In my opinion, there are two reasons to buy a diesel powered vehicle: one is the power — you typically get great power from standstill and when passing, along with super smooth highway cruising – and the other is that you save at the pump.
That latter reason is huge because it will cost you more to buy a diesel-powered vehicle in the first place. So to justify the purchase many consumers will factor that into the cost over the period of ownership. Historically, diesel owners have ended up ahead, but a big factor is the price of gasoline, because that’s what we’re comparing it to, right?
So it is that a base 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI at $23,890 (with manual transmission) costs $3,200 more than the base car with the new, powerful and very efficient 1.8L TSI gasoline engine (you can save even more by opting for the old 2.0L, 115 hp engine, but I wouldn’t recommend it).
But look what’s happened. Diesel fuel in my town was selling for $1.15 a litre when I took delivery of a Jetta TDI test car, while gasoline is down to about $0.80 a litre. Oops. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of diesel, what now?
Well, if it stays this way people are going to buy fewer diesels, I reckon, and fewer hybrids for sure. But that said, we still did our planned long-distance drive to New York City in a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a loaded Highline version with twin-clutch automatic transmission that stickers at $32,185 plus $1,495 freight/pdi. A 1,500 km round trip, we expected to do it on less than two tanks (there’s a 55L tank in the Jetta). We’re thinking 80L; less than $100 return in our currently anemic Canadian dollars. That’s tough to beat, whatever you’re driving.
But it’s cold, our vehicle’s loaded with passengers and their gear, and we’re headed through some mountainous terrain, so you never know.
Diesel fuel was down to $1.09 for the initial fill-up in Ottawa, so that’s encouraging (have you downloaded the GasBuddy app? Very useful!). We were three adults with luggage for several days (we would return with more…). The route is a favourite of mine, a leisurely drive through the Adirondack Mountains via secondary highways that deposit you onto the I-87 at Albany (the capital of New York). From there it’s all fast Interstate, terminating with the charming (if any multi-lane highway can be described as charming…) Palisades Interstate Parkway. This is a 67-km tree-lined stretch of four-lane road built in 1958, of a type known as a “Scenic Byway.” One of its old-timey service stations is located in the wide centre boulevard so you access it from the left lane. It even has an old-timey speed limit of 80 km/h.
By the time we approached NYC, the Jetta TDI’s trip odometer was reading just over 700 kilometres, with a projected range of another 400 km. We had consumed 5.4L of fuel per 100 km, which is awesome fuel consumption for an almost fully laden car in the middle of winter. Hard to get used to this; my much loved (but now sold) Honda Element typically got about 400 km on a full tank!