A recently developed auto-ignition model based on a single transport equation in combination with a reduced kinetic scheme has been validated and tested in combination with a cascade jet and droplet breakup model. The validation has been performed by comparing ignition locations and delays for various thermodynamic conditions with experimental data from a high-pressure combustion cell. Also for medium-size diesel engine applications, predictions of ignition delay are in good agreement with experimental observations.In addition, a new approach to the modeling of the early flame development in diesel engine combustion is introduced. The reaction rate in the transition phase from the premixed to the mixing-controlled combustion mode is determined by means of a sub-grid scale model, which describes the evolution of a turbulent diffusion flame. The model has been tested during the early combustion phase of a medium-size, medium-speed DI diesel engine. This approach leads to a good reproduction of the premixed combustion peak and the transition region from premixed to mixing-controlled combustion as observed in experiments.