But there was also a dark side to Diesel's career, which stood in stark contrast to all the fame and fortune. "There is turmoil inside my head," he would complain repeatedly. "Turmoil which feels very much like lunacy." At the age of forty, he spent three months in a psychiatric hospital, and he never fully recovered from persistent nervous complaints. The other issue that overshadowed his whole life was the endless controversy concerning the validity of his patents. Every modification to the original concept required a legally acknowledged amendment - which was duly fought in court by his opponents, who quickly grew in number and strength.
In terms of traffic, Paris is a zoo. The most feral animals are taxis and buses, but bruised delivery vans driven by iPod junkies come a close third. Everybody parks by ear, most brains are either in neutral or on the phone, and turn signals function only as hazard flashers to double-park for the duration of a café au lait et un croissant. In this crazy environment, the Q7 is about as out of place as a peacock with a permanently spread fan. What helps at the traffic-light grands prix - which usually start even before the lights turn green - are the 738 lb-ft of torque that enable our great white beast to spring forward like the tongue of a chameleon aiming at a hapless insect.
Bienvenue à Paris, where Rudolf Diesel was born in 1858, where he lived in poverty until he was twelve, and where he returned to run Carl von Linde's ice-making factory from 1880 to 1890. Our Audi feels like a baby Kenworth as we maneuver through the narrow streets, passing landmarks like Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, the famous Opéra, and Place Pigalle. Right across the street from Diesel's birthplace at 38 rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, we stumble upon a most modern antithesis to the diesel engine. In a redesignated parking bay, the city has installed one of about fifty bicycle charging racks, where your electric bicycle can be recharged overnight or during business hours. Diesel, who late in life studied biofuel and solar power, would have loved this scene. A few blocks away, he would have no trouble recognizing his parents' leather shop on rue de la Fontaine au Roi, which has been only mildly refurbished since the days when young Rudolf delivered handmade purses, belts, and satchels to customers after school.