There are very few engine configurations that promise increased fuel economy and power. There are few engines that offer this in addition to reliability. Today, those across the ocean are enjoying the fruits of diesel technology revolution.
Diesels have experienced a great history here in the United States. In 1980, General Motors modified their 350ci gas V8 to run on diesel fuel. The result however, wasn't that god. These engines offered better fuel economy but little else. They were very slow, and not very reliable.
Mercedes Benz on the other hand, had better luck in the 1980s with an array of vehicles available with diesel engines. These great vehicles offered amazing durability although they were rough, noisy, and smoked quite a bit. Volkswagon offered diesel as well, although they had a habit for spewing blue smoke from the tail pipe.
Throughout the 90s, Benz and Volkwagon offered diesel vehicles in the United States, with each generation becoming cleaner, smoother, and more powerful than the last. Overall, they were a tough sell as they still lacked the horsepower that many were seeking.
Today, Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Volkswagon, Ford, and many other manufacturers are offering diesels to many markets throughout the world. To put it simple, forget everything you know or think you know about diesel engines in the United States.
These newer engines benefit from hundreds of technical innovations. There are several diesels in Europe that offer better acceleration than their gasoline counter parts. BMW's 120d has 163bhp, goes 0 - 60 in under 8 seconds, and achieves 49.6 miles per gallon.
Benz offers the C320 CDI SE that has 224bhp, and over 360 lb foot of torque. This car gets just under 48 mpg on the highway, with an acceleration of 0 - 60 in under 7 seconds. Throughout North America, you won't find a gasoline engine that offers this unique blend of fuel economy and excellent performance.
The reason why diesels haven't caught on in North America comes down to one word - sulfur. We have too much sulfur in the diesel here in the United States. This cheap grade of diesel fuel will run havoc on the more sophisticated diesels offered overseas and cause an increase in emissions.
There is hope however, as refiners will soon be producing what is known as ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. This will help to reduce the sulfur content from 500ppm to 15ppm.