'New' diesels boost mileage, reduce soot
"People need to realize this is not your grandfather's diesel," Linkov says.
One way automakers plan to get the word out about these
new engines is by introducing them first in
their luxury line, Riddell says. "They
hope this will market them as a desirable
product and help their image in the U.S. market."
Reed says that in addition to being cleaner, the new diesels he has tested also aren't plagued with the sluggishness of their predecessors.
"They drive slightly differently than gas, but most of them are turbocharged to give them the more car-like feel we are used to," he says. "They are much closer to what we expect."
Watch out hybrids
One of the biggest selling points for these
new diesel cars is the fuel-efficiency.
"VW has done well with their TDI," Reed says. "Those vehicles will get 40-plus miles per gallon on the highway. The real-world mileage of a Prius is 43 miles per gallon. That's not a whole lot more."
EPA estimates show the Prius is capable of 48 miles per gallon on the highway, but Reed says tests performed by Consumer Reports and other laboratories show the actual mileage is lower.
And while hybrids cost between $3,000 and $4,000 more than a comparable gasoline-powered car, the new diesels cost only about $1,000 more than a similar gasoline car.
For example, according to Edmunds.com, a 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class midsize sedan with a Bluetec diesel engine costs $51,550. The gasoline version costs $50,550.
According to Edmunds.com estimates,
the diesel gets an estimated 26 miles per
gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon
on the highway, burning an estimated $1,343
a year in fuel. The gas version gets 19 miles
per gallon in the city and 26 miles per gallon
on the highway, burning an estimated $2,093
per year in fuel -- $750 more than the diesel.
And the savings don't stop at the fuel pump. According to Edmunds.com, the diesel version depreciates $500 less in that first year, meaning the $1,000 premium is more than repaid in fewer than 12 months. What's more, over five years, the diesel cost an estimated $4,400 less to own than its gas-powered cousin, according to Edmunds.com's "True Cost to Own" estimates.
"It is slightly more expensive than a gas-powered car, but we are talking about such a quick payback period, it makes that premium seem less significant," Reed says.
By comparison, even with federal tax incentives, hybrids take several years to overcome the premium you pay over a traditional gas-powered car.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that while a diesel can hold its own alongside a hybrid for highway driving, in the city it is no contest. The EPA estimates that same Prius that got 43 miles per gallon on the highway will get a jaw-dropping 60 miles per gallon in the city, blowing away even the most miserly diesel.