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Diesel Discovery - Part Two

We take a close-up look at the diesel-powered performers from Audi, Volkswagen, Citroen, Rover - and some Japanese imports.

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Final of two-part series
  • Diesel performers from...
  • Audi, Volkswagen, Citroen, Rover and Japanese import models
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In the first part of this series on diesel powered performers we looked at cars from Peugeot and Mercedes-Benz (Diesel Discovery - Part One). These two companies have offered more diesels in Australia than any other manufacturers – but there are plenty of other brands that have jumped on the bandwagon...

In the second and final part of this series we’ll look at the most desirable diesel machines from Audi, Volkswagen, Citroen and Rover. Oh, and we’ll also look at a couple of interesting Japanese imports...

Citroen C5 HDi

If you enjoy driving something quirky you’ll love this – the post-2001 Citroen C5 HDi.

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This medium-size luxury sedan has an unusual tall body design for an airy cabin feel and features Citroen’s sophisticated Hydractive suspension. In addition you’ll find the same engine as used in the late-model Peugeot 406 HDi – a 2-litre SOHC turbo diesel (coded DW10ATED). In C5 guise, the engine generates 82kW and 255Nm and, tied to a 4-speed auto, the C5 HDi can hit 100 km/h in the 13-second range.

The conventional C5 HDi hatchback was joined by a wagon version in 2003. When new, the C5 HDi cost about AUD$50,000 - but you can now grab a second-hand example from about AUD$26,000.

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An update in recent months has seen the previous SOHC 2-litre engine replaced by a 2.2-litre DOHC multi-valve job. Coded DW12TED4, this engine runs an 18:1 static compression ratio and an intercooled turbo to produce 98kW and 314Nm from 2000 – 4000 rpm. This should improve 0 – 100 km/h performance into the 10 or 11-second range. Sedan and wagon versions are available for around 52 grand.

Volkswagen Golf

The first turbo diesel Volkswagen Golf seen in Australia came in the 1995 3rd Generation Golf.

The rock-solid 3rd Generation four-door Golf hatch is available with a 1.9-litre SOHC, 8-valve engine with a 19.5:1 compression ratio, intercooled turbo and electronic management. Max outputs are 66kW and 202Nm and, with a standard 5-speed manual, it can reach 100 km/h in the mid 12s. A slightly slower 4-speed auto version was also sold until the model was discontinued in 1998.

The turbo diesel Golf then disappeared from the market until, in late ’04, it remerged with the 5th Generation. Two engine configurations are currently available – the base SOHC 1.9-litre TDi and the upmarket DOHC 2-litre TDi.

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Even the base 1.9-litre engine offers more grunt than the previous generation – 77kW and 250Nm – but it’s the upmarket 2-litre that’s of most interest. This model employs a larger 2-litre engine with the advantage of DOHC 16-valve breathing. The static compression ratio is a relatively mild 18:1 but, thanks to a variable geometry turbo, output is a handy 103kW at 4000 rpm and there’s 320Nm from 1750 – 2500 rpm. These little machines can whip to 100 km/h in the low 9s when teamed with a 6-speed manual ‘box.

Selling new, these tempting Golf TDis are stickered at under 40 grand. Alternatively, there are a few second-hand examples on the market that are typically five to seven grand cheaper than a newie.

Audi A3/A4 TDi

The Audi A3 uses the same platform as the 5th Generation Volkswagen Golf but is generally a bit sportier.

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The A3 TDi employs the same DOHC 2-litre TDi engine producing 103kW and 320Nm but it’s available in a choice of two and four-door hatch configurations. The Audis are also dearer than their Volkswagen counterparts – a newie costs almost 50 grand and the cheapest second-hand example on the market is a shade under 40 grand. See Audi A3 2.0 TDi for our detailed test of the A3 TDi.

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If you’re looking for something a bit larger, the next step up is the front-wheel-drive Audi A4 TDi which uses, again, the 103kW/320Nm 2-litre direct-injection turbo diesel. The A4 version offers more space and a ‘7-speed’ CVT but, due to its extra weight, 0 – 100 km/h performance slides into the high 9s. Eight airbags come as standard in this 57 grand vehicle.

Audi A6/Allroad TDi

The biggest Audis to offer turbo diesel technology are the A6 and Allroad TDi.

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The A6 is a real stunner – the fastest diesel car ever sold in Australia. Under the bonnet is a 3-litre DOHC V6 with direct injection and a variable geometry turbocharger that helps punch out 165kW at 4000 rpm and a hefty 450Nm from 1400 – 3250 rpm. A CVT and quattro AWD come standard and, despite weighing 1765kg, this amazing car can reach 100 km/h in a mere 7.3 seconds (claimed)!

