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Dodge Nitro (Jim Frenak/Chrysler)
Dodge Nitro (Jim Frenak/Chrysler)

What Car?

Move from U.K. means he needs to replace trusty diesel Add to ...

Dear Jeremy and Michael,

I am a Canadian expat in the United Kingdom heading back to Canada soon. I have a Dodge Nitro SUV with a 2.8-litre CRD (common rail diesel) engine. Cracking vehicle with a diesel, but an absolute pig with a gas engine.

Here's the thing I don't get. My U.K.-spec Nitro with a diesel is made in the United States and shipped to Britain, so why can't I get the diesel in Canada?

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When we get back to Canada, I'd consider another one if diesel were available there, but wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole in gas.

Any ideas on what I should buy when I get home?

Lester

Vaughan: I know exactly why you like your cracking Nitro diesel so much, Lester. Great fuel economy and lots of power. I drive a cracking Golf diesel around Toronto, up to the cottage, everywhere. No trouble keeping up with traffic and I only fill the cracking tank once a month.

Cato: What you don't get is a government subsidy for driving a fuel-efficient ride.

Buy a hybrid in Canada, and several provincial governments will subsidize it up to $3,000.

Buy an electric car in the U.S., the feds there have a $7,500 income tax refund - and another $5,000 in California.

Buy an EV (electric vehicle) in Ontario and the government has promised a subsidy of up to $10,000.

Buy a Nissan Leaf EV in Portugal or Ireland at the end of this year and you get a €5,000 subsidy - even though the governments in both Portugal and Ireland are broke.

2010 Mercedes-Benz ML350

Vaughan: Cato, as usual, you are making your point with an overwhelming barrage of facts and numbers and verbiage. The effect is numbing, which means whatever you are trying to say is getting lost.

Cato: Facts matter. Content matters.

Vaughan: And so does brevity.

The various subsidies mean governments are in the business of picking winning technologies - and they're putting our money on EVs right now. But what if Lester got a $3,000 government subsidy for driving a biodiesel Nitro? Or one that runs on ethanol?

Cato: He'd need someplace to fill up on biodiesel and ethanol.

Vaughan: True, and essentially none exists now.

But when this coming flood of EVs start arriving in the next 12 months, owners will face issues with plugging-in and charging-up batteries.

That's an infrastructure issue, just like the one facing biodiesel and ethanol.

Cato, as any economist can tell you, these big EV subsidies will distort the market - as is the case with all subsidies. In the end, EVs are unlikely to make a serious dent in overall fuel consumption this decade.

In any case, Lester wants to buy a diesel in Canada to replace his U.K. diesel Nitro. He won't get a subsidy for this, but he will enjoy lots of torque, great range between fill-ups and 25 to 40 per cent better fuel economy than he'd get in a gasoline vehicle of the same size and type.

Cato: But he won't find that Nitro diesel for sale here, even though it's built here. Lester's Nitro does not use low-sulphur diesel fuel and it's not designed to meet California emission standards.

That said, I'll tell you this: I would not buy an SUV of any sort with a traditional gasoline engine. Right now, today, I would only buy an SUV with a diesel engine. And the pickings are slim.

Vaughan: Pricing, Cato. The Nitro sells for about ₤25,000 in the U.K., so if we just do a quick currency conversion, that comes to about $38,000 in Canada.

2010 Volkswagen Touareg 2 TDI

Cato: And as I said, Lester will not find anything like his Nitro diesel in Canada - not at that price.

The closest is Volkswagen's Touareg 2 at $49,300. Then you jump to Mercedes-Benz' ML350 BlueTec. And from there it's up to $62,800 for Audi's Q7 3.0 TDI and BMW's X5 xDrive 35d.

Vaughan: He could downsize to a well-equipped VW Golf TDI wagon at $30,475.

Cato: No four-wheel drive, much lower ride height - not exactly a Nitro replacement, aside from the diesel engine.

The problem here, and this answers one of Lester's first questions, is that the technology required to cut diesel emissions to California standards - regular passenger car standards - is expensive.

Vaughan: And that technology also requires low-sulphur fuel.

Cato: Exactly. But back to the cost of cleaning up diesel. The urea exhaust after-treatments used by BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen (in the Touareg) and Audi are expensive, not to mention the fancy particulate filters and so on.

The extra cost can be built into a premium vehicle far more easily than a mainstream Nitro or something like it. So auto companies don't sell them here - mainstream diesels are for the most part too expensive.

2010 BMW X5

Vaughan: Volkswagen with its Golf and Jetta manage to meet emissions standards at a reasonable price, but their smaller diesel engine does not need the fancier emissions devices.

Cato: And no government in Canada or the U.S. or Europe or anywhere else is subsidizing cleaner diesels, even though the fuel economy gains are tremendous and tailpipe emissions are as clean as any current passenger car.

Vaughan: So Lester, the No. 1 choice for you today seems to be the Touareg 2. It's bigger and more expensive than your Nitro, but it's the only diesel SUV sold in Canada that comes close to matching that cracking Dodge you've been driving in the U.K.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2010 Volkswagen Tourareg 2 TDI Comfortline

2010 Mercedes-Benz' ML350 BlueTec

2010 BMW X5 xDrive 35d

Wheelbase (mm)

2,855

2,915

2,933

Length (mm)

4,754

4,780

4,854

Width (mm)

1,928

1,911

1,933

Height (mm)

1,726

1,815

1,776

Engine

3.0 litre V6 diesel

3.0 litre V6 diesel

3.0 litre V6 diesel

Output (hp)

(torque)

221 hp

406 lb-ft

210 hp

400 lb-ft

265 hp

425 lb-ft

Drive system

All wheel drive

All wheel drive

All wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Seven-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,332

2,255

2,370

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

11.9 city

8.0 city

11.1 city

8.0 highway

10.7 city

7.5 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$49,300

$58,900

$62,800

SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

 

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