Jeep Grand Cherokee vs. Volkswagen Touareg, Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5
We rustle up five SUVs from the most competitive diesel segment in the U.S.
All this talk about diesels remains largely just yammer. Despite years of
automaker promises and auto-show oaths, plus hipster queues at Volkswagen
dealerships for Jetta wagons with stick shifts and 500-mile ranges, the
American diesel market is barely running at a cold idle. In fact, this
gathering of five vehicles is an all-inclusive roundup of every single
entry in the most hotly contested compression-ignition segment in the U.S.:
diesel sport-utilities sized medium-large and priced medium-ridiculous.
Even the working-pickup market can boast only three diesel players at
More oil-burners are surely coming, especially from Europe. There,
diesel-evangelical automakers are desperate to amortize their increasing
development costs by spreading the religion beyond the E.U. With its scant
appetite for diesels, Asia is lost. So the push is in America, which is
why, in this test, you must witness the spectacle of four Germans beating
up on a lone American (albeit one with an Italian engine).
"Yes, this is the location where Forrest Gump stopped running. No, we
don’t want to hear your Gump impersonation."
A diesel’s key selling point is its efficiency. In this test we have fuel
tanks sized from 22.5 to 27.7 gallons and EPA-combined fuel-economy ratings
in the low- to mid-20s. Thus, even the BMW X5 xDrive35d, with both the most
convoluted name and the smallest tank, should be capable of easily leaping
from New York to Cleveland without a fill-up. And if you’re very easy on
the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, which has the largest tank, you might just
squeak it all the way to Chicago.
None of those bladder-busting drives particularly interested us, so we
saddled up in Los Angeles and drove to Monument Valley, one of the iconic
landscapes by which America defines itself with postcard snapshots.
That’s 642 miles via a long highway route through Arizona. Instead, we
zigzagged across Utah’s Grand-Staircase Escalante, where Mother Nature
went crazy with her construction toys, digging canyons of khaki and pink
stone and cutting stairs in which each riser is a thousand-foot wall. We
drove past Fifty Mile Mountain and the Studhorse Peaks, crossed the
Waterpocket Fold, and took pictures at Bullfrog Bay. At 1150 miles, our
fuel-economy log may be a record for a C/D comparison test. [Actually, the
record is 2000 miles–Ed.]
Along the way, we discovered arguments both for and against the return of
diesels. The pros are obvious: huge torque and mid-20s fuel economy for a
collection of trucks all weighing over 5000 pounds. On the other hand, even
these hyper-modern, next-generation diesels still sound like, as our
British photographer drolly put it, “skeletons wanking in a metal filing
And some of the pumps we had to fill up at looked as if they had once been
parking cones at a truck-driving school, all oily and battered and stuck
out behind the station where their leaky nozzles could secretly drip-drip
black slicks into the dust. Even the nicest ones at well-lit megaplazas had
sheens of stinky stuff on the handles, something they often forget to
mention as you’re signing the papers on a $70,000 vehicle.
Then there were the larger, high-flow big-rig nozzles that didn’t
fit—or fit only with the help of an adapter, which was only supplied with
the BMW. We had to pass it around, making some fuel stops seem longer than
Seth MacFarlane’s monologue at the Oscars. That is, when we could find a
station with diesel.
Touareg vs. ML63 AMG vs. Cayenne GTS
Fast fünf Meter lang, rund 2,5 Tonnen schwer, fette Motoren unter der
Haube: Sind diese drei aufgemotzten Super-SUV tatsächlich nur hübsche
Spielzeuge für reiche Scheichs?