Audi plans to charge a premium of more than $2,000 for its three new TDI models, testing luxury buyers' willingness to pay for the fuel economy of a diesel.
The company announced last week that the A6 TDI sedan will start at $58,395; the A7 TDI four-door coupe will start at $67,795; and the Q5 TDI crossover will start at $47,395. All prices include shipping.
All have a six-cylinder 3-liter TDI engine rated at 240 hp and 428 pounds-feet of torque and will cost $2,100 to $2,400 more than a comparable car with a six-cylinder, 3-liter turbocharged gasoline engine.
Audi's approach is different from the one taken by Mercedes-Benz, which often positions its BlueTec diesel engines as entry-level options. In the S and GL classes, for example, diesel models start at $2,000 less than their gasoline-fueled equivalents.
Filip Brabec, product planning manager at Audi of America, said the company may consider a smaller TDI engine in the future.
With this pricing model, he said, Audi is aiming for customers who want to "have their cake and eat it too" -- meaning they will pay for both power and fuel economy.
For such a pricing strategy to work, Audi will need to convince buyers that the 3-liter diesel engine is a step up from its gasoline-fueled cousin, which gets 70 more hp but 103 fewer pounds-feet of torque.
With the TDI engine, the A6 gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined, up from 18, 28 and 22 with the 3-liter gasoline engine.
"We feel the value is higher," Brabec said. "You have very good performance figures, specifically the torque on the diesels, and the fuel economy is very, very convincing."
The launch of the A6 TDI, A7 TDI and Q5 TDI, which Audi unveiled last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will increase Audi's diesel lineup from two models to five.
TDI versions of the Q7 SUV and the stretched-wheelbase A8L sedan already are on sale. Audi will also offer a diesel engine in the A3 sedan that goes on sale next year.