Is Bigger Better for U.S. Diesel Customers?

Jan. 1, 2020
ANN ARBOR, MI - Will American consumers embrace the small, efficient diesels - like those that are increasingly popular in European passenger cars - or will the U.S. market instead favor much larger V8s, the traditional favorite here? ...
TECHNOLOGY TRENDSIs Bigger Better for 
U.S. Diesel Customers?
ANN ARBOR, MI - Will American consumers embrace the small, efficient diesels - like those that are increasingly popular in European passenger cars - or will the U.S. market instead favor much larger V8s, the traditional favorite here? Although V8 diesels have wowed the European luxury car market, they still comprise only a small percentage of the diesel engine mix.  Liz Turner of says that manufacturers considering diesel powertrains for the U.S. market agree that it makes its best business case in larger vehicles - and that means large engines: "American drivers traditionally prefer a big engine with a deep well of torque. Add the magic V8 badge on the rump, and a diesel becomes an attractive option to the American customer." Last August, General Motors (GM) announced that it was developing an all-new V8 diesel scheduled to launch after 2009, which would meet Bin 5 emissions standards for 2010. What's out there now? The diesel V8s offered in Europe provide smooth performance and deliver breathtaking torque, yet currently they only meet Euro 4 emission standards. 
BMW's 4.4L V8 Diesel Engine
(Photo: BMW)

BMW was first to bring diesel to the luxury market when it launched the V8-powered 740d in 1999. Its grandson, the 2007 745id sedan, is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 that delivers 330 horsepower (hp) and 533 ft.-lb. of torque. The Mercedes V8 S420 CDi luxury vehicle delivers 320 hp and 538 ft.-lb. of torque.

Packaging problems prevent the Range Rover's V8 from getting under the hood of a U.S. model with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system attached anytime soon. However, the automaker has added a more powerful 3.6L diesel V8 for 2007, and this powerplant provides 272 brake horsepower (bhp) and 472 ft.-lb. of torque. This engine will be offered in the Range Rover Sport from spring, and because it has been so enthusiastically received, it's being evaluated for other vehicles. It is even scheduled to give some added growl to the Jaguar XJ.  Ford says it is concentrating on direct-injection gasoline engines rather than diesel in the near future. It did announce, however, that the F150 pickup will get a diesel engine. The size and timing have not yet been announced, but there is speculation that it will be a 4.4L diesel V8.  DaimlerChrysler (DCX) has just announced its first 50-state diesel: the Dodge Ram, powered by a 6.7L inline six made by Cummins. This is just the first of many 50-state diesels for DCX on the company's production schedule.  Cummins announced in October that DCX would be the major customer for its new family of light-duty, clean diesel engines, which it plans to have rolling out of its Columbus, IN, engine plant no later than 2009. The new engines will have strong, light compacted graphite iron (CGI) blocks, and are designed to power vehicles below 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight. (They will also be used for boats and other applications.)  Neither DCX nor Cummins would comment on the configuration of the new engine family. However, they will use some of the technology developed during a nine-year partnership between Cummins and the U.S. Department of Energy to produce two new fuel-efficient diesel engines.  The partnership produced a 4.2L V6 and a 5.6L V8 for 2009 that are capable of meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier II and California Air Resources Board (CARB) LEV II emissions standards. Dodge's truck division provided vehicle and installation design assistance for the project, so the V8 was tested in a Ram. It developed 325 hp and 500 ft.-lb. of torque while returning 22.1 mpg. The V6 had a Durango for testing, and delivered 270 hp and 420 ft.-lb. of torque with 22.1 mpg.  Forecasting Steve Dawson, president and head of marketing and engineering for Sintercast, a manufacturer of CGI engine blocks, says, "I think Daimler will bring V8 engines in with the SCR solutions. The real opportunity in North America is in pickup and SUV, which we believe will be driven by V-type engines." It is expected that current V8 SUVs and pickup trucks could offer diesel versions to improve fuel efficiency before smaller cars get diesels, he adds.  The latest Mercedes GL-class diesel is powered by a V6, and it has become popular with eager customers wanting a large SUV with lower fuel bills. The Vision GL 420 BLUETEC concept unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit featured a European V8 diesel engine developing 290 hp and 515 ft.-lb. of torque while delivering 24 mpg. Part of its job was to test the waters to see how a larger engine would be received, but Mercedes says no decision has been made.  A spokesman for Audi, which offers the A8 4.2L TDI with V8 diesel power in Europe, says that the automaker's diesel strategy had not yet been decided, but: "Whatever we do, we want to make it as mainstream as possible. We'll be rolling our program out slowly and talking to our dealers and customers to see what they want."  BMW announced that it will bring diesel automobiles to the United States in 2008, powered by a 3.0L twin-turbo inline six. The company has said it will use SCR to achieve Tier 2 emissions regulations, but has not revealed which models will gain a diesel. (Source: Liz Turner, "V-8s Likely Preferred Diesels For U.S.,"

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