As I got ready to retire to my hotel room on the last night of my stint on the Audi Mileage Marathon last night, I happened to share the elevator with a young man. He spotted my Audi-provided name tag and asked if I worked for the automaker. I said no, that I write for this here site and, after I explained what we do - I was shocked, just shocked I tell you, that he didn't already know - he said, "oh, I have a Prius." I explained that we were driving some TDIs across the country and he responded, just as the elevator doors were closing, that, "If they ever make a hybrid, I'll buy one."

This, in a nutshell, illustrates Audi's (and VW's and Mercedes and etc.) diesel challenge perfectly. Clean diesel may be here, but does it beat a hybrid in efficiency, cost and eco-level?

Sam made the good point the other day that the economic situation in the U.S. might preclude many people from buying new clean diesels at all these days, but even if we all had the money to buy a car, who's going to opt for a diesel right now? Thanks to my three days on the road, I know that you can drive an A3 with the air conditioning on and go 80 miles per hour up and down mountain roads and still get 42 mpg. And, if you drive a little sensibly, you can get the computer to display 53 or 54 mpg. These numbers are certainly comparable to what you can do in a Prius, but that car offers more interior room and it's got icon status. Of course, an A3, if and when it arrives stateside, won't be as cheap as a Prius. So, for all of the American drivers who want to drive a car that's better for the environment than the one they had before, how does Audi make the case for a car like the A3? Who out there is convinced?

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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