Top Five Fastest Diesel Cars in 2016

Five fastest diesel cars in 2016 26 photos
Photo: Image edited by autoevolution
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Whoever said that diesel-engined cars are slow and agricultural didn't know what they were talking about. A brief look through the offerings of carmakers that build high-powered diesel vehicles reveals that you can buy som pretty fast oil-burners for the 2016 model year.
Since cars with diesel engines are more popular in Europe, automakers have made special versions of some of their models exclusively for this market. As expected, it's the premium brands that offer the fastest diesel-engined models on the market, just like they do when it comes to gasoline-powered vehicles. We must admit we were not terribly surprised by the fact that only two (German) brands are present in this top five list of the fastest diesel-engined cars.

Other brands were also expected to be on this list, especially given their other offerings, but none of them could make it into a top five. We must note that these are not the only high-powered diesel-engined vehicles on the market today, but rather the fastest ones available when it comes to acceleration. Unrelated to the Dieselgate scandal, most of them are not available on the US market at the moment, but that may change in the future.

So, without further ado, the two brands that form our top five list for diesel-engined vehicles with the best acceleration times on the market today are Audi and BMW. The two carmakers have a range of high-power diesel engines available in multiple models. Four of the five high-output diesels are 3.0-liter, six-cylinder units. The remaining engine is a 4.2-liter V8 diesel unit, found under the hood of Audi’s A8 4.2 TDI quattro model.

We took the liberty not to include cars with any modifications or aftermarket tuning on the list, including from specialist brands like Alpina.

2016 BMW M550d xDrive: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.7 seconds

BMW M550d xDrive
Photo: BMW
The fastest diesel-engined model on our list is a sedan from BMW, the M550d xDrive. This is the M50 diesel version of the 5 Series and features a 3.0-liter, three-turbo, inline-six engine. The unit has been in the top five units in its category at the Engine of the Year awards, and the power plant provides an impressive 381 HP. The maximum torque produced by this diesel engine is 740 Nm (545.8 lb-ft) of torque, an extraordinary value that’s bound to make your stomach churn during hard acceleration. The maximum torque is available between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, while max power is reached at 4,400 rpm.

This engine version was released in 2012 and can be found in four models in the BMW lineup under the M50d designation. The most powerful six-cylinder diesel engine in the world only comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF and an xDrive four-wheel-drive system. In the M550d xDrive, fuel consumption is rated at 6,2 liters for 100 kilometers (37.9 mpg) in the standard NEDC mixed cycle. If you ever wanted a more modern, more frugal and all-weather alternative to the old BMW M5 (E60), you can't really go wrong with this one.

2016 Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.7 seconds

Audi A8 4\.2 TDI quattro
Photo: Audi
The standard wheelbase version of Audi’s flagship sedan with a powerful diesel is just as fast as the BMW M550d when it comes to accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph). Unlike all the other models on our list, the A8 4.2 TDI features a 4.2-liter V8 diesel engine. This is the only diesel unit found in a production vehicle that delivers more torque and power than BMW’s six-cylinder three-turbo monster.

Specifically, the 4.2-liter V8 unit of the Audi A8 provides 385 HP at 3,750 rpm and 850 Nm (627 lb-ft) of torque between 2,000 and 2,750 rpm. Just like the other models on our list, top speed is electronically governed at 250 km/h (155 mph). Another similarity with the BMW version of the fastest diesel-engined sedan is the fact that this power plant is only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox from ZF.

Furthermore, all-wheel-drive is also standard, albeit at Audi the system is based on an FWD configuration. If anyone is questioning one of the two decisions regarding transmission and all-wheel-drive, we assure you from personal experience that a manual gearbox and/or rear-wheel-drive would spoil the driving experience of these models, especially in the first couple of gears, when the extra torque would transform the rear wheels into smoke. The fuel economy rating for this car in the standard NEDC mixed cycle is of 7.2 liters/100 kilometers (32.7 mpg).

2016 BMW 335d xDrive: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.8 seconds

BMW 335d xDrive
Photo: BMW
The second BMW on our list also features a 3.0-liter, inline six cylinder turbodiesel engine, but it does not have the three-turbo unit featured on the M550d. Instead, the BMW 335d features a pair of turbochargers and is only available with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system. The unit delivers its maximum output of 313 HP at 4,400 rpm, while its maximum torque of 630 Nm (464.7 lb-ft) is provided between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm. Like the high-power diesel units before it, it comes with the ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic gearbox.

This version of the 3 Series accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.8 seconds, making it one of the most affordable high-performance diesels on the market, if not the most affordable. Adding insult to injury, it's the fastest accelerating 3 Series on sale today if you don't take the M3 into account. The less torquey BMW 340i in xDrive guise is slower by 0.1 seconds.

Average fuel consumption in the European mixed cycle is rated at 5.4 liters for 100 kilometers (43.6 mpg), an astounding figure, especially when compared to the performance this model delivers in a straight line. Family men also have the option of a Touring (station wagon) version, but they will need to live with a slightly slower accelerating model. On the other hand, 4.9 seconds from naught to 100 km/h are nothing to be ashamed about, since this acceleration makes it the third quickest diesel car on the planet.

2016 Audi SQ5 TDI Competition: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 5.1 seconds

Audi SQ5 TDI
Photo: Audi
The first and only SUV on our list is the performance-oriented Audi SQ5 TDI Competition. Let us translate that marketing name for you: it is the S version of the Audi Q5 with a 3.0-liter V6 TDI engine. The unit delivers 326 HP between 4,000 and 4,500 rpm, while the maximum torque figure sits at 650 Nm (479.4 lb-ft) between 1,400 and 2,800 rpm. Those two ranges are generous enough to provide breathtaking performance in an SUV, as owners of this model already know.

The fuel economy rating for this model is of 6.6 liters/100 kilometers (35.6 mpg) in the NEDC mixed cycle. Like all the models on our list, it has an electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). As expected, the transmission of this version of the Q5 is an eight-speed automatic of the ZF variety, which delivers power to all four wheels through an FWD-based quattro all-wheel-drive system.

The SQ5 TDI is distinguished from the standard model through aerodynamic elements on the front and rear bumpers, along with dedicated side skirts, special ornaments and larger wheels with a specific quattro design. Another peculiarity is that, until recently, it was the fastest SUV in the Audi lineup, which is no mean feat for an "agricultural" vehicle.

2016 BMW 740d xDrive: 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 5.2 seconds

BMW 740d xDrive
Photo: BMW
The third BMW model on our list is the most powerful diesel version of the 2016 7 Series. The flagship sedan provides a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration time of 5.2 seconds for the 320 HP model with the standard wheelbase body. Its engine is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder unit with two turbochargers and direct injection. Peak output is reached at 4,000 rpm, while the maximum torque of 680 Nm (501,5 lb-ft) is achieved between 1,750 and 2,250 rpm.

If it wasn't obvious by now, the transmission of the BMW 740d xDrive is an eight-speed automatic like the others, linked to the brand’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Believe it or not, fuel economy is rated at 5.3 liters/100 kilometers (44.4 mpg) in the standard NEDC mixed cycle. While slightly slower than its Audi equivalent, the most powerful diesel version of the 7 Series boasts better fuel economy and similar performance with a lower displacement and cylinder count.
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About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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