Posts tagged ‘diesel’

By The Lenspeed Team

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Marketed as the “seven-seater sports car” in Singapore at its launch campaign, the Touran was an oddball from the very beginning, providing serious performance in an admittedly dull exterior packaging. We like to bet that the Tourans you’ve seen on the road have been surprisingly quick off the line and even around corners, which is totally at odds with its traditional three-piece box shape. We suppose Volkswagen always had a sense of humour.

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Until early 2014, Tourans in Singapore came only with the twincharger petrol engine, which for the purposes of this test is rated at 170bhp and 240Nm in the 2009 example Lenspeed sampled. This engine, already heaped with praise by international media, is truly a gem, sprinkling the Touran with more sparkles of magic than it would have you believe.

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Early this year the TDI version was released, which provides an interesting backdrop to the already-excellent TSI version – would you pick a diesel Touran that, while traditionally having a lot more torque, is only 10Nm up from the petrol Touran? Add the fact that it is 65bhp down from the TSI’s output, and the comparison gets interesting – let’s find out.

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What is common between these two cars is already half the battle won in the MPV market. Shedloads of space, including foldable and removable second and third row seats, means that the Touran fulfills its brief well. Its chassis is stiff and it shows with tidy, agile responses, offering utterly predictable answers to unevenness on the road. Blessed with a multi-link rear suspension setup, the Touran genuinely handles like a slightly bigger and taller Golf – no small feat considering its broader job scope. It is an undeniably good drive, as much as you want to dislike the car because of its looks. It definitely over-delivers on its visual promise.

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Driving these two cars back to back is revealing, however. Saliently, the petrol engine offers staggering amount of performance from the get-go. Thanks to its supercharger, it overcomes the lag associated with both a small and a turbocharged engine, offering a low-end power delivery that outshines even that of the diesel’s, at least until the latter’s turbocharger kicks in. Yet, because its turbocharger has already spooled up in the later part of the rev range, the TSI continues to pull all the way above 4,000rpm, after which it starts to lose its momentum but not its eagerness. It’s more willing to rev all the way to its redline than the diesel, although there is hardly any need to. Even after 76,000km, the TSI engine felt like it has lost none of its horses, putting up a very, very impressive performance that constantly surprises one who has not tried a twincharged engine for some time.

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The TDI offers no such surprise. It’s expectedly punchy, but not before you overcome a pronounced lag in the low-end that is simply absent in the TSI. This is a surprising finding for a diesel engine, which has always banked on low-end torque as one of its main selling points. One has to remember, however, that the twincharger is no ordinary petrol engine…

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Given an extended period, the TDI version starts to grow on us. While offering performance that is more sedated, it was certainly paying off in terms of fuel consumption. The long-term average fuel consumption for the TSI was 9.5km/L, while the TDI managed 11.5km/L, even achieving 25.1km/L on one particularly economical journey! There is without a shadow of a doubt that the diesel engine is more economical, despite being ragged hard. It’s a grizzly sort of motor, but also one that feels pretty reliable and fool-proof.

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Although both cars are equipped with different gearboxes – the TSI has a 6-speed DSG while the TDI has a 7-speed DSG – the differences are nearly imperceptible despite what has been said about the 7-speed box being more jerky and indecisive. If anything, the 7-speed box feels slightly faster in its shifts, although perhaps slightly less willing to kick down a gear.

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Before I took these two cars out, I expected the Touran TDI to be the superior car by a comfortable margin, which is fuelled in no small measure by the hunger set upon the Singaporean driver for efficient diesel engines that have been out of our reach for so long. But in reality, this twin test has shown that petrol engines have made a strong comeback in the last couple of years thanks to forced induction, providing a power delivery that naturally aspirated petrol engines can never achieve before. While these new-fangled petrol engines cannot quite match the fuel economy of diesel engines just yet, if the Mk7 Golf 1.4 TSI is any indication they are definitely improving by leaps and bounds with each generation.

“Either way, you’ll be driving one of the finest MPVs in the market…”

In this case, the conclusion would be this: if you want a seven-seater (sporty) car, you’d enjoy the TSI version more. If you want the ultimate practical seven-seater car, the TDI version is just that. Either way, you’ll be driving one of the finest MPVs in the market, even if they are a little long in the tooth now…

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By The Lenspeed Team

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Lexus was first in the game for luxury hybrids. Resolutely sticking to the formula while its key German competitors focused on turbo-diesel technology, Lexus has taken a risky and unconventional path towards efficient motoring.

It seems it hasn’t fared too badly – since 2004 when the first-ever Lexus was fitted with a hybrid drivetrain (it’s the RX 400h), the company has sold more than half a million hybrid Lexus vehicles. What’s more striking is that in Singapore, Lexus owns a commanding 82% of the market share for luxury hybrids.

