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On one of my recent business trips I rented two cars that may appear exotic to us – a Citroen and a Saab. I was supposed to get a Renault and an Opel but something go mixed up and I ended up with something else. What worse both had manual gearboxes! So I had to re-learn driving manual cars rather quickly! And in conditions as in the photo!

Citroen C5 is a rather large sedan (similar in size to Honda Accord) equipped with 2.2l diesel engine mated to 6-speed gearbox. I was very surprised how powerful the engine was, or rather how strongly it pulled as it makes only 140 HP. Maybe it had something to do with the 6-speed gearbox, which was really nice. The fuel consumption – 7l/100 kms, which is close to 40mpg. Not bad. The car was quiet, did not feel like diesel. Had many goodies – traction control, proximity sensors etc. The only problem I had was the clutch! I guess after 20 years of driving auto-trannies the clutch pedal was something I had to get used to to …….As there was a winter time (see the picture I took while driving) the car was fitted with winter tires (a law in many European countries now). I was surprised how well they performed. I never had any problems with traction, never lost grip. After this experience I would advise anyone living in the snow belt to change tires for winter. It is really worth it. Just try and then you will see.


The second car, Saab 9-5 3 TDi had 3 litter turbo diesel engine with manual 5-speed tranny. How it compares to the Citroen: I could feel it was a diesel. And I did not like it. However, the engine was pulling really strongly, even when driving 100 mph I did not have any problems with accelerating. The tranny wasn’t as good as Citroen’s. The car however, handled much better. Had more upscale feel and fit and finish were much better. The GPS had a great 7 inch screen with a lots of information. However, the placing of it rendered it almost useless. The screen was located in the central console quite low and the right elbow was blocking view of it. Imagine driving rather quickly and every time you want to have a look at the nav screen you have to take the right hand off the steering wheel! Weird to say the least. The voice prompt did work very well however.

In retrospect I am glad I got these cars as we do not get to see them here on this side of the ocean not to mention driving. So it was interesting experience. Oh, and both cars had better feel, handling and ride than any American car I have rented in the last 6 years. Detroit - you better learn something!!! Otherwise I will stick with foreign cars…..
 

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Diesel technology has come a long way. Horsepower is not a diesel's strong suit. Torque is. I'll bet those diesels made some strong torque numbers. That's what makes it feel like it accelerates so briskly... you're overcoming the moment of inertia more quickly than in a lower-torque gas motor. Ever seen a Ford F250 Duallie Power Stroke (7.3 liter) diesel do a smoky burn-out? I've seen it once. Granted it was a modified truck, but still... doing a smoky burnout in a 7500+ pound truck requires LOTS of torque.

Direct injection diesels have good response. Look at Mercedes' E320 CDI track record. They drove 1 million miles in 3 specially prepared (Euro-Spec) C320 Turbo Diesels averaging 132 mph (I think.) The article was in Road and Track a few months back. If Mercedes or Audi can bring their diesels to America (and aren't outlawed in California like they are now), I would consider buying one.

Bob
 

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Torque is fun. My dad has an 04 Chevy Duramax that I've had the opportunity to drive a bit. It is kinda weird to have a transmission shift at 3700 rpm - but when the torque pulls you back in the seat up to 70 (40 mph speed limit) it is fun. Plus, it gets 22mpg on the highway - not bad for 7K pounds worth of truck.
 
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