To many car buyers, the green colored gas pump handle at the filling station is still a mystery, but that’s the pump for the diesel — a fuel for a growing number of family cars and SUVs. Indeed, more and more car buyers are choosing diesel for both fun and fuel economy.
Jeep recently said it’s considering a diesel engine for the Wrangler. Mazda will soon be marketing a diesel version of its Mazda6. Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes and Audi have been offering them for some time in the U.S. and Europe and are planning more models for America.
What is clean diesel? It’s Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel, to be exact, and it’s a cleaner, more refined fuel than diesel sold before 2007. With lower sulphur, it has less particulates, and thus lower soot coming out of the tail-pipe.
Why do we want it? While the price of diesel in the U.S. is typically higher than gasoline prices, diesel engines get 20 percent to 40 percent better fuel economy than comparable gasoline cars. Some consumers, for example, report getting 49 mpg on the highway with the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI on a regular basis.
What else is good about diesel? In a word, power. Step on the pedal of a Volkswagen Jetta diesel or the new Cruze diesel, and you might think you had the power of a V6 engine even though there is just a 2.0 liter four-cylinder under the hood. Also, modern diesel engines have a track record for long, long life. It would not be out of the ordinary at all to get more than 200,000 miles and up with a diesel assuming proper maintenance.
The downside? If you really want to mess up a diesel engine, the best way to do it is to accidentally fill it up with regular or premium gasoline and then drive off. That will pretty much kill it, and a gasoline engine doesn’t want diesel fuel in it either. It is ruinous, but the diesel nozzle is bigger than the hole in most gas-powered cars on the road, so it is not likely to happen.