Opinion: Why the diesel hate?

2y ago


I needed something to start scribbling my ideas, and I got the shove today. I flick my left indicator on because, as everyone knows, or rather should know, one ought to keep left and pass right. After checking my surroundings using the oft ignored asset that is the wing mirror, I start moving over seeing a BMW 5 Series in the distance in the left lane. Doing about 10-15 kmph below the limit of 100, it makes perfect sense that I move over, what does not make sense is the 5er now trying to sniff my hemorrhoids. Brights on, he passes me on the left (South Africa, so the wrong side) and then cuts in front of me.
It is self-explanatory, 520d. D for diesel. Now, he brake-checks me, but I don’t even realise it’s a brake-check. He does it again, and now I realise what he is attempting to do. Reading the signs of the “d”, I am not phased, what ticks me off are his terrible driving skills. What sort of aggressive driver doesn’t know how to brake-check? He has now lost whatever he gained from his excessive speeding; trust me, I’m an engineer, I know all about average speed. Here’s a tip, brainless child in the 5er, it is not speed that matters over short distances, it is average speed.

I don’t hate all diesels, it is the incorrect use of diesels I’m not a fan of. My favourite pick-up, or bakkie as we Saffers know them, is the 2500d Colt from the 90’s. It serves a purpose, it hauls your load, albeit at a slow pace, but serves its purpose nonetheless. The problem starts, as a certain German automotive giant will testify, when the diesel is made to mimic a petrol engine. A diesel engine works best when it is its unresponsive slow self, but modern turbocharged diesels come with the promise of petrol like performance. There is an inevitable trade-off somewhere.

Secondly, a diesel is not meant for everyone. The fuel savings only pay off for regular long-distance commuters, but the average consumer gets fooled into believing that they are saving a bucket-load, while still riding their little torque wave constantly. Diesels work best at fairly constant RPM, keep hopping revs, like our animal in the 5er, and the once happy diesel is suddenly grumpy, suffering from carbon build-up and injector clogging. Diesels require some care, more so than their petrol equivalents, and with that, attention to their maintenance requirements too.

The promise of diesels is all too often misrepresented. A diesel engine has its uses, for example, in generators, off-road vehicles, and industrial vehicles; but it is not a like-for-like replacement for a petrol engine. They aren’t saving the planet either. Firstly, consumption is not everything, emissions matter too, and secondly, I haven’t seen too many old diesels which drive past without choking life in its surrounds. It is understandable then, why people like the non-human in the 5er, whose parents were probably related before they married, would go and buy one in a sedan.
As a petrol-head, need I go on about the driving characteristics of a diesel?

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