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Today's diesels aren't the ones you remember

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By Gerry Malloy
Columnist, Autofile.ca
@Autofile_Canada
Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 9:48 AM

If your only experience with diesel-powered passenger cars or light trucks is more than a couple decades old, you'll be amazed at what's happened to them since then.

Gone are the noisy, smelly smoke-belchers of that era. They've been replaced by today's quiet, high-speed, clean diesels that equal their gasoline-fuelled rivals in almost every respect and surpass them in many.

Drive one and you'll understand why diesels have long been the power plants of choice for a large number of European drivers, outselling gasoline models in several markets. Not just in economy cars or trucks but even in luxury models.

Here are a few things you should know about diesels if you're in the market for a new vehicle.

  • Today's diesels start and run just fine in winter conditions, without any special treatment.
  • Today's diesels are clean. They don't smoke and they don't smell excessively and they meet the very same exhaust emissions standards as gasoline engines.
  • Diesels are inherently more fuel efficient than gasoline engines, typically providing 25% to 30% better fuel economy for a given level of performance - sometimes even surpassing hybrids in fuel economy.
  • Diesels typically generate more torque than comparable gasoline engines at low engine speeds, making them quicker to accelerate initially from a standing start and giving drivers a reassuring sense of power.
  • Diesel-powered vehicles tend to be better suited for towing heavy loads than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
  • Diesels tend to be more robust in construction than comparable gasoline engines, because they operate at higher internal pressures, and that robustness typically translates into longer engine life.

Image: Autofile

Image: Autofile

On the other side of the ledger, there are some disadvantages to diesels, relative to their gasoline-powered counterparts.

  • Diesel fuel is now more expensive than regular gasoline in many regions, offsetting some of their fuel-economy advantage. But that price differential would have to be in the range of 25-to-30% to totally negate that advantage.
  • Diesel-powered vehicles tend to be more expensive to buy so that extra cost must be considered against reduced fuel costs and potentially increased resale value to determine the net economic benefit they offer.
  • Not all fuel stations offer diesel fuel, although the proportion that don't is relatively low.
  • If repairs are required for a diesel engine, they may be more costly than for one that runs on gasoline.
  • Some modern diesels require the periodic addition of a urea-based fluid, to a chamber separate from the fuel tank, to maintain the effectiveness of the emissions control system. 

Image: Autofile

Image: Autofile

Diesels are becoming both more popular and more readily available in North America. They're worth considering when you're shopping for a new car, truck or CUV/SUV.

This article was first published at www.autofile.ca.

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