Modern diesel engines are worlds apart from those smelly noisy diesels of times passed. Today there is quite a stigma attached to the diesel engine and as aresult many dismiss them.
The diesel engines are now very refined with notable offerings from Peugeot, BMW, Audi and jaguar and these offer petrol matching levels of performance with great fuel economy.
The way a diesel engine works, by detonating the fuel air mix by compressing it. Pressure equals heat and heat equals combustion when it reaches a specific threshold. This causes the fuel to be efficiently burned, much more so than with a conventional petrol engine which is why disels are so economical. As a consequence of this method of combustion diesel burns much more slowly than petrol which is why you do not see the same high rpm ranges. This gives diesels their characteristic flat near linear torque curve.