By on March 30, 2011

In the post-Veyron, post-Horsepower Wars world, “Responsible Performance” has been the catchphrase on the lips of every purveyor of performance cars. And with Audi and Nissan already set to brawl for EV sportscar niche that’s being abandoned by Tesla with the forthcoming end of production of its Roadster,  diesel power seems to be benefiting from a second look by would-be “responsible performance” vendors.

Unsurprisingly, the tuning houses are promoting their diesel efforts, as EV tuning presents significant challenges to the ICE-based tuning community. And the BMW modifiers at AC Schnitzer are leading the way with this Z4 “99d,” a 188 HP, 310 lb-ft two-liter turbodiesel roadster capable of 146 MPH. Oh yes, and 99 grams of CO2 per Km, or (very roughly) 60-ish MPG (non-EPA). Sound like a healthy compromise between “responsibility” and performance? The only thing you’ll have to give up is the $210,000 that Automobile says this Schintzer concept would cost if it were built.

Prefer something a little more built-in-some-British-guys-shed? Peep the Trident Iceni, a TVR-style British beast that its makers claim returned around 57 MPG (69 MPG Imperial, non-EPA) at a constant 70 MPH in testing at Millbrook Proving Ground. Its 6.6 liter Duramax V8 can operate on 100 percent biodiesel, tops out at 170 MPH (limited) and runs the quarter-mile in 12 seconds. Iceni even claimed the thing will have a (wait for it) 2,000 mile range. And unlike the Z4 99d, it’s supposed to be in production… although the Trident website isn’t encouraging. Perhaps a Britian-based reader in the know could fill us in?

And then there’s the VW Bluesport, a mid-engined MR-2-alike boasting a stop-start-equipped diesel engine, at least in its European iteration. For the US it will almost certainly be offered exclusively with the GTI’s 2.0T powerplant, but if grunty, efficient sportscars are your thing, start lobbying VW now, as it won’t start shipping to the US until 2013 at the earliest. And if VW chickens out, perhaps Audi will supplement its electric R4 eTron with a an oil-burning version in the US market. Or what about a diesel R8, like the one Audi hinted at back in 2008? After all, BMW is combining diesel and electric power for its forthcoming i8 “responsible performance” supercar, which will not be available in a gas version, meaning we’ll be guaranteed to get at least some kind of diesel performance car in the US at some point. And as a US-market leader in diesel sales, as well as a diesel-powered LeMans dominator, Audi seems like a brand begging for an oil-burning supercar. With a little luck, we’ll see more progress in this intriguing trend in the near future…

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23 Comments on “Are You Ready For: The Diesel Sportscar?...”

  • avatar

    Another one that’s intriguing (and available in the U.S. this year) is the Smyth Performance diesel kit car. The basic idea is to take a MKIV Jetta TDI and rearrange it into a mid-engined configuration. Sounds ambitious but the guy doing it has experience (a co-founder of Factory Five Racing). The price is right, too – $10K for kit (plus say $5K for a donor Jetta). I have been following it on Facebook for a while and it is pretty cool to watch the progress.

  • avatar

    VW could start by sending over their Golf GTD.

    • 0 avatar

      Golf TDI in the US is essentially a Golf GTD other than the 140hp engine instead of the 170hp.  By the time they get the 170hp engine to meet US emissions, it will cost $4k more than the GTI which is way more fun anyway.

  • avatar
    M 1

    I don’t care what they put under the hood, no Z4 will ever be worth 200-large.

    • 0 avatar

      I rather take 335d /or 535d.

    • 0 avatar

      But just think how much money you’d save on fuel compared to a superior sports car that cost a seventh as much… Never mind.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve driven the 335d at the track and I was amazed at how quick it could accelerate out of the corners.

    • 0 avatar

      200k I could get an HPF 2.5 or 3 E46 M3 that would eat this thing alive every day and twice on Sundays, and I would have more than enough left over to get a DD that gets decent miliage.

    • 0 avatar


      ‘… Jos Dings, director of Brussels-based green transport campaigners Transport & Environment, says that the official CO2 results given by the manufactures on cars sold in Europe “are less and less a reflection of what we are seeing on the road.”
      Dings says that there has always been a difference between the amount of CO2 a car emits during a controlled test and what it produces when actually driven. He said that gap used to be 20 percent but has risen to as high as 50 percent for models advertised as sub-100g/km cars.
      “We don’t want cuts on paper,” Dings said in a phone interview. “We want them in reality.” ….’ (…)

  • avatar

    Ironic: OEMs can figure out how to add a ton of batteries, an electric motor, regenerative braking gear, touch screen computerized creature comforts, and all the requisite airbags to preserve airhead operators at competitive prices in pursuit of mid-40mpg ratings, but simply swapping in a small displacement turbo-diesel engine in place of the original gasser is a MAJOR undertaking.
    I, for one, would love to do a diesel swap. Been thinking about replacing the 4G63T in one of my Mitsubishi Galant VR4s with a 4D56 common rail for a couple years, now. Just too many projects cooking at once. (sigh)

  • avatar

    I like it

  • avatar

    A 4K redline, just thrilling!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed.  I can understand a diesel commuter car, SUV, or truck.  A diesel sports car makes absolutely no sense to me.  4k rpm, shift, 4k rpm, shift.  Bleh.  Peak torque is meaningless in a sports car.  Give me power and revs!

    • 0 avatar

      For truth.  If I wanted gobs of low end power, I’d just as soon et an LSx based motor.

    • 0 avatar

      4K if you’re lucky; power drops off earlier.
      It’s like an bizarro RX-8 or Integra Type-R: instead of having to keep the engine past 6000rpm and shifting at ~8000, you’re shifting at ~2500-3000 and trying to keep it above stall speed.  It works, but it’s not quite what I’d call “fun”.
      Diesels are some of the few cars that, I think, do better with automatics and would really benefit from CVTs.

    • 0 avatar

      psar +1
      I’m a fan of diesels and have owned one (and drive them constantly), but “fun to drive” isn’t really part of the equation. Diesels are only “fun to drive” in comparison to other powertrains with comparable milage, and a big part of that is VAG’s decision to offer manual transmissions and DSG with almost every offering. I also 100% agree that diesels work very well with automatics, in fact, I’d say the DSG/tdi combo is the best feeling auto unit that VW sells (much smoother than the 2.0T/DSG combo). I’m not sure why a CVT would suit diesel’s better…seems like an unnecessary trade off since the engines already provide smooth shifting and better milage with existing dual clutch trannies, it would just be trading in some responsiveness for what?
      The funny thing about the diesel market in the US is that almost everyone I know (myself included) who has had a modern diesel is a manual transmission driver, even those who ultimately decided on the automatic version. This has always puzzled me, but I’ve been chalking it up to those drivers seeking a degree of uniqueness in their mechanical feel and the fact that old diesels were often manual only offerings.

  • avatar

    Wow…VW is doing great!
    how to stop stuttering

  • avatar

    Audi has been selling the TT TDI in Europe for several years already.

  • avatar

    After watching that Audi diesel GTP car tear up the LeMans series…yeah, I’d say diesel has sporting cred.  Probably a lot more useable in real-world “sporty driving” applications than a gas engine too.  How often are we shifting our cars at redline currently?  Maybe a lot if you are 17 years old.

    • 0 avatar

      Becasue a LMP car in a 24h endurance race has so much relivance to every day driving?  The Mazda 787 did great to the point they had to ban it, but I do’t see everyone in here screaming for rotaries right now?

    • 0 avatar

      Diesels do better in LeMans only because the regulations were in their favor.
      We’ll see the new rules for this year though.

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