D for diesel day

And driving behind five cylinders

BACK IN 1950 David Scott-Moncrieff wrote a test report for us about a car he had tried in Germany, using the title that appears above. That was fitting, because the car that had impressed him was the diesel-engined MercedesBenz 170D. There was much novelty then about a private car with a heavy-oil engine and while our contributor enjoyed his day out, he did find performance rather inferior to that of the petrol 170; top speed, for instance, being just over 62 m.p.h. But this Mercedes was described as notably quiet-running, in contrast to earlier cars with c.i. engines.

This year, just over 29 years later, I went out, for more than one day, in the Volkswagen Golf LD, with its 1,471 c.c. diesel engine. I wanted to confirm all the good reports I had heard about this car. They are all justified. Once it ceases to idle the engine smooths out and sounds like a petrol engine. It will pull away from under 30 m.p.h. and run without knock or vibration at this speed in top gear. Starting from cold calls for about a 10-second wait with the heater control in use and sometimes this particular car was a bit reluctant to fire for a few more seconds. That is no great hardship, especially with such a refined little diesel-unit as this Golf possesses. Acceleration is more than adequate and to all intents and purposes this might be the petrol version of the popular Golf. As to the car itself, bottom gear baulked too easily when wanted for starting but otherwise, what a pleasant little car! It is rather noisy at 70 m.p.h., but no more so than most little motors, and no diesel fumes intrude. It happened that much snow coincided with my D-for-Diesel expeditions, and the way in which the Golf LD forged through snow-drifts and clambered up snow-covered tracks, on its Michelin XZX tyres, was as useful as it was reassuringly impressive. At other times I drove hard but the consumption of DERV stayed above 50 m.p.g. Impressive again! Top speed is at least 20 m.p.h. over that of the aforementioned Mercedes and the Golf has a commodious boxlike 6.6 cu.-ft. boot in its five-door body. They sell them for £4,095, which seems a good proposition to me. Diesel engines have to be tough to resist high compression pressures, so this little one should be long-lived, and its petrol equivalent perhaps even more so.... I know an owner who is very pleased with his LD, which has given no trouble after 12,000 miles, and is doing some 60 m.p.g. in general use and about 46 m.p.g. when booted along flat-out.

The test Golf LD was exchanged for an Audi 100GL 5S, also on Michelin XZX tyres, a very quick and interesting car, which I enjoyed driving. Its makers say they use five cylinders in order to obtain a shorter engine than they could with the equivalent-capacity six-in-line, but there is the added advantage that if you happen to be late for an appointment you can truthfully explain that your car is "only running on five".... I liked many things about this Audi but it hasn't quite the precision of ride and handling of the rear-drive Ford Granada or Opel Senator. A little thermometer appears when you switch-on the ignition, and after you have switched off again hastily, under the impression the engine is over-heating, you discover this means that it is too cool to open right up. There is another little thermometer for over-hot mechanicals. What with seat-cushion heaters, four control stalks, and an Econ gauge, the needle of which spends its time swinging from one end of the dial to the other, incidentally showing a higher reading at idle than in top gear at 45 m.p.h. with one's foot off the throttle, these Audis are quite characterful. The seating is very comfortable, the instruments very clear, the heater easy to understand and effective, although calling for use of the fan for demisting in conditions of high humidity, and things are generally nicely arranged in this Audi, although interior storage apart from useful wells in the front doors, is rather meagre. The gear change is pleasant, the clutch reasonably light, and the test-car had power steering, which increases the price beyond the normal, to £6,674. Fuel consumption was a commendable 25 to 29 m.p.g. I will just sign off with the thought that any design-team that permits the indicators' warning-light to shine almost directly into the driver's eyes every time he signals a change of direction would not appear to have done much test-driving. W.B.