Audi Changes Diesel Perception

By: Lauren Woods

In the largest auto market in the world, diesel engines are making a comeback. In the 80's, Oldsmobile introduced a diesel engine in the United States auto market. Unfortunately, the designers of the engine seem to have forgotten to make the engine less noisy and produce less black soot. Its noisy operation and unnaturally black soot emissions led to the unpopularity of diesel engines among American auto buyers.

The present generation of diesel engines though does not have those unpleasant attributes of past diesel engines. Leading the way in the development of cleaner and better diesel engines is German luxury automaker Audi. The Volkswagen AG-owned, Ingolstadt, Bavaria-based automaker has even fielded a diesel engine-powered race car at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and has already won twice with the diesel powered racecar.

This achievements made by Audi is promoting the use of diesel engines not only in Europe but also in the United States. In Europe, diesel powered luxury cars are not rare. In other countries especially in Asia, diesel engines are widely used because diesel fuel is usually priced lower than gasoline. But in the United States, the reputation of the diesel engines of the 80s has led Americans to stir clear of diesel engines.

While this perception is deeply ingrained in the minds of auto buyers, automakers are pushing through with their plans to develop clean diesel engines for the United States auto market. Ford has already introduced the F-Super Duty with its diesel engine manufactured by Navistar. General Motors is also joining the bandwagon as it is in the process of acquiring an Italian diesel engine manufacturer.

But Audi has outdone both Ford and General Motors in exhibiting the potential of diesel engines. At this year's staging of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi's R10, the diesel powered racecar outpaced all gasoline-powered cars fielded in the event. With its huge torque output, it can outpace even the -equipped R8.

The performance of the R10 is complemented by its significantly lower operating noise compared to gasoline-engined racecars. During downshifting, which occurs as the drivers turn corners, gasoline powered cars tends to produce a lot of noise which is usually accompanied with the sound of a backfiring engine. The R10 though produces none of that as it is designed to produce lesser noise especially during downshifts.

The dominance of diesel cars at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans is not only shown by the Audi R10. In fact, aside from Audi, Renault also fielded a diesel-powered racecar at this year's event after its gasoline-powered entry last year was beaten soundly by Audi's diesel car. While Audi's R10 took the win, Renault's own diesel racecar finished second leaving behind the rest of the gasoline-powered field of cars.

The success of the Audi and Renault diesel racecars has surely opened the eyes of some Americans who still remember the forgettable diesel engines of the past decades. As the call for more fuel efficient vehicles increases, the success enjoyed by Audi's diesel racecars will go a long way in promoting the use of diesel engines which are considered more fuel efficient than gasoline engines. The price of diesel which is lower than gasoline can also serve as a reason for auto buyers to prefer diesel vehicles than gasoline ones in the future.

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