1976 Golf Diesel
Why it is on this list: While it wasn’t the first compact car to be available with a diesel engine (Peugeot got you beat by a decade VW) it is still one of the prime examples why light weight will always be the best method for achieving great fuel economy, being capable of 50+ mpg in real world conditions despite shitty 1970s aerodynamics.
1997 Golf Mk. IV 1.9 TDI
I don’t know about the american perspective on this, but to me the 1.9 Pumpe-Düse is the definitive TDI, especially when in Golf form.
2006 Audi R10 TDI
This car proved that Diesel is not just great for black and white burnouts and getting 45mpg doing it, but can also kick some major ass in top-tier motorsport, picking up where the hugely successful R8 left, winning three consecutive 24 heures du Mans and starting a Diesel winning spree that has only been terminated earlier this year, nine years after it first appeared. And who doesn’t love a 650hp V12 Diesel?
1982 Golf GTD
Introduced in 1982, the GTD added a Turbocharger and GTi go fast bits to the rather pedestrian Golf Diesel, making it effectively the first diesel car with sporting pretentions. It is thus the spiritual great grandfather of the R10.
2008 Audi Q7 V12 TDi
Continuing with the theme of slightly insane Audis, this Behemoth needs no introduction.
1999 Audi Allroad Quattro 2.5 TDI
Because this is the internet, why not tease americans with something they can’t have? Yes, everyone’s favourite unreliable lifted wagon can also be had with the for the most part pretty meh 2.5 TDI. But for that reason alone it isn’t on this list. I have something of an affinity for the sound of diesel engines, and the 2.5 V6 makes one of my favourite idle sounds:
2001 Audi A2 3L TDI (+ 1999 VW Lupo 3L TDI)
A bit of a personal favourite, this one. The A2 was already quite radical for what is essentially a city car with its all aluminium construction and polarizing looks, but the 3L turned the german up to 12. Powered by 1.2L 3cyl TDI engine making a massive 60hp, the 3L and its sister car, the VW Lupo 3L were capable of nearly 80mpg in the right circumstances thanks to extensive adding of lightness, 145/80 R14 bicycle wheels and a still very respectable drag coefficient of just .25 and .29 respectively. Vorsprung durch Technik indeed.
1990 Audi 100 2.5 TDI
Wait what is some random old brown sedan doing on this list? Well it is here because it is the OG TDI. Not the first diesel passenger car to feature direct injection (Fiat got you beat by three years VAG), but who remembers the Croma 1.9 TD i.d. anyway? Audi on the other hand managed to leave an impression, and the TDI technology quickly spread through VAG and would make swirl chamber and precombustion chamber diesel engines seem obsolete in just a number of years. Today all modern diesel engines are of the direct injection type, and it may be in part because of this car’s success.
2002 VW Touareg V10 TDI
The car that once towed a Jumbo Jet. While its 313hp and 550ft-lb are certainly not very impressive today, they sure were back in the day. There is just something about that magic number of cylinders.
2015 VW Passat Variant 2.0 TDI Biturbo 4Motion
That is one name worthy of the BMW stamp of approval. So why is this number one and not the R18 or something similar? Because the R18 is not a Wagon. Isn’t that what you guys like so much? Anyway the car isn’t too awful with 240hp and 370ft-lb going to all four wheels. It may not pass any emissions tests and break down every four weeks but who cares it has got two turbos which is twice as many as necessary but so awesome.
This list is perfect and therefore all your arguments against it are invalid.