Reader Question: Non DEF Diesels?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Tom asks: I am interested in any used diesel cars / vans produced before DEF or Ad-Blue was required. Is there a certain year before which I should be looking?

My reply: VW was among the last manufacturers to offer diesel-powered passenger cars without DEF (circa 2015 and prior). VW was also pretty much the only manufacturer in recent times – other than luxury manufacturers – to offer diesel-powered variants of any of its offerings.

The good news is VW offered several such, including TDI-powered versions of the Golf and Beetle, Jetta and Passat as well as the Touareg – the latter with a honking V10 diesel that made 553 ft.-lbs. of torque. Last year for that one was 2008 – but that’s only about ten years ago, so finding a decent one with relatively low mileage ought to be not too hard.

Ford and Ram/Dodge also offered diesels without DEF in their 1500 pick-ups until about five years ago, IIRC.

It’s very easy to tell whether any diesel-powered vehicle you’re considering requires DEF. Just pop open the fuel door. If you see a smaller/blue-capped filler adjacent to the main (usually green-topped) fill for the diesel, you know it needs DEF.

People reading this might want to know why one might want to avoid DEF. Two reasons I am aware of. One, it’s an additional expense – and hassle – to top off the DEF tank. Not a big expense – and the topping off is generally only needed a handful of times each year (varies according to your mileage/type of driving you do). But nonetheless. There is also the potential for repair costs associated with the DEF system.

But the big reason, in my view, is that DEF’d diesels deliver disappointing mileage gains relative to the cost of buying in. With trucks, mileage is less a concern than pulling power and long-haul durability, but it’s still aggravating that diesels are becoming less fuel efficient – because of all the fatwas they have to comply with.

My preference – in a car – would be something along the lines of an older Benz 300D with mechanical injection – and without DEF!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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