Volkswagen has been getting a bad rap lately due to its diesel engines. Well deserved, too, because it lied to the authorities and its customers about how much smog certain engines produce.
Cheating must, and in this case is, punished.The irony is that Volkswagen Group has been a champion of diesel propulsion and, to be fair, regularly rolls out some of the best in the industry.
Not all diesels are born equal or tuned to cheat. Some, in fact, are so good, they could convert most hardcore petrolheads. Credit where credit is due, then; and the following units are the best of the lot.
Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept
Without a doubt, the most powerful and torquiest diesel engine the Volkswagen Group ever made was its 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12. It’s the only twelve-cylinder diesel engine we’ve ever seen in a production automobile, producing an impressive 493 horsepower and a gravity-altering 738 lb-ft of torque. Audi toyed with the idea of slotting the engine into the R8, producing two concept versions it unveiled in 2008. That never materialized into production, but the engine was offered commercially in the first-generation Q7 crossover, sending it to 60 in 5.5 seconds.
The V12 TDI wasn’t the only diesel the Volkswagen Group developed with double-digit cylinder-counts. Like Dodge and Ford, it also made an oil-compressing V10. The 5.0 TDI initially produced 309 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque when it launched in the 2002 Volkswagen Touareg. That was already enough to tow a 747 jumbo jet, but Wolfsburg didn’t leave it there. It later augmented the engine to 345 hp and 627 lb-ft for the Touareg R50 – the only R-badged VW to date to pack diesel power. That didn’t make it the most powerful version of the big crossover (compared to the W12 model with its 444 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque), but it did make it the torquiest.
Porsche Cayenne S Diesel
Don’t be too saddened by the demise of the V10 TDI, because the Volkswagen Group still makes diesels churning out even higher figures despite lower cylinder counts. Like the Porsche Cayenne S Diesel. Its 4.1-liter V8 kicks out a solid 380 horsepower, which is nearly as much as the gasoline-powered Cayenne S – but its torque figure is nearly twice as high at 630 lb-ft, which is even more than the top-spec Turbo S. That’s enough to send the diesel crossover to 62 in 5.4 seconds, which is slightly quicker than its petrol-fueled counterpart.
Audi SQ7 TDI
The Volkswagen Group’s latest diesel is its most impressive. The company has been toying with electric superchargers for years, and after installing a pair of them on the new Bugatti Chiron, incorporated one into a diesel engine – along with every other trick in the book – in the Audi SQ7 TDI. The result is a 4.0-liter V8 that kicks out 435 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, coming up shy of the old V12 but outmuscling every other diesel the manufacturer has ever made – including the aforementioned Touareg R50 and Cayenne S Diesel. It features a next-generation 48-volt electrical system to power the supercharger, valvetrain and electromechanical suspension, reaching 62 in just 4.8 seconds… in a diesel SUV! Little wonder that Volkswagen is considering other applications for the trick new engine, including the Bentley Bentayga.
And Then, Of Course, There Are The Racers
The roa and showroom aren’t the only places where the Volkswagen Group has championed diesel propulsion. It has also utterly dominated several forms of racing using its TDI powertrain technology. Best known, of course, is Le Mans, where Audi has won eight times since switching to oil power in 2006. But that’s not all: the VW Race Touareg won the Dakar Rally three years in a row under diesel power, and the World Touring Car Championship two years running with the Seat Leon TDI. We get the feeling that if it were allowed to run a Polo in the World Rally Championship under diesel power, or its RS5 in DTM, it would… and would be that much more tempted to enter Formula One under the same circumstances. Such has been the power of the diesel on both road and track, and we doubt that any scandal will put a permanent end to that.