Blog: Petrol vs diesel… again


I had a perfect demonstration today of why more and more people are turning to diesels at the moment, and why they are becoming the ‘performance’ car of choice for many people…

Stuck behind a VW Golf TDI 2.0 in my Citroen BX 16 Valve, the driver was obviously in a hurry and was pushing his diesel engined hatchback for all it was worth. For the sake of experimentation, I decided to see how well my ageing hot hatchback would compare. He exited a large roundabout near my home, and headed out onto the long uphill stretch of dual carriageway – an ugly black belch from his tailpipe, followed by the the rear end squat, and away he went. I was ready and nailed my 16V…

…and he pulled away.

Sadly, my engine was spinning at something less than the 4500rpm power/torque sweet spot, and as I waited for my all-aluminium high revving PSA engine to spool up, I wondered at how the ride must have been for Mr Golfie ahead of us – quite silent and unstressed, I would imagine. As the road unfolded, I began – slowly – to reel him in. As I chased my 7300rpm cut out, we inched up closer.

But the point – for me – had been proven and I gave up the chase as things began to get illegal. A bog standard diesel repmobile is quicker – well, more useable – and more capable than what was considered a performance hatchback of 15 years ago.

But I return to my original argument from last year – these latest generation common rail TDIs are fearsomely quick now, but are they rewarding for the driver? I know my Upsolute 75 CDT was not on the same planet as some of the latest trick Vee-Dubs, but it was a torquey old slogger, and could punch well above its weight. But all I remember about that car’s performance was that it was amusingly rapid, but never sounded remotely enjoyable. Extracting performance from it was ridiculously easy though, and in the real world, it was quicker than many more fancied cars simply bacause you were in the right gear more often…

But are these things performance cars? Not really… I’d never ride one through their rev rage just for the fun of it. But with a nice high revving petrol engine, this kind of behaviour is no chore whatsoever.

One might argue that it’s great to go fast without all the effort, but where’s the fun in that.

Besides, if you love petrol, and decisively want to put a pesky TDI in its place… buy one with a blower.

I did.

And one final question to all those dervheads out there who endlessly like to tell us their engines fuelled from the black pumps are better than our petrols. If they are so good, would you still buy a diesel if it used the same amount of fuel as a petrol powered car?

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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