In 2019, the ‘D’ word strikes fear into Government legislators the world over. Like never before the media, environmentalists and the like are up in arms over diesel cars. Why? After Governments advised us to buy diesel in the 1990s, which we all did. Now, its alleged that diesel is actually terrible for local emissions and emits lots of harmful toxins that are not very nice at all.
This nicely leads us to more words to strike fear, this time though it’s to the car enthusiast with ‘scrappage scheme.’ These words have seen current and future classics seeing out their final days being picked for parts sitting on a disused airfield. As the UK Government one again gears up to offer diesel drivers cash to get out of their old oil burners, a large number if future diesel classics could about to be lost forever. As you should remember that once they’ve gone into scrappage scheme, that’s it, they are gone forever.
These are our picks for the diesel cars that we think will become future classics, so if you own one of them – please take care of it…
Alfa Romeo 159 2.4 JTDM
Add one of the best five-cylinder diesel engines to one of the prettiest cars ever built, and you get the Alfa Romeo 159 2.4 JTDM. A 207 bhp turbocharged five-pot monster diesel that could be had in saloon, or the even more lustful Sportwagon.
The diesel engine in that pretty nose was torque laden making brisk pace with ease. OK, it wasn’t the most efficient engine, but it did make a magnificent five-pot bellowing sound when you pushed it hard. How do I know? Well, I used to own one. Which of course I would buy back in a heartbeat.
VW Phaeton V6 3.0 TDI
The Phaeton was VW’s attempt to make the best car in the world. Ultimately, they didn’t quite manage it – but boy did they come close. It boasted more luxury than any other VW badged car had previously and was ahead if it’s time for the level of tech and comfort on offer, including that you could drive it at 155mph in near silence.
We think the 3.0-litre V6 is the future classic of the range. Why? Well, the V10 was super fragile and rare meaning most are gone already. Yes, a Phaeton can become a total loss due to its electrics. But if you find a working one for £3k-£5k then you will be getting one of the rarest luxury cars for near peanuts.
The E300 makes this list purely for its longevity. Because with normal driving and servicing it is nearly impossible to kill the 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine in that beautiful square edged Germanic body – short of a catastrophic nuclear event
OK, so the 134 bhp on offer wasn’t exactly ground shattering. But the W124 series Mercedes-Benz is still one of the best looking three-pointed stars ever built coming from a time when their cars were massively overengineered with 300k miles being completed with ease.
Land Rover Defender Td5
Of course a Defender had to make this list, and what better diesel powered one than the Td5 version. Under that square bonnet you will find a 122 hp five-cylinder turbo diesel motor, one that the British Army complained could be difficult to work on in the field when it was introduced due to its electronic fuel injection. They needn’t have worried though, as the Td5 Landie proved to be super reliable lasting for hundreds of thousands of miles without issue.
Add to this the Defender Td5’s unique on and off-road modes, and its clever anti-stall system and it could be the most high-tech Land Rover of them all (not really).
Volvo XC70 (215 D5)
You may be wondering why the XC70 is here? Well, for starters it’s a lifted four-wheel drive estate car – meaning its cool. At the front of this off-road capable car is a five-cylinder twin turbo diesel producing 212 bhp as standard. Get a Polestar tuning kit though, and you’d be pushing near 250 bhp with a huge wall of seemingly endless torque.
In standard power trim, the big XC70 could haul itself to 62mph from rest in just 8.3 seconds – making it pretty much a lifted rugged lifted hot hatch with a Volvo badge.
Volkswagen Scirocco GT TDI (170)
After a 16-year absence, the Scirocco finally returned in 2008 with all of the looks packing 168 bhp of torque-laden diesel power. All of this considerable might could propel it from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, with a huge 268lb-ft of torque on tap making it a great real-world drive with plenty of overtaking power.
As the Scirocco was basically a Golf GTD is a far more handsome suit, it was fun to drive as well – perhaps not as sharp as its petrol siblings, but still hot for a diesel. It also got those svelte looks. I mean has there been a better looking car from VW in recent years? I think not.
Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo
The key part of the D3’s name is the Bi-Turbo part that refers to the pair of turbochargers that sit beneath its bonnet. To achieve this lunacy, Alpina borrowed the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel only found in the 123D of the time. They gave it a light fettling to 214 hp and 450Nm of torque producing a car that was better than anything BMW could have built.
The D3 Bi-Turbo put all of this power to good use sprinting from 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds going on to 152mph at the top end. In a slightly embarrassing moment for BMW, Alpina managed to build a car that made more power, better MPG and emitted less CO2 than the equivalent 325d model of the time.
MG ZT CDTi
The MG ZT may have been a Rover 75 in a slightly obnoxiously loud tracksuit, but we think it looks pretty cool all these years later. OK, so the CDTi only made 116 bhp standard with most getting the dealer certified remap upping power to 131 bhp matching the pace of the Audi A4 of the era.
