Where are the Runabout Diesels? Come On! 

OK, it’s time for my annual appeal to the boatbuilding industry: Where are the diesel runabouts? Hello? How can I buy a used one in a couple of years if you won’t build new ones?

I know I’m not the only one getting tired of waiting.

This MerCruiser V6 is based on the proven Volkswagen TDI diesel.

This MerCruiser V6 is based on the proven Volkswagen TDI diesel.

As I’ve pointed out before,  the technology is there to build a decent diesel powertrain for a runabout. It could be shifted digitally with any one of a several drive-by-wire systems and connected to a stern-drive unit that is more than up to the task of handling the torque of a diesel.

Someone needs to stake out a leadership role here and build one. It could be a simple four-cylinder with similar torque figures to gasoline V8s. It could spin a decent size wheel to get cruising speeds into the upper 30-mph range, with top speeds above 40 mph. That would sell. At least I think it would. If a four-cylinder wouldn’t do the trick, how about V6? Cummins-MerCruiser makes one right now based on the awesome Volkswagen diesel out of a Touareg SUV.

Maybe that’s what has me so impatient. All the technology exists and is compatible with the footprint requirements of small runabouts, and even for tow-sports boats. Hasn’t the industry advanced to the point where small diesel powertrains are not only viable, but maybe even preferable?

Let’s take performance out of the equation and substitute something that the marine industry always battles: fuel consumption.

Available in 225-, 230- and 265-hp output levels, all three TDI V6 engines achieve maximum torque at 2,000 rpm. That means you can spin a higher-pitch propeller, and that translates to higher speeds at lower rpm. Fewer rpm means greater fuel economy, something every boater can appreciate.

It might cost a little more up front — as does every diesel engine on the planet — but in terms of performance, fuel economy, and longevity, wouldn’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t you rather fill up once every other boating trip rather than every trip?

Come on, marine industry! Build it. They will come.

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