Which fuel makes a car faster: diesel or gas?

Many people find that regular gas cars don't come with as much oomph as their diesel counterparts, but does this actually mean that diesel cars are faster? The answer is not as simple as you might think.

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Are diesel cars faster than traditional gas vehicles?

If we were to compare the acceleration of a 150 HP diesel vehicle with a similarly powered gas car, the regular gas car will generally be faster between 0 to 100 km/h. But why does it feel like this isn’t really the case? To get an answer to why diesel feels faster than regular gas cars, we have to understand the torque of each option.

 

What’s torque and why does it matter?

Torque refers to the amount of power that’s given to the engine at any given RPM (revolutions per minute). A non-turbo gas engine will turn many times in quick succession to reach the desired RPM. Alternatively, you can imagine diesel as a slow-and-steady type in terms of torque—it achieves a similar RPM to that of a regular gas car, but it takes a longer period of time to reach it.

Driving at maximum acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, a regular gas car quickly increases its RPM and achieves its optimal traction between 3 to 6,000 RPM. In contrast, a diesel car will generally achieve its optimal traction between 2,000 to 4,000 RPM. This difference proves that diesel vehicles have a wider contact range for creating traction, resulting in power that feels as though it lasts longer, despite not achieving max acceleration as quickly.

For regular drivers, going from 0 to 100 km/h isn’t something you do on your day-to-day. By keeping excessive revs down, you’re able to save gas and money. When the RPMs stay low, the diesel engine outperforms its regular gas competitor, especially when it’s a non-turbo engine.

 

What if my regular gas car is turbocharged?

The situation starts to change slightly when you compare a diesel vehicle to a regular engine with turbo, depending on the car’s tuning level. Turbochargers are capable of getting much more horsepower out of regular engines, even when the RPMs stay low. Despite this, many drivers still find that their turbocharged regular car won’t match the power of their diesel, but more often than not this has more to do with the size of the engine over anything else.

Turbochargers can get more torque out of engines at low RPMs. If you compare a 150 HP turbo gas car with a 150 HP turbo diesel car, the latter will likely still feel faster. This is because regular engines generally have a smaller cylinder capacity at 150 HP when compared to diesel-powered engines. While a modern diesel engine might be a 2.0, a 150 HP turbo gas engine might only be 1.4. The bigger the pistons, the more torque that engine can get at a lower RPM.

 

Diesel vs. gas engines

Diesel engines feel faster because they actually are faster when running at a lower RPM—which is where commuters regularly find themselves. However, as long as your engine isn’t too small or improperly tuned, you can easily get the same level of torque out from a regular gas car if you want.

This doesn’t mean that diesel engines are actually more powerful than regular gas options. That difference specifically comes from the turbocharger (or cylinder capacity) rather than the type of fuel.

The choice between regular gas or diesel ultimately comes down to personal preference. Depending on your own driving habits, one will likely be a more efficient option for you. Kijiji Autos has a wide selection of gas and diesel options to fit your driving needs.

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