Otto, you’ve never been so sexy. There once was a time, Herr Diesel, when you were gritty, dirty and fit only for a blue collar world. But not so much anymore. Now they’re fighting over you, arguing whose dance card your name is on more, and calling you Mr. Clean. Even those who flirted with you once before—and treated you quite badly—are back in town making overtures.
Consider this: Audi was bringing auto writers together to demonstrate how sophisticated their clean diesel are now, and to show off their 3.0-liter diesel engine as used in the Q5 crossover, A6 sedan and A7, luxury, well, hatchback. So what does Mercedes do? Send out a press release that they’re the leading purveyor of diesel automobiles and SUVs in the U.S.
Of course, Volkswagen—part of the VW/Audi group, naturally enough—has been a diesel stalwart for many years, but Chevrolet has returned to the consumer diesel automotive market with the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel , while Nissan announced—coincidentally, of course, while Audi was having its shindig—that it will put a Cummins diesel in the Nissan Titan half-ton pickup.
The latest entry into the diesel foray is the 2014 Audi A7 TDI. It’s powered by Audi’s 3.0 liter diesel V-6, and Audi bills it as the “first five-door clean diesel coupe.” That’s a narrow class, but it’s one the A7 TDI, with equipped with quattro all-wheel drive and the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, fills with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 city/ 38 highway/ 29 combined MPG. Just as impressive, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel produces 240 horsepower and a prodigious 428 lb-ft torque, good enough, says Audi, to hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. That was once muscle car territory—and it’s still short of twin-turbo 4.0 TFSI V8-powerd RS7, rated at 560 horsepower and capable of 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. But the 2014 Audi A7 TDI lets you have your torque and mileage, too: 24 city/38 highway/29 combined.
The Audi A7 actually rivals the mechanically similar Audi A6, the former with a sleeker contour, even if with the hatchback configuration that Americans allegedly won’t buy. Even with its disadvantages—opening the entire passenger compartment to the elements with the hatch opened–we liked the Audi A7 when we tested it and the more powerful Audi S7 as well.
A new-for-2014 for both the gas-fueled A7 3.0T and the diesel 3.0 TDI models is five-passenger configuration, mainstreaming the hatchback configuration. The 2014 Audi A7 TDI is joined by its conventional four-door-with-a-trunk sedan equivalent, the Audi A6, which varies only with the different roofline and minor variations with the front end, most notably the Audi single-frame grille, which is all black on the A6 TDI, and with chrome-edged slats on the Audi A7 TDI.
Audi also adds diesel power to the 2014 Audi Q5 crossover for 2014. The Q5 TDI is powered by the same torque brute V-6 3.0-liter clean-diesel engine with the same 240-horsepower/428 lb-ft of torque rating. However, the Q5’s taller profile significantly impacts the Q5 TDI mileage vis a vis its sedan and hatchback roommates, with an EPA rating of 24 city/31 highway/27 combined miles per gallon. The added weight of the crossover body also reduces acceleration of the Q5 TDI compared with the diesel-powered A6 and A7. However, the taller Audi still hustles to 60 mph in only 6.5 seconds. All of which proves that you get some, you give some.
Expect more diesel power from Audi. The Audi A3 hatchback that recently expired http://carbuzzard.com/2012/05/2012-audi-a3-tdi-review-last-year-for-the-a3-hatchback/ will be replaced in the U.S. with sedan version of the A3 in 2014 http://carbuzzard.com/2013/04/2015-audi-a3-and-audi-s3-first-look-look-now-wait-til-then/, and a clean diesel will be part of its lineup. Like the last generation of A3, the forthcoming Audi A3 will be powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel, but with horsepower bumped from 140 horsepower to 150. Look for torque to be about 265 lb-ft.
Audi is very bullish on diesel, not the least of which proven in the seemingly unlikely venue of motor racing. Audi scored the first victory of a diesel-powered sports car at Le Mans in 2006 with a 5.5 liter V12 engine in the Audi R10 TDI making more than 650 horsepower and over 800 lb-ft of torque. A diesel has been in every Le Mans winning car since—which means in an Audi every year—even when regulations required a displacement reduction by 1.8-liters. Advances in technology still increased horsepower, however, and Audi added a hybrid all-wheel drive drivetrain, with electric motors driving the front wheels. Who’da thunk it.
On the production side, Audi expects total diesel market penetration to increase from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 7.4 percent by 2018. The greatest growth will be in SUVs, compacts and vans. The overall increase in diesels on the highway will be due in part to the new CAFÉ regulations, and thanks to a diesel fuel pump price close to premium gasoline, payback of the added cost of a diesel engine will be paid back in as few as three years—depending on miles driven—because of the better fuel economy of diesel compared to gasoline engines. And Audi plans to be there, ready for the growth.