I know I’ve been rattling on about the Biopower fuel system a lot recently, mainly due to the 9-5 Biopower concept being shown around the United States recently. But don’t worry Fred, I haven’t forgotten about diesel. Most of the US has, though.
I’ve written here several times that Saab USA will be held accountable if the 1.9l 9-3 TiD isn’t introduced into the US market next year. 2007 will mark the time when low-sulphur diesel fuel becomes mandatory in the US, making the diesel variants of many successful European cars more appealing. Saab’s 9-3 TiD has been going great guns, leading a Saab revival in the UK, and should be a certain starter for the US market if GM are on the ball.
Mercedes Benz have already announced their plans for diesel next year. Audi’s deisel’s are being noticed too. So Saab really don’t have much in the way of excuses if they miss the party.
Edmunds Inside Line have recently published an article on the evolution of the modern diesel and the benefits it enjoys over its gasoline siblings. It should be a very interesting read for you US folks that are unfamiliar with the benefits and recent refinements in the diesel powerplant.
While diesel clearly isn’t the answer to everyone’s prayers, the U.S. market is unquestionably missing out on the modern diesel phenomenon. Bountiful torque, excellent refinement and a huge range are qualities well suited to the American highway. It is surely time to put away the prejudices of the 1970s and embrace the modern diesel engine.
Absolutely. This is market share for Saab that’s just begging to be picked up. Here’s hoping they do the right thing.
Some numbers from Saab UK:
Saab 9-3 1.8t with gasoline engine
Power (bhp) – 150, Torque (Nm) – appr 220, Acceleration: 0-60mph – 9.0sec, 40-60mph – 8.0sec, Economy: mpg combined cycle – 36.7mpg
Saab 9-3 1.9TiD
Power (bhp) – 150, Torque (Nm) – appr 320, Acceleration: 0-60mph – 9.0sec, 40-60mph – 6.5sec Economy: mpg combined cycle – 48.7mpg
Saab also have the 175bhp gasoline model in the UK and the diesel outstrips that one at 50-70mph too. The diesel will do it in just 7.7 seconds whilst the gasoline model takes 10.0.
For performance and economy, diesels seem to be leading the pack at the moment. It’s just a shame they don’t have ‘the’ sound.
UPDATE: Thanks to SaabKen in comments, there’s some timely news about GM Powertrain Europe expanding it’s R&D base. From Automotive News:
General Motors is significantly building up its diesel expertise in Europe.
Within two years, GM Powertrain Europe will more than double product engineering staff at its new headquarters in Turin, Italy.
The big staff nembers are due to more stringent emissions requirements in the EU through 2010 and 2015, but obviously this could mean good things for deisel expansion elsewhere too.
UPDATE 2: Greg, also in comments, points out the biggest hurdle in getting diesel into the US – public perception. The cultural perception of diesel engines in the US involves clouds of smoke and rattling train-engines. Managing this change in perception is going to be one of the biggest challenges facing car companies if they want to get diesel products and all their advantages into the marketplace.
They say significant perception change takes a generation to cycle through fully. So here’s hoping the first part of the job’s nearly done, with many younger buyers not having much negative experience with diesels.