
I’m too young to remember the dirty diesel Oldsmobiles from GM that turned off everyone but truck drivers in the 1980s. I’m not quite old or wealthy enough to fit into Audi’s demographics, but I’m not too far off, either. I like breathing good air, I like saving money. So I consider myself a decent example of someone who might buy a diesel from Audi or anyone else.
The Germans almost had me.
When I got back from DC, I quickly listed out 10 reasons you should buy a diesel car, including fuel savings, more torque, and an unquestionable winning record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Then there’s the fact that the Audi diesels were all a ton of fun to drive — they handle nicely, offer lots of torque, and come with the luxury quality you expect from the upper end of the brand’s range.
And over a few hours of driving around northern Virginia, we got 36.5 mpg from the A6. That an excellent number for a sedan that produces 240 horsepower and go from naught to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. It’s well above the EPA estimate, unlike too many hybrids (ahem, Ford, Kia, Hyundai).
All of those things made me want a diesel. Here’s where they lost me: Diesels do their best driving on the open road. The A6 is rated for 24 mpg in the city, and a whopping 38 mpg on the highway.
I don’t live on the open road; I live in Brooklyn. And while I doubt I’ll buy a car while living here, I probably won’t end up living in the area where we drove these cars. I’m not going to be the guy who brings the population of Paris, Virginia up to 52. (Paris, it should be noted, seems like a lovely town.)
And because the days when I would regularly undertake mega road trips (college) are behind me, I’ll likely never test Audi’s claim that the A6 can go from Washington, D.C. to Chicago on a single tank.
Simply put, the biggest benefit of diesel — outrageous highway gas mileage — doesn’t help me very much. I am, and will remain, a city driver. Audi’s new crop offers nice fuel numbers in the concrete jungle, but they don’t compare well to today’s hybrids.
So if you’re looking for a car to haul you around the country, or even the outer suburbs, please consider a diesel. They’re great cars, and our roads and planet are better with them around. But I think I’ll buy a hybrid.
Full Disclosure: Audi paid for our travel and lodging expenses to drive the 2014 A6, A7, and Q5 TDI.
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