Displaying the type of consistent thinking last seen by the two old men from the Muppet Show, the mouth-breathers of the European Union have just announced that they hate diesel cars. And trucks. In fact anything to do with diesel.
This stance would be welcomed by the few of us who have for years suggested that the black shit pouring from the exhausts of any elderly oil-burner might not be very good for a child’s lungs. But it smacks of rank hypocrisy given that the good people of Yoorup have been asked to buy diesel cars for the past twenty years by – yes, ten points for you at the back – the mouth breathers from Brussels. Dickheads, the lot of them.
I now live in a post-diesel, diesel state. It’s weird. Everyone has one, car makers are still developing and flogging them, but they are essentially automotive Dodos. I’m not especially sad about this outcome because I don’t much like the foul substance itself, nor the characteristics it displays when ignited under pressure, but like a male lion about to be superseded by some new tackle-swinger, I feel a sense of unease and sympathy for its imminent demise. To clarify my feelings on the situation, I used a BMW 320d, the epitome of what diesel motoring has become in 2015, to drive to a motor race in Germany.
It only takes a short drive in a 320d M Sport to reach the conclusion that its talents are so multifarious and deep-seated that it runs the risk of slipping beyond notions of excellence and becoming plain smug.
We were three-up, cruising at 110mph, trunk bursting with heavy cameras and the thing was returning 42 British MPG. I have no idea what that is in your MPG, and the exact figure doesn’t matter because once you’ve crunched the numbers you are left with the unavoidable fact that the 320d doesn’t really use fuel. The tank is pathetically small and it will still do over 500 miles between fills.
It is also silent, free from vibration, will rev beyond 4000rpm and accelerates between 70 and 110mph in sixth gear (the only test of real-world performance) like a Porsche 911 did not many years ago. We all have friends like the 320d – insufferably clever, successful and decent to their fellow human beings. The only thing that keeps the rest of us sinners going is the vague hope that the burden of their wonderfulness carries with it some hidden penalty, like terrible breath, or an unnaturally small penis.
Well, I spent two days looking for the 320d’s minuscule manhood and found little evidence of its hamartia. It’s even pretty good fun to drive and - this is even more annoying - it retains enough core BMW-ness to feel a step above the equivalent German sedans because that’s the way BMWs have always been.
Absorbing all of this excellence and then considering the Eurocrat’s decision to suddenly make all things diesel ‘The Enemy’ is quite strange. The perseverance and brain-power that has gone into persuading diesel to do things it really never wanted to do probably stands as one of the most impressive technological achievements of the past twenty years.
When I was a kid, fuel-oil went in trucks and the only motor cars that used the smelly stuff were run by hippy-type characters happy to climb hills at 25mph because they were stoned. In 2015 that same ghastly fuel can power BMW’s second smallest diesel 3-Series to over 140mph.
But diesel remains nasty stuff. In three years time this 320d will probably be in private hands, its owner will try and avoid paying main dealer prices for servicing, or decide that a new particulate filter can wait another year and the thing will smoke like Cheech & Chong. That’s perhaps the key issue with diesel, to meet emissions targets, too much of the cleaning has to be done after the burning, and maintaining those emissions means spending money on the machine – and the one thing people don’t like doing is spending money on used cars.
Nope, sad as it is to note, diesel cars are like sad old reformed perverts - miles more acceptable than they once were, but ultimately still dirty bastards.
A bit of me likes to think that countries like the United Sates partly chose never to fully embrace the diesel passenger car because it foresaw just this situation, but I suspect it had more to do with you being able to buy petrol – I mean gasoline - at reasonable prices.
It’s a shame, because the 320d neatly answers that most glib of motoring questions – how much car does anyone actually need? It is fast, the torque-strong power delivery gives it a type of instant grunt that massively annoys any high-revving gasoline sports car, it looks the business and the M Sport chassis is supple in a way I thought impossible after my last 3-series experience.
And soon it will be dead. A bit of me will miss its passing.
Illustration By Sam Woolley