I was reading some comments made by a reader of SaabsUnited this morning and he disparaged "stinking euro-diesels" and said we didn't need them here, and I assume that "here" means the US since Saab diesels seem to be available everywhere but the US. I had to respond.
I've been a diesel fan for a long time. It must be a Yankee thing. I love the idea of getting something for nothing. Who wouldn't want a 44% increase in fuel economy? More significantly, you could drive a real, safe, substantial car like the Saab 9-5 and get better mileage than a Mini Cooper, and on the highway you could likely best most hybrids. I've met a number of people who have rented Saab diesels in Europe and to a person they were all enamored with them. If you haven't tried a modern diesel, the next time you are in Europe, request one for your rental car. Not only will you be treated to a much cheaper trip at the filling station, but you will find the diesel experience seamless and virtually invisible, save the first minute of running after a cold start when there is a touch of diesel clatter.
If efficiency and frugality aren't reasons enough, consider what is happening with diesels and motor sport. Who vies to win the 24 Heures Du Mans? Audi and Peugeot! Diesel race cars! I give credit to Audi, too, for introducing diesel engines into their performance street cars because they can deliver what Saab turbo drivers have always craved. Torque. Lots and lots of torque.
I had hoped that Saab could leap-frog the competition, rather than trying to catch it, by developing a turbo-diesel regenerative hybrid. Too late, Honda apparently has this on the drawing board. I don't know if we will ever see a Saab diesel in the US given that the cost to certify the engine is so high, and to amortize that cost over a relatively few cars may be prohibitive. Then again, if gasoline heads north of $4 per gallon, it might just be the ticket.