Diesel vehicles have something of a mystique to them. They’re not very common in the United States, where they make up just a tiny fraction of the consumer market. Yet many people swear by diesel cars and trucks. Even the word “diesel” sounds cool, and carries a special tag for a lot of people.
As with most car styles and traits, diesel engine vehicles have their fair shares of pros and cons. And while we’re really big fans of diesels – they bring back a lot of memories – we won’t sugarcoat why they’re not for everyone. But we will tell you why diesels are adored by many drivers, and what the advantages might be if you’re thinking about purchasing a diesel car.
First things first: what is a diesel car?
A diesel car is a vehicle that uses a diesel engine. A diesel engine is different from a gasoline engine, which is what standard gasoline vehicles employ. While there are a lots of differences between gasoline and diesel engines, the basic explanation is that diesel engines are simplified versions of gasoline engines. Rather than compressing gas and air like in a normal gasoline engine, a diesel engine compresses air, and at a much stronger level, which creates a very high temperature. A spray of fuel is then added to the mix, which is instantly ignited due to the temperature. As such, unlike traditional gasoline engines, spark plugs are not needed in diesel engines.
Why diesel engines are less common than gasoline engines
There’s a very simple explanation to this one: economics. Diesel cars are simply more expensive. They usually cost more to produce, and they almost always cost more to purchase. Companies that offer both a diesel and a gasoline version of the same vehicle usually charge anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 more for the diesel option. That’s a pretty big difference!
In many cities, diesel fuel is also more expensive than standard gasoline is. That plays a big role for a lot of car owners, who don’t want to spend extra at the gas pump.
The benefits of diesel engines
Now that we’ve explained what diesel engines are, and why many people prefer gasoline engines, it’s time to get to it: what are the benefits of diesel engines? We love them, so they must offer some benefit, right? Right!
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with all the great things you need to know about cars with diesel engines.
They get better fuel mileage, especially in the country
The design of diesel engines means that, in most cases, diesel cars are able to get notably better gas mileage than their gasoline counterparts. The highly efficient way of burning fuel allows diesel vehicles to be highly efficient.
Of course, in this era of hybrid and fully electric vehicles, the benefits of a fuel-powered vehicle getting good mileage are dwindling, but it’s still important. Getting strong mileage is important, and more than makes up for increased diesel fuel prices in some areas.
This fuel mileage increase really shows up in the country. If you live in a rural area, a diesel car may be just the ticket for you. Diesel engine technology helps vehicles see huge gains in fuel efficiency when driving on the highway. City driving, with its constant starts and stops, doesn’t see a big gain, but once you get on the highway and the open road, you’ll notice a huge difference. This is one of the reasons (though not the main reason; we’ll get to that soon) why diesel trucks are so popular in rural areas.
Everybody loves getting good gas mileage. And if a fully electric vehicle isn’t an option for you, than a diesel is a great option to save money at the gas station.
Their emissions are lower than gasoline vehicles
There’s some misinformation surrounding the emissions of diesel vehicles. Many people believe the emissions aren’t better, because of a recent scandal involving Volkswagen. It turned out that the German automaker was cheating on emissions testing to illegally get their models into the United States.
While that was a horrible move by VW, it shouldn’t paint our view of diesel cars. VW cheating on emissions doesn’t negate the fact that diesel do, indeed, have lower emissions than standard gasoline engines. Many automakers have what is called “clean diesel technology”, which allows their cars to run on diesel while dramatically lowering the emissions of the vehicle. This clean diesel technology is a huge step above what most standard gasoline engines employ.
Emissions are important. They have a very strong impact on the world, the environment, and global warming. They also impact pollution and the air that we breathe in. We all need to do our part to help limit the emissions that we put into the air, and using a diesel engine is a great way to do that.
Of course, it goes without saying that cars with hybrid and fully electric technology have much lower emissions than diesel vehicles. But if you’re looking at a standard fuel car, diesel trumps gasoline when it comes to emissions.