Having tried variants from both competing camps (hybrids and diesels), Lenspeed tends to lean towards the latter due to its simpler internals (just an engine) versus an engine mated with a battery. In most driving conditions, a diesel can at least match the fuel economy of a hybrid, if not beat it. Also, in terms of tractability on the road, the low-end torque from turbo-diesels is also difficult to resist, compared to the more artificial battery-driven torque of hybrids mated to largely more inefficient petrol engines.

Lexus has to contend with more sophisticated competition nowadays. While the Germans have focused on turbo-diesels for a large part of the past decade, they’ve also come in a strong way to introduce hybrid variants of their cars. Just look at the E300 diesel-hybrid and the 535i ActiveHybrid.

Shoring up their capabilities in hybrid technology, Lexus’ competitors are now gaining competencies in both camps. Worryingly, we haven’t seen any diesel engine from Lexus worth shouting about, which will continue to severely restrict their appeal in the European market. Also, with the advent of diesel-hybrids, this means even more efficiency than petrol-hybrids, beating Lexus in its own game.

Lexus argues that petrol engines will continue to be its bread-and-butter due to their inherently superior refinement. Would this be enough for consumers to pick one over a diesel variant, hybrid or not? This is one strategic decision we’d love to watch unfold.

 

 

 

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By The Lenspeed Team

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We get down and dirty with two diesel engines for two very different purposes

Diesel vehicles might only form a minority of passenger cars on local roads these days, but we are slowly noticing an upward trend, with local dealers hyping up the benefits of diesel haulers over the past year.

Actually, diesel ownership makes plenty of sense, both from a driver and financial standpoint. Your perception about diesels might be swarmed with encounters in taxis with “clattery” motors, leaving you concerned with excessive noise levels from the engine bay. But modern interpretations of diesel engines have improved through the years in terms of refinement, to an extent that they feel as quiet and polished as the petrol equivalent. They are extremely frugal and can easily cover longer distances than petrol variants, too. And they deliver plenty of low-end torque, which makes city driving a cinch.

Both cars featured here are unconventional (and probably unloved?) variants of their respective models, largely due to the fact both feature diesel motors beneath the hood. But more drive time revealed plenty of advantages unique to each car. The Volkswagen Touran TDI and Volkswagen Touareg R-Line 3.0 TDI are clear-cut examples of utilising diesel motors to complement VW’s efficient motoring philosophy. They might have paper numbers wedged on both ends of the spectrum, but scrutinise the spec sheet and you get the drift. One has a motor that can very well redefine efficient motoring, while the other makes you wonder if there is actually logic behind big petrol SUVs.

The Touran TDI’s 105bhp 1.6-litre unit churns out 250Nm right from the get-go. We are talking about torque levels more than a 2.0-litre Honda-fettled K20A engine. But that’s only the bonus, really. What it can do is achieve well over 1000km per tank of fuel. (1300km to be exact, proven by VW’s drive to Ipoh and back without the help of petrol stations) When put to the test on a quiet Saturday morning, we covered 25 kilometres per litre – a figure only petrol owners can dream about.

While it can probably go about its business an entire month without hitting the pumps, this ridiculous efficiency does not come at the expense of performance, too. Admittedly, off-the-line sprints can be rather lethargic, which is no surprise for a car engineered to be smooth and well-sorted. But ride it on its wave of torque during in-gear acceleration and it covers ground at a decent pace. That’s petrol performance for more than twice the range. Efficient motoring for the people indeed…

The next car might not be entirely frugal but it makes use of the strength of its heartbeat to slingshot its way through almost any surface without much fuss. Think 550Nm handled by four wheels. The Touareg R-Line 3.0 TDI runs about its errands like a behemoth on steroids, and that is largely due to the fact that most of the torque is served under 2000rpm. Instead of piling on the revs, keep it within the narrow power band under 3000rpm and the tall, hulking SUV can plough through nip-and-tuck roads (and even humps) faster than most cars on the road. It lacks the top end envy of high-revving petrol units, but we reserve the beauty of these motors for smaller, sportier cars. Our three-day test drive over 500km of tarmac (and 500m of grass) yielded 9.4km/l, and we consider this mightily impressive for an engine needing to lug two tons of heft (and one horizontally-endowed driver). V8 turbo petrol SUVs might be able to keep up in the lower regions of the rev range, but their thirst for fuel is something we could not swallow.

Both cars represent the beauty of diesel engines. For whatever reason that might steer you away from diesel car ownership, give them a chance, take the plunge, and you will be rewarded with less holes in your pocket in the long run.

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