VW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour
VW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour
VW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour. Click image to enlarge

Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and Jacob Black

Over the past decade I can’t remember a time when the promise of diesel as a mainstream option was so prominent in the North American automotive market. Not that diesel is taking over, or anything, but the mere fact that both Chevrolet and Mazda are introducing diesel sedans and Ram a light duty diesel pickup to Canadians and Americans is both encouraging and way overdue.

Pitted against a longstanding antipathy – present largely south of the border, to be specific – toward this form of motive power, car manufacturers have been reluctant to join Volkswagen as purveyors of mainstream diesel vehicles here. True, you’ve been able to buy diesels from Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW for a while, but these are premium brands selling in limited numbers and out of the reach for most consumers.

So a Chevrolet Cruze Diesel and a Mazda6 Diesel are welcome additions, but it’s Volkswagen that has been and still is the go-to purveyor of affordable diesel cars, and while company representatives say they welcome further acceptance of diesel vehicles in the marketplace, it’s still Volkswagen that offers the most choice to consumers looking for diesel options. In Canada, 28 percent of all vehicles sold by Volkswagen are diesels, while just over 50 percent of Passat, Golf Wagon and Touareg vehicles are diesels (a percentage that coincidentally equals the overall diesel presence in Europe).

Given the emerging interest, though, it’s prudent for Volkswagen to dust off its wares and remind consumers of the range of diesel-powered vehicles it sells. How better to do that than by staging a cross-country TDI Tour from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia in the five Volkswagen TDI vehicles currently available to us in North America?

But before discussing this “Volkswagen Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour” – a segment of which Autos.ca Editor Jacob Black and I drove – let’s consider why a diesel-powered family vehicle may make sense for Canadian consumers.

There are two key recommendations: fuel economy and power.

VW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel TourVW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour
VW Great Canadian TDI Clean Diesel Tour. Click image to enlarge

Diesels are well-known for their low fuel consumption, rivalling and in some cases exceeding gasoline-hybrid competitors. As a former Golf TDI owner, I can personally attest to its fuel-sipping ways, having driven from Ottawa to New York City and half-way back on a single tank, using about 4.8 L/100 km. While diesel fuel may be slightly more expensive than regular-grade gasoline (in some provinces), the fuel efficiency of diesel more than makes up for the fuel’s premium cost, plus you have the convenience of visiting gas stations much less frequently than you would in a gasoline-powered car.

And unlike many hybrid vehicles, especially four-cylinder compact sedans like the Honda Civic Hybrid or Prius, diesel engines offer spirited, even sporty, acceleration. Gone are the days of lumbering diesel powerplants in heavy, ponderous vehicles. Today’s diesels are far more sophisticated than that, with Audi’s diesel-powered race cars winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans numerous times over the past decade, showcasing high-speed potential and reliability in that pinnacle of endurance motorsports.

Which brings us to the latest diesel technology, and opinions you will have to revise if you haven’t driven a modern diesel car. They are quiet, they don’t vibrate or clatter, they don’t smell, they are barely audible in the car at city speeds and all but inaudible on the highway. The Volkswagen TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injected) engine is also much cleaner than diesels of the past. The price is coming down, too.

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