Your picks: the five best-engineered cars on sale today?

hansvonaxion

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I know an owner or two, and while they never hit the originally-advertised ~65 mpg numbers, 50 mpg sounded easy to achieve (without holding up traffic).

First hand experience, I drove a rental for 3 days. Most of the time with 4 people and luggage. Mostly slow driving, some mountain roads, short spurts on a highway. I wasn't driving to save fuel (there was no fancy display telling me what was going on underneath) I was trying out the acceleration, seeing when the ICE kicked in, switching the regenerative braking on and off etc.

According to an online converter, from memory, I got better than 65mpg US. It was a Japanese model, on Japanese fuel, which may make a small difference.

Sorry, back to the original topic.
 

argatoga

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The Tesla Roadster. It is the first publicly sold electric car done right.
 

Mr. Nice

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I know an owner or two, and while they never hit the originally-advertised ~65 mpg numbers, 50 mpg sounded easy to achieve (without holding up traffic).

If all it took was "a bit of effort" to build a non-hybrid car that was more fuel-efficient than a Prius and also decently-sized and decently-safe, wouldn't somebody would be selling it right now? They'd have hundreds of thousands of sales to gain but nothing to lose.

These cars exist. There are more BTU's in a gallon of Diesel fuel than there are in a gallon of gasoline, it's not only possible with a "bit of effort" it has happened already. In the United States, where I actually live (no, I don't really live on a part of the Bikini Atoll that was decimated by a thermonuclear test blast), we have a strong aversion to diesel fuel that keeps us from buying large numbers of diesel cars. That, coupled with the fact that diesel flip flopped with gasoline in which type of fuel is more expensive, when Bush first took office, means that manufacturers have very little interest in selling things like the Volkswagen Polo in the United States. Volkswagen was actually looking into selling the Polo here, but don't expect this to happen, or for any similar vehicles to be offered from other manufacturers in the near to immediate future.
 
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Spectre

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Um..... not so much, Nice. The diesel prices haven't kept diesel pickups from being insanely popular, so that's right out. I'm guessing you're a lot younger than I am, so you don't remember why diesel cars aren't popular. I do, and I've posted about it before. To save time, here it is again:

I think three things killed the diesel in the US. They were actually briefly wildly popular in the 80s, but the below items were what killed them off:

1. The noise and smoke. Even the most advanced diesels from Mercedes or the Japanese makers in the 80s rattled loudly and produced clouds of smoke when accelerating away from a light or when getting on a freeway. The public learned to associate "small diesels" with "aural and visual polluter".

2. The performance - or lack thereof. 80's diesels were slow. Very slow. A lot of people that bought them felt that they'd been ripped off (in terms of performance), and frankly many of them were so slow they were unsafe to drive in many situations in the US. The public learned to associate "small diesels" with "deathly slow".

3. Repair costs and frequency. This is where the diesel got screwed in the US. First, diesels are not as simple or easy to repair as a gas engine; or rather, they weren't in the 80s. Therefore, you had to take your diesel to the dealership (and get raped) or to a diesel specialist mechanic (and get raped) for service. Many of the diesels sent to the US in the 80s weren't very good and broke down often. At the time, GM still had the majority of the US market, and they responded to the diesel craze by hastily converting a gasoline-powered Oldsmobile 350 cubic inch (5.7L) V8 engine to run on diesel with the advice of their then-subsidiary, Detroit Diesel. The resulting diesel was a total disaster. It would last until the end of the 2 year warranty, and then do things like crack blocks, shatter heads, and drop valves, if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, you had it break down inside warranty repeatedly, whereupon GM would eventually deny you warranty coverage because "you abused it". And GM sold millions and millions of them before people found out that their 30mpg full-size sedans had a huge drawback. So the public learned to associate "small diesels" with "hideously unreliable at worst, hideously expensive to maintain at best."

The American people were willing to put up with some pollution and a lack of performance to save money on fuel. They were not, however, willing to deal with a car that either emptied their wallets on top of all of this, or was so unreliable that it would leave you stranded (which costs the driver/owner money in lost time, if nothing else). Thus ended the diesel as a mainstream propulsion system in the US for the next 20 years.

Ironically, most European diesels are *still* too polluting to be allowed into the US, which is why the selection is still so slim.

