Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly stand to hear about another far-off diesel SUV, Audi has announced its 2009 Q7 3.0 TDI BlueTec. The BlueTec name may sound familiar because it’s also used on the new Mercedes-Benz E320 diesel. Coincidence? Not a chance. DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen (which owns Audi) have agreed to share the BlueTec moniker for future clean diesels in the U.S. The companies hope BlueTec sounds so clean and modern (blue, apparently, is the new black) that it will make people forget the belching diesels of the 1970s. The technology behind BlueTec is a series of catalysts and urea (derived from urine) injection that neutralizes pollutants.
Just to confuse you, the first BlueTec branded vehicles from Mercedes-Benz don’t use urea injection because it isn’t yet approved in the U.S., so they aren’t clean enough to be sold in all 50 states (they are 45-state legal). When the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI appears in 2008, it will have a bona fide pee-squirter and be sold in all 50 states.
We had a chance to drive a Q7 equipped with the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, and while it didn’t yet have the full complement of BlueTec pollution controls, it gave us a good sense of the powertrain. Like many diesels, the Audi’s 3.0 feels a lot stronger than its relatively modest 233 horsepower would indicate. That’s because it has 369 pound-feet of torque from 1750 to 2750 rpm. Although it’s not as quick as the 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 in hammer-down acceleration runs, the diesel feels far stronger around town where engine speeds are typically lower. Fuel economy is nearly 20-percent better in the diesel as well.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz also will market 50-state diesels in the U.S. in 2008, and a comparison test is certain. We know you’re holding your breath.