Trident Iceni Grand Tourer: A diesel-powered sports car from Britain

The words “sporty” and “diesel” don’t usually appear in the same sentence. Diesels are known for powering locomotives, trucks and buses; all extremely non-sporty vehicles. Unless said diesel is in one of Audi’s LeMans racing events, petrolheads aren’t interested. That’s why the Trident Iceni Grand Tourer diesel sports car is such a hard sell.

Named after a Roman-era English tribe, and built by Britain’s Trident Performance Vehicles, the Iceni is a traditional two-seat roadster with a turbodiesel engine. Specifically, it is a 6.6-liter V8 from General Motors that normally powers Chevy Silverado pickup trucks. A sports car with a truck engine? Talk about brains.

It will be a powerful engine though, the Base Iceni Grand Tourer will have 430 horsepower and a colossal 950 pound-feet of torque. Trident will also offer an upgraded model with 650 hp and 1,050 lb-ft. This means that Iceni will not only be powerful, but will also be able to move the planet.

Iceni will also be fast. Trident says it will go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and get pretty close to 200 mph. That’s just 0.3 seconds slower than the Pagani Huayra.

Any true sports car must be fast, but the Iceni Gran Tourer differs from the Italian, German, Japanese and American competition in that it is also frugal. Trident says the Iceni will return 58 mpg on the European cycle and could potentially cover 2,000 miles on a single tank. That’s diesel power.

Like electric motors, diesel engines use most of their power at low speeds. At 70 mph, the Iceni’s engine revs to just 980 rpm, which is lower than the idle speed of some gasoline-powered cars. Since the engine is not working as hard, it uses less fuel.Trident Iceni Grand Tourer side view

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This amazing economy is why small diesel cars are the standard in Europe and why America’s hypermillionaires love their Volkswagen Jetta TDI. However, diesel has several disadvantages.

Making incredible low-end torque means most diesels don’t make a lot of horsepower; they can accelerate quickly, but their top speeds are limited. That’s why almost every diesel comes with a turbocharger: car manufacturers have to give the engines more range. If the Iceni can indeed reach a top speed of nearly 200 mph, the Trident will solve that problem.

Another problem is reliability. It’s very hard to find a transmission that can handle over 900 lb-ft of torque without falling apart. We’ll see how good the Trident was on that front when the first Iceni Gran Tourers hit the road.

Don’t expect to see too many sports cars spewing clouds of diesel exhaust any time soon, though. The Iceni Gran Tourer is made to order and has a price tag of approximately $119,000. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster costs nearly $100,000 more and is 0.2 seconds faster to 60 mph, but doesn’t get 58 mpg.

Trident’s diesel locomotive is scheduled for a public unveiling at Salon Privé in London on September 5. With the Iceni Gran Tourer, Trident set out on two near-impossible goals: to build a high-performance green car and to make diesel cool.

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