Fastest diesel cars
Need to get somewhere quickly without burning too much fuel? These are the fastest diesel cars you can buy new.
While the diesel cars of a few decades ago were the most economical option for high mileage drivers, they were generally slow and noisy to drive. Nowadays, there are several fast diesel cars on sale offering seriously quick performance and decent fuel economy.
We’ve collated our list of the fastest diesel cars to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice performance over fuel economy. Powerful petrol powered cars often come with the compromise of high fuel costs, so a fast diesel is a good option for drivers who want both performance and fuel economy. Besides not usually sounding very interesting, fast diesel engines tick plenty of boxes.
While we focus on the fastest new diesel cars on sale today; you don’t need to buy an expensive executive saloon or SUV to drive a car that’s brisk and good on fuel. The Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf GTD and Skoda Octavia vRS hot hatchbacks all offer powerful diesel engines. For drivers who want something a bit different, cars like the MINI Cooper SD (only available second-hand now) or the Skoda Kodiaq vRS will appeal. Despite having seven seats, the latter hits 0-62mph in seven seconds - faster than the hot hatchbacks mentioned above.
The new BMW 3 Series has done enough to ensure it still sits at the top of the compact executive market, with plenty of space, an array of modern technology and a range of efficient engines - including diesels capable of 60mpg and a plug-in hybrid capable of over 35 miles of range. New for this generation is a range-topping 335bhp M-badged diesel engine, the M340d xDrive. Despite being capable of 44mpg, you can reach 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds, which is only two-tenths of a second slower than the quickest M340i petrol. It’s available in saloon and estate body styles, too, so you can have the performance with a much more versatile boot. Prices start at around £50,000 - almost £20,000 more than an entry-level car - but few models offer such a blend of performance, economy, style and technology.
Hot on the heels of the BMW M340d is the Audi S4, which is one of many Audi S models to eschew petrol power for a punchy diesel engine. The recipe is pretty similar, with the S4 getting a 342bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, an automatic gearbox, quattro four-wheel drive and a choice of saloon or estate bodystyles. The BMW will struggle to pull away from the Audi, which hits 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, while its 37mpg fuel economy figure is still reasonable given the petrol-powered Mercedes-AMG C43 tops out at 29mpg. You get a fantastic interior full of plush materials and connectivity, although the S4 isn’t so good at agile cornering as the BMW, due to a lack of steering feel.
The Mercedes E-Class underwent a mid-life refresh in 2020, with the new car getting eye-catching styling updates, a new steering wheel and more technology. There’s very little difference in quality between the E-Class and the luxurious S-Class, and the E-Class is comfortable and easily capable of racking up the miles. If you want to get places quickly, the E 400 d diesel is a great option: its 4.9-second 0-62mph time is barely slower than the Mercedes-AMG E53 version, but its 42mpg economy figure is so much higher. The E 400 d is much more subtle than the E53, which may appeal to buyers who don’t want something so aggressive. The E 300 de plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, is only a second slower from 0-62mph but manages over 30 miles of electric range.
If you want a higher driving position, the BMW X3 M40d is one of the very fastest diesel SUVs on sale. It shares its 3.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel engine with the 3 Series M340d above, so you get 335bhp, four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. Despite the heavier SUV body, 0-62mph is still dispatched in 4.9 seconds, while fuel economy is pretty good at 43mpg. The X3 has premium appeal, and looks similar to the larger and more expensive BMW X5. It also offers a better drive than the Mercedes GLC or Volvo XC60, and has a plush interior. You can also get the same engine in the BMW 7 Series limousine, and this cracks 0-62mph in five seconds while offering up to 47mpg.
The Audi S6 used to boast a 444bhp V8 petrol engine (a previous generation even got a 5.2-litre V10 petrol engine), but the switch to diesel power means it now shares the same turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel engine as the S4. Acceleration is nearly as rapid as the old petrol engine, with the saloon hitting 0-62mph in five seconds flat and the S6 Avant estate only taking a tenth of a second longer. It’s luxurious inside, with heated, power-adjustable upgraded leather seats, four-zone climate control and the latest screen tech, plus there’s plenty of space and a big boot. It does cost over £10,000 more than the Audi S4, though, while opting for the fully specced S6 Vorsprung trim increases the price by around £18,000 over the standard model.
At the top of the BMW X5 range is the X5 M Competition, with an astonishing 617bhp, a 3.8-second 0-62mph time and a £110,000 price tag. The performance is astronomical, but we think all but the most ardent speed freaks will be served pretty well with the X5 M50d. It has no fewer than four turbos and hits 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, but is £35,000 less expensive than the fire-breathing range-topper. While not impressive in outright terms, its 34mpg fuel economy is far better than the 22mpg maximum of the X5 M. This engine is even available in the vast seven-seat X7, posting similar acceleration and economy stats.
The BMW 5 Series doesn’t get the more powerful ‘40d’ and ‘50d’ engines mentioned in this list, nor a handful of ‘M’ badges, but the 530d shows they’re not necessary here. Its 278bhp is far from the highest power output, but the saloon needs just 5.4 seconds to reach 62mph. Even with xDrive four-wheel drive fitted, fuel economy is excellent at around 50mpg - the highest on this list. The 5 Series is our favourite large saloon, because it’s comfortable, fun-to-drive, refined and very economical. You can have the 530d xDrive engine in both SE and M Sport trim levels, with both featuring sat nav, leather seats and a cruise control system that can preemptively slow down for corners.
The Mercedes C 300 de is the only car on this list that’s a plug-in hybrid, as it’s one of the few PHEVs that mates an electric motor with a diesel engine. Aimed at high-mileage drivers, it pairs the economy of a diesel with a 35-mile electric range. It’s said to manage 217mpg, but more pertinent is the low CO2 output, leading to super-low company-car tax. When the two sources of power combine, the C 300 de produces 302bhp and completes the 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. The weight of the batteries means it doesn’t quite feel like a rocketship, while the electric motor will power the wheels until you press heavily on the accelerator.
Most of our list consists of German cars, but the stylish Maserati Ghibli will appeal if you’re buying with your heart instead of your head. The back cramped rear seats, high price and relatively poor fuel economy won’t be big compromises if you’re taken by the car’s styling. There’s a 345bhp V6 petrol and a 271bhp V6 diesel, and the diesel is best unless you really like visiting your local petrol station. It manages 36mpg compared to the petrol’s 25mpg, and is still pretty quick with a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds. The Ghibli impresses with a stylish interior, while it also has exclusivity on its side.
Buyers often overlook the Jaguar XF for the 5 Series and E-Class, but in the Jag they’ll find a well-appointed, stylish and spacious car that’s worth considering. While there are the usual 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines, buyers looking for pace and economy will like the 3.0-litre diesel. Its performance and economy figures of 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and 43.6mpg are competitive, and it’s near the top of the class for driving fun. You can specify this 296bhp engine in the Jaguar F-Pace SUV, where it offers identical acceleration and fuel economy of 37mpg.