The problem with the Euro diesel emissions isn't any BS regulation about CO2 or anything stupid like that - it's that diesels emit known carcinogenic particulates that like to settle on everything around. This isn't speculation or junk science like the CO2 idiocy; these are substances that cause cancer period full stop. They stick to damn near everything and they're difficult to clean off in many cases. These are the emissions that the US regulates the most (thanks to our little smog lab called 'Los Angeles' showing what happens when you don't back around mid-century), and one of the reasons why US diesel pickup truck regulations keep getting tighter is because of their increasing popularity. Cars are more tightly regulated because their greater numbers would create an even larger problem.

By US standards, most Euro diesel engines are incredibly dirty. I don't want to 'save the earth' by allowing such cars in, only to discover everything covered in a cancer cause 10-20 years later. :p I once bought a car that had sat in a truck marshalling yard for three years and I had to very, very carefully scrub all the diesel residue off it. I really don't want to breathe that stuff, let alone have to scrub it off my house every few years; that crap is nasty. (Edit: Remember also that Europe was slow to embrace other effective pollution controls for the stuff that we know can actually kill you - the catalytic converter is a recent addition for them.)

Since I originally wrote that post a few years ago, I've asked around - and as best I can find out, I was correct on all counts. This is what the general public in the US thinks of diesels. Most people believe that diesels are slow, noisy, unreliable and polluting. They're only 1/4 correct, and even that is sometimes wrong - but thanks to the garbage we got here in the 80s, that's what the thought is.
 
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Mr. Nice

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Um..... not so much, Nice. The diesel prices haven't kept diesel pickups from being insanely popular, so that's right out. I'm guessing you're a lot younger than I am, so you don't remember why diesel cars aren't popular. I do, and I've posted about it before. To save time, here it is again:

I'm less than half a decade younger than you, and if you re-read my post, I never really mentioned why Americans developed their aversion to diesel, only that this aversion will continue due to the added expense of the fuel. I remember the Diesel Caprice, which would explode as you mentioned.

Interestingly, Honda has started producing diesels in Europe, and though this has nothing to do with diesels in the US, Soichiro Honda must be spinning in his grave. He hated diesels with a passion.
 

Spectre

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That's more a reflection of Euro taxation schemes artificially pressuring people towards diesel and away from gasoline. A manufacturer of lower-line mainstream cars that doesn't offer a diesel is definitely at a disadvantage there, I think.

It's going to be really interesting to see Europe in, oh, 30 years, when they discover everything is covered in carcinogenic diesel soot.

As for the price of the fuel, I still disagree with you. It isn't a large enough difference for people to stop buying giant diesel pickups instead of the gas engines. Or diesel Mercedes, for that matter. (The number one sales territory for Mercedes diesels in North America? Texas. Usually Houston leads in sales, with DFW and Austin right behind. Not sure why. Strangely, we don't buy so many VAG diesels.)
 
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Mr. Nice

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Companies also probably don't have a selection of diesel passenger cars because they would have to make some changes to or completely develop new engines, upping development costs and lowering profit margins. I'm sure that lack of American interest in diesel is also a deciding factor. When it comes to large trucks, you get more torque and typically get better fuel economy than with the gasoline models. For that reason, diesel just makes sense to truck buyers.

I think the younger generations might be interested in diesel powered automobiles since they don't remember the soot pouring diesels of the 80's, or the feeble American attempts at putting diesel engines into everyday cars. I do think that the price at the pump may sway these buyers, as greater fuel efficiency won't necessarily be enough to push them in the direction of a more expensive fuel. Of course, there is also the ever present overall nature of a diesel powered vehicle. Let's face it, gasoline engines sound better, burn cleaner, rev more freely and are all around just more fun to use.
 

Spectre

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The younger generations were interested in diesel cars... until they or their friends got ahold of VW TDIs. Which mostly just blew up, though to be fair, it was more often the car the thing was bolted into than the engine itself. :p Still, even kids CrazyJeeper's age (though not him specifically) associate 'diesel car' with 'crap'.
 

