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[en] Highlights: • The effects of pre-injected timing and pre-injected mass were studied in CI engine. • The addition of n-butanol consumed OH free radicals, which delayed the ignition time. • With the increase of n-butanol, the BSFC and MPRR increased, NO_x and soot decreased. • With the advance of pilot injection timing, the BSFC increased, NO_x and soot decreased. • With the increase of pilot injection mass, NO_x increased, soot decreased then increased. - Abstract: The effect of pilot injection timing and pilot injection mass on combustion and emission characteristics under medium exhaust gas recirculation (EGR (25%)) condition were experimentally investigated in high-speed diesel engine. Diesel fuel (B0), two blends of butanol and diesel fuel denoted as B20 (20% butanol and 80% diesel in volume), and B30 (30% butanol and 70% diesel in volume) were tested. The results show that, for all fuels, when advancing the pilot injection timing, the peak value of heat release rate decreases for pre-injection fuel, but increases slightly for the main-injection fuel. Moreover, the in-cylinder pressure peak value reduces with the rise of maximum pressure rise rate (MPRR), while NO_x and soot emissions reduce. Increasing the pilot injection fuel mass, the peak value of heat release rate for pre-injected fuel increases, but for the main-injection, the peak descends, and the in-cylinder pressure peak value and NO_x emissions increase, while soot emission decreases at first and then increases. Blending n-butanol in diesel improves soot emissions. When pilot injection is adopted, the increase of n-butanol ratio causes the MPRR increasing and the crank angle location for 50% cumulative heat release (CA50) advancing, as well as NO_x and soot emissions decreasing. The simulation of the combustion of n-butanol–diesel fuel blends, which was based on the n-heptane–n-butanol–PAH–toluene mixing mechanism, demonstrated that the addition of n-butanol consumed OH free radicals was able to delay the ignition time.