Diesel is back. No, not the plumes of smoke out the exhaust pipe, but clean diesel. Americans have been showing increasing interest in hybrids, diesels and other vehicles that are economical to operate during times of high fuel prices. Diesel burns 30% to 60% less fuel than gasoline engines of similar power, without a battery. Diesel also produces lower emissions of global warming greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. What is behind this cleaner diesel?
Turbo Direct Injection (TDI)s are available in many countries around the world. Volkswagen has been the only manufacturer selling diesel cars in Canada or the US since 1999. The TDI is often considered a "niche" product, but as consumers become more aware of gas prices, expect that to change.
The modern Volkswagen Passat Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) engine is exceptionally efficient and performs smoothly.
At the heart of the new-generation Volkswagen Passat TDI engine is the advanced "Pumpe
Düse" technology, as it is called in Germany, or "unit injectors" as translated in the U.S.
Developed in combination with Bosch ® , these unit injectors are located at each cylinder
to deliver the fuel for combustion. Because of exacting electronic control, the new
Pumpe Düse technology creates a very high fuel pressure better atomization and
precise metering for the fuel injection into the cylinders, resulting in increased engine
efficiency and power, as well as quieter engine operation and optimized fuel economy.
It also results in EPA highway fuel economy ratings of 38 mpg highway and 27 mpg city. Combine that with a 16.4 gallon fuel tank and you get about the same amount of fuel on one tank of gas in a (11.9 gallons X 45 mpg) Toyota Prius as you get on a tank of diesel in the VW Passat. In Europe, where almost half the cars have diesel engines, the diesel engine of choice is the much more advanced 1.2l Lupo that gets 81USmpg and up to the 313hp V10 TDI with 553 lbs of torque.
Diesels still have environmental hurdles to clear. Diesel emits more smog-producing nitrogen oxide and more soot than gasoline engines. The technology exists to clean up diesels and meet the EPA standards and is slated to be phased in by 2007.
Knowing that you get great gas mileage on your old internal combustion engine is great. But, how does the car drive?
Why would you want a top-heavy gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle when you can have about the same room in a diesel station wagon?
The 2004-2005 Volkswagen Passat station wagon is stylish and roomy. Volkswagen squared off the rear to give more room, so that wagon that already seats five can carry all the luggage as well.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter diesel engine rated at 134 horsepower and 247 ft-lbs of torque. If you're looking at those numbers and think I've made a mistake I don't blame you. The torque is high and that's what makes the difference. Diesel engines make about 50 percent higher torque than your comparable internal combustion engine using gasoline. This allows for quicker acceleration and safer passing. The 0-60 at 10.4 seconds on a 4-cylinder seems slow. Drive it before you decide. The diesel wagon feels as though it has a V-6 engine under the hood, with lots of useable torque.
The Volkswagen Passat comes standard with such amenities as air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, remote power door locks. The seats are comfortable with adjustable headrests and lumbar support (driver and front passenger), split-folding rear seat to extend the cargo area, anti-theft system with alarm, 15-inch alloy wheels, power tilt/slide sunroof, in-dash single-disc CD player with Monsoon audio system, antilock brakes, electronic differential lock, and power rack-and-pinion steering. I can't forget to mention the front, rear and side-curtain air bags.
Plan on paying $1,000 to $3,000 more for a diesel than for a gasoline model. Much of that premium could be offset by better fuel economy, cheaper diesel, and the longevity of diesel engines, which typically last 200,000 miles.
Though Volkswagen says they have no plans to create a diesel hybrid, imagine the performance and gas mileage one could get if Volkswagen combined diesel with this technology.
Highlights: VW has added a diesel-engine option to its popular Passat sedan and wagon for 2004, with the wagon roomy enough for five adults and all of their stuff. Fuel economy ratings approach those of smaller gasoline-electric hybrids, yet the wagon is comfortable, stylish and fun to drive.
Disadvantages: Not sold in California, New York, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. No manual offered. Only 12,000 coming to the United States. In 2006 there will be no diesel offered, because of stringent EPA emissions standards.
Engine: 2.0-liter I-4 turbo diesel with direct fuel injection.
Transmission: 5-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 134 horsepower/247 ft-lbs torque
Overall length: 184.3 inches.
Curb weight: 3,653 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway.
Major competitors: No other diesel wagons are offered in this class.
Base price: $25,660, plus $575 freight (with required automatic transmission).
Price as tested: $28,315, including freight, leather package, $1,800 and electronic stability control, $280..
Built: Diesel built in Emden, Germany, engines in Poland.