Hybrid vs Diesel

My son has just graduated from college and I have promised him my perfectly wonderful 6 y/o RAV4 which I will now need to replace. I am considering moving a bit upscale to a similar small Audi SUV (Q5). For 2014 they offer both hybrid and turbodiesel models which both have more power and better mileage than the standard turbocharged 4 cylinder. The hybrid is quieter and somewhat less expensive than the diesel which has more torque and is less complicated and likely lower maintenance. Mileage should be similar. The question is how to choose?

Where is most of your driving done…Highway or around town??

If highway then get the diesel.

If around town…then get the Hybrid.

If you don’t drive over 25k miles a year…then get the standard 4-cylinder because the cost isn’t worth it.

I’m not sure the diesel is less complicated, or that it would require less maintenance.

Most of us drive in both stop-and-go traffic and highway traffic, but if you are the exception, and drive almost exclusively on limited access highways, the diesel would be a better choice. Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off getting the hybrid.

I highly recomend you consider other makes, especially when considering a hybrid SUV. The Toyota systems have been around long enough to be relatively trouble free. Audi reliability as been inconstant to say the least and when buying really expensive technology, it could cost you a lot dwn the road. The resale value on Audis will give you a big hit too later on. As far as diesel vs hybrid in general, the price of diesel fuel only makes it worthwhile in an SUV if you plan on towing and heavy load use. Hybrid technology will give you generally better service and economy for general medium to light use. Maintenance is a relative issue. The hybrid systems in Toyota are pretty much proven and over all maintenance is less then in a regular car. The Audi, diesel or not, could be an expensive long term proposition. You need to look at long term ratings from CR.

For an Audi I’d go with the diesel over the hybrid, VW/Audi has decades of diesel experience, next to no hybrid experience. But @Whitey is correct, both will be as or more complex than the gas engine. There is no maintenance or longevity benefit to the high-tech diesels now in use.

I’d not get either, not a lot of diesel stations in my area, and the hybrid $$ ($15,000 more than a base gas Q5) isn’t worth it.

@SDF As a professional mechanic, I must advise AGAINST the Audi

IMO any of those Audis will be far more problematic AND more expensive to maintain than the RAV4.

In my area, #2 diesel is NOT readily available, and when it is, it’s comparatively expensive.

TESLA let him drive a beater, and then when he gets his first FT job present him with the car…

In my area, #2 diesel is NOT readily available, and when it is, it's comparatively expensive.

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again…For some reason when gas is in a state of flux…diesel prices are ALWAYS higher. When gas prices stabilize…then diesel prices are the same as mid-grade gas or lower. I have a diesel station right outside my window at work. Less then 4 months ago diesel was selling about 20 cents LESS then high-octane. Now it’s selling for about 30 cents MORE. When gas prices settle…diesel prices will drop to where gas prices. It’s been doing this for years now.

Diesels theoretically require less maintenance then gas motors depending on the vehicle. In a truck that does a lot of towing or plowing, the diesel motor used in these vehicles can stand up to a lot of abuse. But, this isn’t because they are diesels, it is because they are designed to be robust to take advantage if their inherrant advantages. I am really not sure that a diesel in an SUV is necessarily better then then a well made gas motor. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t GM at one time try to offer a diesel option in some of their cars that were poorly designed with little concern for long term reliability. So, just being a diesel does not automatically make it a better motor then a well designed and proven gas motor; nor does it mean it will require less maintenance and repair over it’s lifetime.

According to this article, the early GM Olds diesel actually spurned the passing of lemon laws in some states.

Yep, GM had to replace them. Modern diesels, like the one in the Audi, are extremely complicated in order to meet pollution laws (they require a separate urea injection system, among other things) along with mpg needs, power requirements, and noise limitations. I looked at the diesel under the hood of a Ford pickup, looked like the inside of the space shuttle! Could barely see an engine under all the intercoolers, turbos, and miles of tubing and wiring.

I agree @texases. The potential for a diesel in some uses llike long haul trucks, buses, boats, tractors etc. to be more simple, economical and much more durable then a gas motor for that use is there. But, for cars and SUVs, it is much less so.
That’s why I am sold on diesels, only if you plan on using them to their advantages.

Thanks to all for the helpful comments. Very useful. I have to agree that RAV4 is an outstanding car and the Audi may be somewhat overpriced (although German cars at the moment are actually not dramatically more expensive than similarly configured Japanese models). Unfortunately, the new RAV4 is somewhat underpowered for my purposes, is less comfortable and lacks some of the the most up-to-date safety features and amenities.

Car buying isn’t just about dollars and cents. The Audi has the sort of panache you don’t find in a Toyota, As long as you’re under no illusions about the inherently higher ownership costs, get the Audi. You only live once and you can’t take the $ with you.


Another option is the VW Tiguan, a bit smaller, cheaper, much of the same technology. But not as ‘nice’…

If I was looking at the Q5, I’d also look at the BMW X1 and X3. One can get the X1 in rwd, if that’s of interest…

Highlander Hybrid certainly fills all of your concerns, plus has proven durability.


Here’s something that may or may not matter to you

Audi has much steeper depreciation

But, for cars and SUVs, it is much less so.

I think a diesel is PERFECT for a SUV. Especially if you tow. Nissan makes a diesel Pathfinder that’s sold in Europe and South America. Little less HP, LOT MORE TORQUE…and 50% BETTER gas mileage.

"I think a diesel is perfect for an SUV."
Unfortunately you are making an assumption that all SUVs are made the same…they are not. Your 4Runner on a frame has a higher towing capacity then the car based Audi with a diesel. If you are throwing frame based with car based SUVs in the same pile, you confuse the issue. Generally, there are few car based SUVs that can match a frame built SUV for towing REGARDLESS OF THE MOTOR. Exceptions include the new Jeeps which have heavily reinforced and are rated or rates higher then 7500 lbs. with a gas motor.

A perfect motor for a Highlander, is not a Diesel…it can’t realize the extra torque as the chassis can 't handle it. And, as far as OP is concerned, she is interested in cars(RAVs and Audis) and not trucks. Audi will offer even more diesel options, more for performance and economy then for towing.

In America, the unsubsidized diesel price vs gas, still gives the distinct advantage to highbrids for overall efficiency. I will repeat what I said before. ALL diesels are not automaticaly and magically better then gas motors in any specific car category. It depends on how they are used and where they reside. This is America with car based SUVs seldom used for towing and plowing and having diesel motors are not necessarily preferable in them, especially given the price of diesel compared to 87 octane gasoline.

A perfect motor for a Highlander, is not a Diesel

I think the definition needs to be defined more…because a Highlander is NOT an SUV. It’s a crossover. It’s not built the same as other SUV’s like even the Jeep Cherokee (which is also a unibody construction and could easily handle a diesel engine).

Yes I agree that SOME vehicles may be called SUV’s, but they are not.