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Latest Luxury Diesels From Mercedes, Audi, BMW Add Stop-Start Page 3

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2010 Porsche Panamera V6

2010 Porsche Panamera V6

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It's an issue; as in some gasoline vehicles, owners haven’t been altogether happy about the smoothness of start-stop systems. We’ve also noticed a vast difference in the way that these systems work, and noted that they’re perhaps the smoothest in the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne, where the automaker uses a dedicated crank position sensor—allowing them to smartly decide which cylinders to ignite again first.

Definitely some pushback to get overcome

The technology is already entering its second model year for some of BMW’s lineup—and its third for the 3-Series, which made its debut with the current-generation model. And while it’s saved fuel, BMW owners in particular haven’t been entirely in love with it.

After offering it in a number of gasoline models this past year, owners voiced a number of complaints about the system—specifically, that it was too rough and intrusive for a luxury car, and that they couldn’t set the feature to be disabled all the time. BMW last summer then moved to resolve that by allowing dealers to configure vehicles to “last user mode,” which remedies that, but in turn doesn’t save the fuel and emissions promised.

Still struggling to justify it on the mass market

A number of new vehicles are offering the technology at this point (it’s standard on the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu); yet at the same time, several automakers, including Mazda and Kia have backed off on earlier plans to install it. At issue, primarily, is these systems' negligible difference in official EPA ratings—because of the rather unrealistic driving loop that’s used to calculate these numbers.

And in a price-crunched market, product planners often end up choosing features that might be universally well-received, like heated seats or backup cameras, over the less straightforward benefits of stop-start.

Kia, for instance, has officially said several times that it would make its ISG stop-start system widely available in the U.S. (with real-world gains of as much as six percent in U.S.-style driving), but a lack of positive feedback from customers along with the EPA-rating issues has “put the feature back on the table,” as Orth Hedrick, product planning director for Kia Motors America, put it recently.

2014 Kia Soul - First Drive, August 2013

2014 Kia Soul - First Drive, August 2013

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The automaker nevertheless plans to offer the system on its 2014 Kia Soul, as part of a $400 Eco option package that includes low-rolling-resistance tires and alloy wheels—sadly, with the tires perhaps producing a bigger gain on the EPA test than stop-start technology. 

Do you think that engine stop-start is a good idea for diesels? Will it make them more or less attractive against hybrid models? Tell us in your comments below.

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