James Ruppert: Diesel is still king for the long commute


Volkswagen’s diesel options are a strong bet for extended motorway travel, while the Audi A6 and BMW M Sport Touring also contend

It was good to hear from Craig, who needed a great big barge to get to work and back. His is a pretty serious commute of 90 miles, and although he doesn’t have to be there every day, his annual mileage is a substantial 30,000. The best bit is that he actually wanted my sort of ‘bargey’ motor.

“I’d like a barge that takes the pain out of the commute,” he said. “I currently have a manual Mondeo estate, which is fine but a little noisy – and you notice all the little things with spending so much time in the car. I need a family barge that makes the miles fly by. Plus I need something which can go from service to service without visiting the garage. I would like the car to last at least five years and ideally I want 30-35mpg at motorway speeds.”

What an absolutely wonderful brief, with a solid budget of £20,000- plus. It also leads us shamelessly down the evil path of diesel. But this is what these big old oil-burners were built for, and the Volkswagen Group has most of the contenders here.

I like the Passats, and they do colossal mileages, too. Our £20k budget puts plenty of 2018 2.0 TDI GTs within touching distance. They will still have a new warranty and around 12,000 miles on the clock, so lots of scope to add more. Big dealer groups have them and it will officially do 49mpg overall. Dial out post-Dieselgate prejudice and I still think Craig will get a solid 40mpg.

Obviously there’s the Audi A6, which you can get with a similar 2.0 TDI, but why not consider a V6 TDI? Stretch to £24,000 and you can get a 2014 3.0 TDI Black, which won’t necessarily be black. It will have around 25,000 miles, which again leaves lots of room to add more. Official economy is 39mpg, so it may be more of a challenge to hit 35mpg, but it will be fun trying.

BMW remains the ultimate driving machine and with £20k you’ll get a 2016 530d M Sport Touring with 30,000 miles. Official economy is 43mpg, so I’d like to think that fits the bill. I worry it may not be quiet enough, though, so I’m also thinking Jaguar. I do worry about the reliability, but being a Jag, an XF D V6 3.0 from 2018 with 15,000 miles is around £28,000. There’s that reassuring warranty, too, of course.

That’s only scratched the diesel surface. With £20,000, which is only a loaded hatchback these days, there are some amazing bargey estates you should buy before the only option is a battery SUV. Long live diesel.

What we almost bought this week

Austin Maestro 1.3 LUnmarked, full history and only 46,000 miles, this 1989 F-reg Maestro, priced £3495, is a rare ’80s survivor. As yesteryear’s stars move out of reach, orphans like this are finding fresh followers, especially if they’re in top nick. Elsewhere we found a 1988 Maestro 2.0 EFI described as being in superb condition and with 106,000 miles for £3200.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage – 104,320: We have booked the Porsche with a proper dealer for the recall work. It did take a couple of goes, though. I phoned and the service department was busy. The receptionist had my number and promised a call back. It didn’t come. Sorry to go on about that, but that was rule number one in the old main dealer days. Never mind, I phoned back and booked. I almost booked the MOT there, too, but didn’t fancy the chance of being stranded more than an hour away from home. There could have been a Taycan loan car, though. Maybe next time.

Reader’s ride

Honda Civic: Reader Doug sent me some details about his Honda: “I bought my 2005 Civic 1.6 SE in 2009. It has been extremely reliable and passed its MOT every time since, bar one because of a dodgy bulb. Apart from an annual service I’ve had the front discs and pads replaced. It has 90,000 on the clock now but that VTEC engine still brings a smile to my face. I love the simple knobs and buttons to operate simple functions, and it even has a CD player. My local Honda dealer reckons this model was the best Civic they made.”

Readers’ Questions

Question: Should I drain the remaining fluid in my diesel car’s AdBlue tank before refilling it? John Brown, via email

Answer: It’s not necessary to drain the old fluid since there’s no reason for it to have deteriorated. The risk occurs when the fluid is contaminated, for example during the refilling process. Instead, the important thing is to make sure you don’t run out of AdBlue. This is because cars that require AdBlue will not start with an empty AdBlue tank. If the car is running and the system detects the AdBlue tank has emptied, the ECU will limit the engine’s performance until the AdBlue is replenished. All that said, running an engine with no AdBlue in the tank won’t actually damage it. John Evans

Question: What is the point of digital radio in a car? Scott Temple, Kirkcudbright

Answer: Hark back to the days of FM and then ask the same question. Pops, squeaks, hisses, signal drop-out: all were common when listening to FM radio in a car. In contrast, a digital radio signal is much more robust and only drops out when you enter an especially poor reception area. Digital radio also plays many more stations, and it’s easier to find and select them. One downside of digital is that overall coverage is not quite as good as for FM, although it is improving. Good or bad, though, digital is here to stay, while FM’s time is limited. John Evans


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Source: Autocar Online

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