Diesel and gasoline-powered cars are very similar. Diesel technology has been around for years, and is a mainstay in models produced by companies like Volkswagen and BMW. They have often been a popular choice for consumers looking for a more efficient ride, as well as in larger pickup trucks and heavy machinery. The major difference between gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles lies deep in the mechanics, where fuel-injection and air compression make for alternate processes.
In diesel vehicles, air is compressed first, and fuel injected later. The fuel then ignited from the heated compressed air. In traditional gasoline-powered engines, fuel is mixed with air, and then compressed and ignited by a spark plug. These differing processes lead to variations in energy exchanges, which can make some vehicles more efficient than others.
Most vehicles that use diesel fuel for propulsion are European in origin. Some American companies have started to implement it in domestic vehicles, as in the case of the Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Cruze. But traditionally, the stalwarts of diesel technology have been European luxury car makers. Diesel fuel often costs more than traditional gasoline as well, making it less attractive to low-end and economical consumers.
Here we take a look at the twenty fastest diesel-powered vehicles that have hit the road in recent years. We have included some modified models, but excluded concept cars, one-offs and race cars. There are some notable exceptions, but that is due to exclusivity or the fact that the vehicle was not available on the open market. Notably, many of these cars are not available in the U.S. market.
Read on to see the twenty fastest diesel vehicles.
20. Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDM-2
A fairly unknown model, specifically in the States, Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta 2.0 JTDM-2 is a diesel-powered compact car that can hit the ground running and achieve a top speed of 135 miles per hour. According to the car’s specifications, 60 miles per hour is reached in 7.7 seconds, and the car produces 170 horsepower and a whopping 258 pound-feet of torque from a four-cylinder engine. A rare sight in the U.S. (if at all), but a fast little diesel vehicle nonetheless.
19. Peugeot RCZ
Many people may not be familiar with the name Peugeot, but rest assured that they have been around for a while, and know what they’re doing. The RCZ is living proof. The diesel variant of the RCZ makes the most of its 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine to make 163 horsepower (and 250 pound-feet of torque) and reach a terminal speed of 136 miles per hour. A sporty little diesel car, although sadly it has been discontinued.
18. BMW 328d
One of several high-powered and fast diesel-powered BMW models, the 328d uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to make 180 horsepower. The 328d can hit speeds of 140 miles per hour, and has some serious jump with the ability to go from zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds. BMW has really carved themselves out to be one of the leaders in diesel technology, and this is one of several of the company’s vehicles on this list.
17. Mini Cooper SD
A surprising entry on the list, the diesel-powered variant of the Mini Cooper, dubbed the SD, can hit a top speed of 134 miles per hour. These peppy little gasoline-powered cars have been a mainstay on American roadways for several years now, though the diesel versions are not available Stateside. The Mini Cooper SD makes the most of its 170 horsepower, sprinting to 60 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds. There is also a coupe version of the SD, but it doesn’t live up to the performance stats of the hardtop variation.
16. Jaguar XF
Jaguar (NYSE:TTM) makes a 140-mph diesel variant of the XF we know and love, powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine. The XF makes for a worthy rival to Porsche and BMW diesel models, and can match up with them in many respects. The XF uses over 440 pound-feet of torque go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds, making it quite quick in addition to being fast. The diesel XF gives Jaguar a more efficient addition to their lineup, and a great option for lovers of diesel-powered luxury cars.
15. Porsche Macan S Diesel
Porsche has become a luxury SUV powerhouse over the past decade or so, with their Cayenne becoming a customer favorite, and the recently-launched Macan also gaining support from drivers around the world. The Macan S Diesel lives up to the original, providing a powerful and fast ride behind the power of a six-cylinder engine, along with all-wheel drive. The Macan S Diesel’s performance specs are pretty impressive, with a top speed of 142 miles per hour and 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds. The Macan S Diesel can make 258 horsepower and , giving it the guts of an SUV despite the cushy extras.
14. Volkswagen Golf GTD
Though it’s unclear whether the Volkswagen Golf GTD will ever hit American shores, the fervor around this energetic little diesel car has officially hit the market. The Golf GTD is said to have a top speed of 142 miles per hour and a 0-60 speed of 7.5 seconds, behind the power of a 2.0-liter common rail turbo-diesel engine. So far, it’s only available in Germany and the U.K., but hopes are that it will someday be available in the U.S.
13. Audi A5 3.0 TDI Coupe
Audi’s clean-diesel technology has allowed them to produce a swath of fast diesel-powered cars, and the A5 3.0 TDI Coupe is one of them. Though the model has been discontinued, it offered a fast and fun ride while it lasted. The guys at Top Gear did a review, finding the car could hit a maximum speed of 146 miles per hour, and accelerate from 0-62 in 7.1 seconds. The 3.0-liter V6 utilized by the A5 TDI creates 201 horsepower, and also does wonders for fuel economy.
12. Maserati Quattroporte Diesel
Maserati’s Quattroporte Diesel is one of a slew of diesel cars that can hit 155 miles per hour at their best. It is a tad bit behind the others in quickness, although a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds is nothing to sneeze at. The car’s specs are nothing to look down upon either. We all know that Europe loves diesel-powered cars, and they love luxury vehicles. The Quattroporte Diesel is one of the finest examples of a company blending the two seamlessly.