In real-world conditions, the A6 TDi should be capable of hosing Holden Gen 3 V8s and Subaru WRXs. Not bad for a luxury car that can return average fuel consumption around 8.3 litres per 100km...

The Audi A6 TDi quattro fetches about AUD$100k new and the cheapest second-hand example we’ve been able to find is 89 grand. Certainly, this is a car we’ve included in our list of cars to investigate when they become more affordable.

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Not as quick but almost as appealing is the TDi version of the Audi Allroad. Released in 2002, the Allroad TDi employs a 2.5-litre DOHC V6 with the same sort of variable geometry turbo and direct injection technology as the A6. Peak outputs are 132kW and 370Nm (achieved between 1500 and 2500 rpm). With a 5-speed Tiptronic trans and AWD, the 1825kg Allroad TDi can accelerate to 100 km/h in the 10s and has tremendous in-gear urge.

Currently selling for more than 80 grand new, you can pick up one of these ripper machines from about 60 grand second-hand. See New Car Test - Audi Allroad quattro TDi for our test.

Rover 75 CDti

In late 2004, the slightly odd looking Rover 75 was made available with a common rail turbo diesel engine – this created the Rover 75 CDti.

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Interestingly, the 75’s 2-litre turbo diesel is a very short revver – peak power (96kW) is achieved at a lowly 3500 rpm. With 400Nm of torque on tap from 1900 rpm this means the effective rev range is approximately 1600 rpm – hardly sporting... Still, with 6.7 litres per 100km average consumption, it does make up for its performance shortcomings. The 75 CDti is available in sedan and wagon variants and all models come with a 4-speed auto transmission.

Costing more than 50 grand new, a second-hand example will set you back closer to 40 grand. It’s not our favourite pick, but it might be worth checking out – especially if you can negotiate a good deal.

Japanese Imports

Toyota Saloons

The most common Japanese grey market import cars with turbo diesel power is the Toyota range of saloons from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s – the Cresta, Mark II, Chaser and Crown.

The LX80-series Cresta, Mark II and Chaser range (from 1989) look very similar to the locally delivered 3-litre petrol Cressida but are available with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. The 2L-T diesel engine has a 21:1 static compression ratio, a SOHC head, mechanical injection and a single turbocharger. There is no intercooler fitted from factory. This engine puts out 69kW at 4000 rpm and 216Nm of torque at 2400 rpm.

Most come tied to a 4-speed auto transmission but a 5-speed manual was also produced in some models. All are rear-wheel-drive and most are sedans except a wagon version of the Crown was manufactured.

In 1992, the LX80 chassis was replaced with the LX90 version which uses double wishbone suspension and a much more modern body and interior. Under the bonnet, the engine was upgraded to the 2L-TE which uses electronic engine management – as a result, output increases slightly to 71kW and 221Nm.

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Interestingly, the top-of-the-range Toyota Crown was equipped with electronic engine management since 1988 – but, oddly, output remained the same as the mechanical injected versions (at 69kW). The turbo diesel Crown was then updated in 1990 to generate 74kW and 221Nm.

At the time of writing there are a couple of these Toyota saloons on the market at around six to eight grand. And, interestingly, it seems some name swapping has occurred during the compliance process of some examples – we’ve seen a Mark II registered and advertised as a Cressida...

Mazda Capella

Another interesting Japanese import vehicle available with a diesel engine is the late ‘80s Mazda Capella (which is locally recognised as the Mazda 626/Ford Telstar).

The Capella could be optioned with a RF-series 2-litre four-cylinder diesel teamed with an intriguing pressure wave supercharger. Put simply, this type of supercharger relies on the expansion of hot exhaust gas to force fresh induction air into the engine. The exhaust gas pressure waves are controlled by a belt-driven cylindrical cell rotor – the upshot being none of the lag associated with a turbocharger. The static compression ratio of the engine is 21.1:1 and output is 60kW and 181Nm at 4000 and 2000 rpm respectively. Four-speed auto and 5-speed manual versions were produced and the engine was tweaked in 1995 to produce 65kW/186Nm. In both cases, we don’t expect them to be particularly quick.

The Capella supercharged diesel is available in sedan and wagon versions and FWD and AWD. There’s also a wide range of trim levels and some models come with drum rear brakes.

At the time of writing there is only one example for sale in Australia but we have previously seen them on several occasions – expect to pay between AUD$4000 and AUD$8000 depending on kilometres. Interestingly, the pressure wave supercharged diesel was axed in the late ‘90s and replaced by a turbo diesel engine. We have not seen any of these later-model Mazda diesels imported to Australia.

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