May
03
1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass

We’re not sure if this 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass was a diesel. But if it took this guy 18.1 seconds to go from 0 to 60, it was.

While doing research for my article “It’s Diesel’s Time to Shine,” I was astounded to learn how far today’s diesel-powered cars have advanced over the diesels of the Eighties. The old diesels were noisy, smelly, and slow, and they often didn’t start on dead-of-winter days. The fuel would turn to jelly.

Today’s turbodiesel cars, which are sold in the U.S. only by German automakers (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen), are quiet, reliable, and remarkably fuel efficient. But what makes me chuckle is how much faster they are off the line.

A 2012 Volkwagen Golf TDI has a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds. That’s about a second and a half slower than the gas-engine Golf, but it’s light-years better than the old diesels could muster.

Check out these diesel times from yesteryear, courtesy of zeroto60times.com:

1979 Cadillac Eldorado (Diesel)                            16.8  seconds

1980 Chevrolet Caprice Wagon (Diesel)               19.5 seconds

1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel                           19.3 seconds

1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel                           18.1 seconds

1981 Volvo Diesel                                                   18.4 seconds

And the slowest of all was the ironically named . . .

1979 Volkswagen Rabbit (Diesel)                         21.2 seconds!

More than half of the cars on the road in Europe today are diesels, but in the U.S. diesel has long been a dirty word. It has taken over 30 years to get the smell, noise, and general distaste of the old diesels out of our collective consciousness.

Review Flashback! 1985 Lincoln Continental Mark VII Turbodiesel

 

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