Return to the winter road trips... in a Diesel
With Covid restrictions easing it might be time to remind ourselves how enjoyable a winter road trip can be just as restrictions on diesels begin to grow.
We have almost certainly reached peak diesel. Few manufacturers are leaving anything in their budgets for new diesel technology and any new cars sold with them will likely only get very mild engineering to meet ongoing emissions restrictions until governments decide that they should be banned altogether.
For some, this may be a time to begin a campaign talking about their rights and the restrictions that governments can fairly place on free citizens, but at TheMilesDriven we've decided to have a blast in a diesel along some great roads. Why a diesel, why when there are so many petrol engined smooth operators out there would we pick a diesel, a four-cylinder one at that!
Simple, range, and for long distance cruising along major roads that seem to sprout a new GATSO or overhead 'smart motorway compliance device' every other day there really is little call for much more than a torque laden diesel. A few years ago we set out in a BMW 320D, it was all the car would need for hours of motorway cruising from coast to coast, although it didn't join us for one particularly interesting drive. Instead, a BMW X1, with the same engine and all wheel drive was our steed for the Stockholm to Oslo trip, an interesting experience, not just because of the blinding motorway toll cameras that have lights brighter than the sun to illuminate your car for the brief second as you pass through them, but because after finding our hotel a Norwegian Parking Attendant somehow ticketed us for parking in a side street loading area in less than five minutes of us stopping, it was 9.30pm on December 30th. Possibly our Swedish number plate had caught their eye, but it still baffles me to this day, I didn't see another vehicle move for the few minutes it took to move from the loading area to the hotel's carpark (which needed a room key for entry, thus the initial stop to check-in and get the key.) I can only assume Norwegian Spiderman moonlights as a parking attendant and his spidey sense was tingling harder than seeing a new Aston Martin.
Onto the present and it's a nine-hour journey with the mercury set to rise to a damp 4c by midday. Diesel's aren't the happiest in the cold but they certainly seem to clatter along nicely at motorway speeds down far into the minuses. The other big advantage of a diesel for a long trip is that with several of us in the car, along with a bunch of stuff that I would love to describe as 'gear' but was just bags of clothing, the hills that arrived towards the end were easy to navigate, the low down grunt refusing to let us down and force a downshift, instead holding on and succeeding.
The next morning a blustery rain shower decided to sweep across the stunning landscape around us and there was real joy of seeing nearly half a tank left of fuel meaning there would be no stopping necessary on a sodden forecourt.
Although we weren't particular fans of Diesel engines in passenger cars at TheMilesDriven, their passing is saddening. We certainly won't miss all the ten year old ones with the DPF cut out to blow black smoke into everyone's lunges, but some true engineering marvels came from heavy oil, from the 3.6TDV8 in the Range Rover to the 5.0 V10 diesel wedged in several VW products, and their later tri-turbo fitted into the Q7 and an honourable mention for the BMW 3.0 diesel, which always seemed to give you so much you could forget why you want anymore. The passing of diesel almost makes us feel like the devious yet charismatic villain has finally been slain and the hero himself is now under threat as petrol is already facing a squeeze on development budgets in favour of batteries. The debate for the environment, and which is best to drive goes far beyond this piece, but we'll miss you diesel, words we never thought we'd say.
The road trips though, they will continue, but next time we get a task like we did in Cyprus of getting from Paphos airport in the West, all the way to party centre of Ayia Napa on the East in just a couple of hours, it won't be in a borrowed Mercedes E-Class taxi with a four-cylinder diesel, but the road trips, they'll live on, farewell diesel, farewell.