Diesels don’t usually inspire visions of macho, pavement-scorching acceleration and whisper-quiet cruising, but they can. Most American consumers just don’t know it yet. Exhibit A is the BMW 740d, a big, 4,608-lb. (2,090-kg) sedan with a 3.9L turbodiesel V-8 that generates more torque than Chrysler’s vaunted 5.7L Hemi V-8. The 740d accelerates to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.4 seconds. Stomp on it at 70 mph (113 km/h) and it rockets to triple-digit speeds with locomotive-like force – with ...

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