Review by Peter Bleakney and Jeff Wilson, photos by Jeff Wilson

2014 Audi A6 TDI Quattro vs 2014 BMW 535d xDrive vs 2014 Mercedes-Benz E 250 Bluetec 4Matic

Introduction, Peter Bleakney

Is diesel propulsion reaching a tipping point in North America where it could actually be considered cool? Is holding the yellow handle at your local fuel station a sign of enlightenment? Does the faint whiff of diesel oil on your Gucci gloves tell the world you’re Euro-chic?

If the recent influx of oil-burners from the premium German brands, not to mention those from Chevy, Jeep and Mazda (oh wait, scratch that Mazda), is any indication, it might be safe to say the spectre of the ‘70s Oldsmobile diesel V8 is finally fading.

Diesel Luxury Sedan ComparisonDiesel Luxury Sedan Comparison
Diesel Luxury Sedan Comparison. Click image to enlarge

Of course, the relative dearth of diesel-powered passenger cars in the US (and consequently here in Canada) can be blamed on more than just a hastily developed self-destructing GM gasoline-cum-diesel V8 from the fuel-crisis era.

We can also cite North America’s tough emission standards that haven’t favoured particulate and NOx emissions – two diesel bugaboos. Additionally, diesel has historically been more expensive than gas south of the border, and until not long ago the high sulphur content of our diesel fuel wouldn’t jive with the Euro-developed engines.

Diesel Luxury Sedan Comparison
Diesel Luxury Sedan Comparison
Diesel Luxury Sedan Comparison. Click image to enlarge

And with gas so cheap, who needed efficient diesel power anyway?

But the times they are a changin’. Fuel economy is now top of mind for most car buyers, and ever tightening international economy and emission targets mean the highly developed clean diesel engines from other markets can make a business case here.

It certainly has worked for Volkswagen, enjoying its happy little TDI niche for years.

Today we’re looking at the other end of the diesel spectrum. Meet the Mercedes-Benz E 250 BlueTec 4Matic, the BMW 535d xDrive and the Audi A6 TDI Quattro. All are 2014 models, all feature four driven wheels, and all aspire to keep you comfy, in the fast lane and away from the fuel pumps.

Is it safe to say those spending long dollars on premium Euro-diesel iron are not in it for the fuel savings? In the case of the BMW ($68,150 base) and Audi ($63,400 base), more than likely. You’re paying a premium for the torquey and frugal turbo-sixes, and these tester’s stratospheric as-tested stickers reflect a heapin’ helpin’ of options and packages.

But hold the phone. I feel a Sesame Street flashback coming on. One of these things is not like the others.

Mercedes-Benz is coming at this from a completely different tack. The four-cylinder E 250 BlueTec is the least expensive offering in the E-Class stable with a starting price of $57,800. And it’s certainly the value proposition here, especially in its modestly optioned guise.

The Audi A6 TDI and BMW 535d are pricey niche vehicles. Mercedes presents its diesel as the entry point to the E-Class family. Hmmm… someone is serious about selling premium diesel sedans in North America.

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