All this talk about diesels remains largely just yammer. Despite years of automaker promises and auto-show oaths, plus hipster queues at Volkswagen dealerships for Jetta wagons with stick shifts and 500-mile ranges, the American diesel market is barely running at a cold idle. In fact, this gathering of five vehicles is an all-inclusive roundup of every single entry in the most hotly contested compression-ignition segment in the U.S.: diesel sport-utilities sized medium-large and priced medium-ridiculous. Even the working-pickup market can boast only three diesel players at present.
More oil-burners are surely coming, especially from Europe. There, diesel-evangelical automakers are desperate to amortize their increasing development costs by spreading the religion beyond the E.U. With its scant appetite for diesels, Asia is lost. So the push is in America, which is why, in this test, you must witness the spectacle of four Germans beating up on a lone American (albeit one with an Italian engine).
Along the way, we discovered arguments both for and against the return of diesels. The pros are obvious: huge torque and mid-20s fuel economy for a collection of trucks all weighing over 5000 pounds. On the other hand, even these hyper-modern, next-generation diesels still sound like, as our British photographer drolly put it, “skeletons wanking in a metal filing cabinet.”
And some of the pumps we had to fill up at looked as if they had once been parking cones at a truck-driving school, all oily and battered and stuck out behind the station where their leaky nozzles could secretly drip-drip black slicks into the dust. Even the nicest ones at well-lit megaplazas had sheens of stinky stuff on the handles, something they often forget to mention as you’re signing the papers on a $70, 000 vehicle.
Then there were the larger, high-flow big-rig nozzles that didn’t fit—or fit only with the help of an adapter, which was only supplied with the BMW. We had to pass it around, making some fuel stops seem longer than Seth MacFarlane’s monologue at the Oscars. That is, when we could find a station with diesel.
As of this moment, the diesel is something of a BlackBerry in an iPhone world, so owners should be prepared for a dose of inconvenience with their extraordinary fuel economy. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.