Nearly 15 years after the death of the Rover brand, the MG ZT actually looks cooler than it ever did all those years ago – especially in estate body. And knowing that after this model, there was no more surely makes it worth saving.
Volvo 760 Turbo Diesel
If you think that all Volvos are a bit boring, then think again. As the 760 Turbo Diesel of the mid-1980s sported a turbocharged 2.4-litre straight six under its bonnet, a four-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
OK, so it may only have had 108 bhp on tap, but it comes from the time when Volvos brick shape design was wholly understated and still looks great today. It may not have been the fastest car, but for what it lacked in pace it made it up with a smooth straight six and longevity that put most other cars of the era to shame.
BMW 535D (E60)
Once dubbed “the devil in a blue suit” by a certain Mr J Clarkson of Oxfordshire – the E60 BMW 535d made the diesel car of the mid-2000s a whole lot more interesting. Think twin-turbochargers bolted to a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel motor pushing out 268 bhp interesting.
The 535d also had a formidable 413lb-ft of torque to play with sprinting from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds before hitting 155mph. Yes, the ‘Banglised’ design of the E60 wasn’t popular when it came out, but it has got better looking as it’s aged I think you’ll agree.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 TDCi
What boasts a 197 bhp straight five-cylinder turbocharged engine, six-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel drive? A hot hatch? No, not quite. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak – that’s what…
Somehow skirting around ever tightening regulations, the Ranger Wildtrak is a diesel powered survivor. It may sound like a tractor, but it is a truck that does exactly what it was built for. Hugely capable off-road and good fun to drive on the road. Yes, the mpg readout doesn’t go above 40mpg, but at least it’s being honest.
And if you want one, you can still buy one for the next few months until Ford kill it off – meaning you have a chance to grab a future classic for your collection (or not).
Skoda Fabia vRS
When the Fabia vRS was revealed to the world, a diesel hot hatch was unthinkable. Unless you were Skoda that is, who thought that a diesel hot hatch was the way forward. Unlike the normal diesels of the time, the Fabia vRS earned its hot hatch stripes with 128bhp from its 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel engine sprinting from 0-60mph in just 9.2 seconds.
The hot hatch world owes a debt to the Fabia vRS – as it was the car that possibly convinced a host of carmakers to build hot diesel hatches.
Ford Focus ST
As part of Ford trying to widen the appeal if it’s hot Focus ST, they introduced the 182 bhp diesel model which quickly became a better seller than the more powerful petrol model. What buyers got was all of the hot hatch prowess of the petrol model, with slightly less pace completing the 0-62mph dash in 8.1 seconds going on to a top speed of 135mph.
But when driving one (as I have), it was a bit of a blast and not a compromise in any way at all. With the additional torque making it more useable in the real world and the handling being as equally deft as its petrol powered sibling.
In in the early 2000s, if you wanted a car ‘inspired’ by jet fighters with the ignition key in a funny place – the Saab 9-3 was the car for you. The design of the 9-3 was something unique. Take the ‘swept’ looking headlights and grille, very pretty I’m sure you’ll agree as part of a package that was something different, and not like anything else at the time.
Its 1.9-litre diesel engine pushed out 150 bhp getting from 0-60mph in 9.0 seconds – comparable to its rivals of the era. But just think, you could buy what everyone else buys and be boring, or you could buy a Saab that is a whole lot more interesting.
The Audi A8 may not be first on many classic cars list, but the 4.0-litre V8 TDi is one that should make it. As for all the V10 and W12 variants getting all of the plaudits, the V8 diesel was the sleeper of the range that went unnoticed.
As you’d expect for an eight-cylinder fed by the black pump, torque was considerable with 480lb-ft on tap. Power was equally strong, with 270 bhp available shifting this near two-tonne luxury sitting room on wheels to 62mph in just 6.7 seconds on to a top speed of 155mph.
One thing that Citroen is well known for is the making of cars that are stunning to look at that will then stop working. The C6 was one such example of this practice, by being stunning to look at but only when it worked.
Inside that pretty body is a 2.7-litre V6 engine producing 208 bhp. This took the C6 from 0-62mph in a leisurely 8.9 seconds with the not working part being the complex electrics that were known to fail due to a light gust of wind.
Regardless, even if the C6 is slow and unreliable it deserves its place on this list purely due to the way it looks.
As a thing, the Porsche Cayenne with its 4.2-litre V8 diesel engine seems a bit excessive. As after all, who needs 382 bhp and 627lb-ft of torque in a car usually found ferrying kids to school?
Codswallop. Of course the world needs cars like the Cayenne V8 diesel, as anything that can carry both the kids and the dogs from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds onwards to a top speed of 157 mph is the type of lunacy petrolheads can get onboard with.