They offer performance and power advantages
Raise your hand if you’re a driving enthusiast. You can’t see us through the computer screen, but trust us when we say that our hands are held very high in the air. And here’s the long and short of it: in general, driving enthusiast adore diesel engines. Count us firmly in that group.
Diesel engines offer some performance and power advantages. The technology allows the engine to generate more torque than a gasoline engine of the same size. This makes a huge difference when your foot is on the accelerator. Try driving two otherwise identical cars, one with a diesel engine, and one with a gasoline engine, and the difference feels like the difference between walking and running. We’re not being hyperbolic here: it really is that noticeable.
Diesel vehicles especially experience a power and performance increase on the low end, which means at stops and low speeds. In other words, if you’re stopped at a stop sign or a stop light, or slowed down for a hairpin turn, you’ll really notice that extra boost that comes from a diesel engine. Accelerating from a standstill or a low speed is a thrill in a diesel, even if it’s just a truck or a sedan. That’s fun, and means a lot to those of us who love to be behind the wheel.
That torque also helps with towing
Remember when we said that there was another reason why diesel vehicles are so popular in rural areas and country towns? Well that reason is very simple: towing.
The increased torque that diesel engines offer makes a huge difference when it comes to towing. All that added power can be applied in a highly practical way if you own a diesel truck. As mentioned, diesel engines produce more torque, and torque is essentially just strength. That’s the hallmark of a country proven vehicle.
Torque, especially at low end, makes a truck stronger. That means that a truck can tow or carry heavier items, which is what every working truck needs. And what every owner of a working truck wants.
Simply put, if you have a truck that you want to use for work, you can’t go wrong with a diesel. They’re trusted by ranchers and construction workers and outdoor enthusiasts for a reason.
Debunking the myth of reliability
While this article mostly serves to tell you why diesel vehicles are a great option, we do need to spend a moment debunking a common myth. Many people believe that diesel vehicles are more reliable than their gasoline counterparts. However, that’s simply not the case.
This myth exists because, as previously mentioned, diesel engines are a little bit simpler in design than gasoline engines. Once upon a time, that added simplicity meant that the engines were more reliable. But technology has grown, and evolved, and as a result, gasoline engines have made enormous strides in reliability. Now it’s safe to say that gasoline engines are every bit as reliable as diesel options. This isn’t a knock on diesel engines, just a compliment to automotive growth and evolution.
The full lineup of diesel vehicles in the United States
Now that we’ve talked about the advantages (as well as the weaknesses) of diesel vehicles, it’s time to see what diesel cars are available in the United States. Unfortunately, the current crop of diesel cars is very slim. This is for two reasons, one bad, and one good.
The bad reason is that the Volkswagen scandal had a big impact on the manufacturer, and as a result, VW, Porsche, and Audi pulled all of their diesel options off of the United States market. The good reason is that automakers are spending more time, money, and focus on hybrid and fully electric vehicles, and that’s coming at the expense of diesel options. While we will always love diesel cars, an increased focus on electric vehicles is a very good thing, for consumers, drivers, and the environment.
With that said, here are the diesel engine vehicles currently for sale in the United States:
Land Rover Range Rover Velar
However, keep your eye on the market, as companies like Ford and Jeep have diesel trucks in the work that should be ready soon.
We love diesel vehicles. Part of it is the classic allure from growing up around them. But part of it is because we love driving, and diesel vehicles are great for those who love to grip the wheel tight, and put their foot firmly on the throttle.
Diesel cars are also great for those looking to save some money pumping gas, and diesel trucks are a dream for workers and country folk who really put their trucks to good use. Long story short, diesel engines offer a number of benefits, though they’re not without their downfalls.
As hybrid and electric vehicles gain popularity, we may see diesel engines continue to fall out of style. Until then, we’ll continue to love them for the great, powerful, low-end torque machines that they are.