11. Maserati Ghibli Diesel
The Maserati Ghibli is a classy and elegant luxury sports car that’s just a tad bit quicker than the Quattroporte Diesel (due to it’s smaller stature). Like the Quattroporte, though, it’s limited to a top speed of 155 miles per hour, and acceleration stats of 6.3 seconds from 0-62. The Ghibli Diesel is also highly-rated in Europe for safety standards, earning a 5-star EuroNCAP rating — it’s also Maserati’s most affordable model, though that’s not necessarily saying a whole lot.
10. Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Quattro
The Audi A7 may be one of the most sunning vehicles on the road today, with its sleek shape, graceful lines, aggressive poise, and an interior that could make a Rolls-Royce blush. While it’s top speed here in the States is limited to “just” 130, it’s European variant is more generous, allowing for a ceiling of 155 miles per hour — but it’s the trip there that’s the fun part. The A7 TDI produces 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, allowing the car to catapult to 60 in about six seconds flat.
9. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 CDI
One of the more exclusive Mercedes-Benz offshoots, the C-Class C350 CDI BlueEfficiency has a limited maximum speed of 155 miles per hour, and can accelerate from 0-62 in 6 seconds, according to reviews from Top Gear. The C350 model is hard to track down, so much so that we had to use a photo of a different BlueEFFICIENCY model, the 220, for the photo above. As far as the BlueEFFICIENCY effort on behalf of Mercedes, it is an attempt to push fuel economy to the limits through a combination of gas and diesel engines, as well as improved aerodynamics.
8. Audi A8 4.2 TDI
Another Audi that excels with the addition of extras, the A8 4.2 TDI pushes the company’s diesel-powered engines to the limits, achieving speeds of up to 155 miles per hour, and acceleration to 62 mph in just 5.8 seconds. The base model, which uses a 3.0-liter engine, once again show specs indicating a top track speed of 130 miles per hour, but reviews on the upscale trim for European drivers show otherwise. The 4.2-liter turbo-diesel V8 engine produces 346 horsepower and a wrenching 590 pound-feet of torque, far outpacing Audi’s other diesel ventures short of racing.
7. Porsche Cayenne S Diesel
Like its little brother the Macan, Porsche’s Cayenne S Diesel is a fast and powerful luxury SUV, one of the fastest diesel-powered SUVs in the world. A little bigger and a little more powerful than the Macan, the Cayenne S Diesel reaches a maximum speed of 155 miles per hour, and rockets to 62 in just 5.7 seconds. The powerful engine generates 382 horsepower, making it both fast and muscular.
6. BMW X5 M50d
BMW’s X5 M50d is what happens when its M division gets its hands on a diesel, and we’re certainly glad they did. It packs not one, not two, but three turbochargers, helping it reach a top speed that’s again limited to 155 — though we believe it’s capable of much more — and hitting 62 in just 5.4 seconds with the help of 545 pound-feet of torque (remember, this is a large family SUV we’re talking about here!).
5. BMW X6 M50d
The little brother to the X5 M50d, the X6 and it’s sleeker shape is ever-so-slightly quicker than the X5, giving it an edge in the rankings. By quicker, we’re talking about a difference of 0.2 seconds in the race from zero to 60 — small, but definitely not insignificant. Both BMW SUVs have identical top speeds of 155 miles per hour, and the major differences come in the details of the vehicles’ build-outs. Regardless, the slightly more powerful and slightly quicker X6 reigns supreme as far as diesel-powered SUVs go.
4. BMW M550d XDrive
Another shining example of BMW’s dedication to building fast and furious diesel vehicles, the M550d XDrive climbs the rankings all the way to the fourth spot. This car is also limited to a max speed of 155 miles per hour, and the M550d XDrive beats the rest out by being substantially quicker, rocketing to 60 in just 4.7 seconds. The M550d XDrive is truly a testament to the engineering feats of the BMW team, who have turned luxury diesel vehicles into an art.
3. Porsche Panamera Turbo Diesel
The fastest diesel-powered vehicle in the Porsche lineup, the Panamera Turbo Diesel reaches its apex at 160 miles per hour, and can accelerate from 0-60 in six seconds flat. That’s some pretty fierce statistics from a car with accommodations for a full family (and we don’t recommending going that fast with them in tow… or ever, really, off the track). The Panamera Turbo Diesel uses a 2.9-liter six-cylinder engine to blast out 300 horsepower and 480 pound-feet, which it puts to good use rocketing past almost all other diesel vehicles on the road.
2. BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo
This modified BMW was, for a while, the fastest diesel-powered vehicle out there. Produced by specialty-automaker and long-time BMW partner Alpina, this BMW D3 BI-Turbo can hit a jarring speed of 172 miles per hour, and blast to 60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds as it produces 350 horsepower and over 500 pound-feet of torque. Alpina engineers took great car in making this car what it is today, and it is only out-shined by one other diesel-powered vehicle.
1. Trident Iceni
British automaker Trident has been working diligently on the Iceni, of which there are a few different variations, and have successfully made it the fastest diesel-powered car in the world. Officially, this car can hit speeds in excess of 190 miles per hour, thanks to a 6.6-liter turbo diesel V8 engine that produces 395 horsepower and a staggering 700 pound-feet or torque. Its spec sheet is impressive, and its looks are downright devilish. For the ultimate diesel-powered experience, the Iceni is the icing on the cake.