Topgearfanatic

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I associate diesel with:
http://pic.armedcats.net/t/to/topgearfanatic/2010/12/20/003__scaled_600_009.jpg
and
http://pic.armedcats.net/t/to/topgearfanatic/2010/12/10/audi_r18_proto_02.jpg
But then again, I'm not part of the uninformed masses exactly.
 

CAPT_Howdy

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The problem with most 'muricans is that they associate diesel cars with this:
http://pic.armedcats.net/p/ph/phoenixsac/2010/12/20/2010-04-24_11_23_57.jpg

I was (un)fortunate enough to be a passenger in an early Eighties Chevy Impala wagon powered by the Oldsmobile 5.7 liter diesel (A gas-powered V8 converted to diesel.) It shook badly at idle, and struggled to maintain 20 MPH going uphill. Now, compare that to a Mercedes 300D turbodiesel of the same vintage that I drove. That car was much more reliable and required fewer sacrifices of the driver - such as the engine shaking itself to small pieces.
Now if GM had utilized engines from its Detroit Diesel subsidiary, or taken the Ford route and bought an already existing engine (The BMW turbodiesel, used in the Lincoln Mark VII) perhaps diesels wouldn't be so stigmatized in the US. But no - it was quicker and more profitable to convert gas engines, and if they failed, well the customer already bought the car.
 

argatoga

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I associate Diesels with these:

Ford_F-150_XL_SuperCrew_--_03-10-2010.jpg


Electric-Trolley.jpg



I do see the odd '80s Mercedes running around though.
 

rideclutch

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vw-phaeton-v12-thumb.jpg


I seem to recall there being some sort of list of paramaters the VW boss wanted the Phaeton to have, and I remember Clarkson making jokes about it. It's the sort of car I'd be happy owning just because of the sense of 'needless over-engineering' :).

Edit: Oops, it says Top FIVE.

Bugatti Veyron - Yes, it better be damn good for what it costs, but no doubt an engineering masterpiece.

Audi A4 - Not terribly interesting, but I've pulled apart a fair few of them and everything underneath was of a certain quality.

Porsche 911 - Not necessarrily from a build quality point of view (although they appear pretty solid) but just how Porsche have managed to make it such a drivers car with the engine in the 'wrong place'.

Holden Commodore - Bit of love for the Aussie car :p. Definitely not an S Class by any stretch, but it's become better and better every model and the amount of old ones still running is huge. Kinda like the Mondeo was for the Brits, really there's no need to buy anything else.
 
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CAPT_Howdy

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But those are trucks - diesel trucks don't have the same stigma attached to them as cars do. Partly because trucks are not expected to do as much as cars, but mostly because the engines used in them are good heavy-duty diesels producing a metric fuck-ton of torque.

I too associate diesels with buses - just not electric buses. :p
 

narf

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That's more a reflection of Euro taxation schemes artificially pressuring people towards diesel and away from gasoline.

My petrol powered car is cheaper to run than its diesel counterpart because of the Euro taxation scheme.
 

Spectre

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Last I checked, you had higher taxes on gasoline than you did on diesel.
 

Dr_Grip

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Last I checked, you had higher taxes on gasoline than you did on diesel.

In Germany, it's not that simple: gasoline fuel is higher taxed than diesel, though the oil companies don't hand it down to the customer like they used to do. Right now *checks the internet* a liter of petrol is 1,47 Euros, while a liter of Diesel is 1,30 Euros.
At the same time, diesel cars are significantly higher-taxed than petrol cars. The tax for a diesel car is 9,50 Euros per 100 cubic centimeters displacement, while for a petrol car it's 2 Euros per 100 ccm (a CO2 penalty is added on top of that, but that's identical for both engine types).
Which means that you'll have to do a damn lot of driving to actually profit from the lower tax on diesel fuel.
 

Spectre

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So basically, they decided to make up for the shortfall in gasoline taxes by taxing the diesel cars (which can run on other fuels like WVO) instead. Cuuute.
 

Dr_Grip

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I never said german tax law makes sense :)

If i were in charge, i'd do away with the tax on cars completely and tax only the fuel - if you add an exemption/compensation scheme for businesses, this would keep ownership costs down, be as "green" as possible (gas guzzling is penalized, no matter what engine is used) and would not harm anyone (the costs for your commute to work already are tax-deductible, so commuters would not be punished).
 
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