Audi TDI Rally: We Drive the 2014 Audi A6, A7, Q5 Diesel Models

By Matthew Askari | September 09, 2013
In the U.S., gasoline-powered vehicles reign, but Audi is part of a growing contingent of automakers leading the case for diesel-powered vehicles in America. Diesel cars are expected to account for six to eight percent of the U.S. market by 2015, with that number expected to grow to more than 10 percent by 2025, when automakers are expected to have more fuel efficient fleets under government regulations.
At a recent panel we attended with authorities in the field, Nicole Barranco, the Volkswagen Group's government relations manager, said 24 percent of all VW and Audi models currently sold are diesel vehicles. What makes this figure impressive, according to Barranco, is that diesel does not receive preferential treatment by the government. In Europe and many parts of the world, diesel technology is widely accepted as a valid way to achieve high fuel-efficiency, and is often preferred over traditional gasoline powered cars. But America has favored hybrid technology, often offering incentives, tax credits, and preferential treatment such as HOV lane access in some places. Diesel, by contrast, receives a six-cent federal tax, and buyers are not offered incentives.
Audi, for its part, has been aggressively expanding its diesel lineup, and offering more cars with its TDI turbo-diesel engines. We recently got to sample the 2014 Audi A6 TDI, A7 TDI, and 2014 Audi Q5 TDI crossover.  Aesthetically, the cars are identical, with TDI badges being one obvious exception. But the performance characteristics are different, and you'll go further on a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gas. A lot further. The 2014 Audi A7 comes with a 3.0-liter supercharged engine, one capable of producing 310 hp. The 2014 Audi  A7 TDI also uses a 3.0-liter V-6--this one a turbo-diesel--and achieves 240 hp, but an astonishing amount of low-end power. The result is a car that doesn't necessarily feel as quick as the 3.0T gasoline car, but for the slightly tapered back performance, offers an extra 10 (yes, ten) mpg on the highway, upping mpg figures from 28 to 38 mpg. And the gains are beyond significant in the city, too. The gasoline powered A7 is rated at 18 mpg city, while the A7 TDI achieves a much better 24 mpg city. Those figures also go for the mechanically identical A6 and A6 TDI offered with those same engines.
Diesel engines generally add about a $2,500 premium to the price, sometimes more depending on packaging, but that's still less than the usual $5k premium on most hybrid vehicles. And with respect to crossovers, the 2014 Audi Q5 TDI we drove may have been the greatest beneficiary. The amount of low-end power you get with the turbo-diesel engine makes the Q5 a blast to drive, and is more practical for a crossover than a luxury sport-sedan. And with government regulations demanding ever more efficient fleets, we expect to see more diesels on offer, and an increased presence on the road.