Tremendously popular around the globe — that is, with the exception of the United States — diesel-powered vehicles can offer more efficient means of transportation compared to their more conventional gasoline-powered counterparts. This, however, is changing, as Americans are starting to warm to the idea of diesel cars as a worthy alternative to hybrid systems.
In addition to superior fuel economy, diesel-powered vehicles offer a healthy dose of torque with comparable power to the usual gas engines. Therefore, the added economy comes at little detriment to performance. While larger-displacement diesels have been mainstays in several heavy-duty pickup truck models, the same technology is trickling down to more daily driver oriented cars and is making quite the resurgence inside many luxury vehicles.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) is just getting back into the diesel game after a questionable foray several years ago that wasn’t met with great enthusiasm. Notably, prominent companies such as Ford (NYSE:F) and Toyota (NYSE:TM) have stayed on the sidelines, at least for now. Instead, the two companies — and others — are putting a greater emphasis on their hybrid systems and powertrains for the American market.
Here’s a list of seven manufacturers that offer diesel models that are now — or will be, in the near future — available to American consumers.
Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) is really making a strong push for a grasp of the American diesel market. The company offers two variations of its Jetta model — the sedan and Sportwagen, pictured above — as well as its Golf compact, the larger Passat sedan, and its full-size SUV, the Touareg, all with its TDI diesel powertrain.
The Golf and Jetta are rated for roughly 30 miles per gallon in the city and 42 on the highway — though many have reported mileage well into the 50s if driving conservatively. The Passat, with Environmental Protection Agency ratings similar to the Golf and Jetta, managed to secure a record of 77.9 mpg on a drive through the lower 48 states. As for the Touareg, it can muster 20 mpg in city, and 29 on the highway — not too shabby for a full-size SUV.
New for 2014 — though being released later this year — the Ram (FIATY.PK) 1500 EcoDiesel is the first light-duty pickup to come equipped with a diesel unit, usually reserved for the larger heavy-duty trucks. The block will produce an impressive 420 pound-feet of torque, and although Ram has not yet released official figures, the company is promising “best in class” fuel economy, which is believable, given that Ram already claims the best-in-class rating for its non-diesel V6.
BMW’s upcoming 2014 328 — the diesel variant of its best-selling 3-Series — is expected to get 32 mpg in the city and a rating of 45 miles on the highway, made more impressive by the fact that BMW’s previous diesel 3-Series — the 335d — managed just 27 mpg combined. With the new model, BMW is placing greater emphasis on efficiency, whereas the 335d was more oriented toward performance and designed to take advantage of diesel’s greater torque figures.
Also in the lineup is BMW’s 535d, a larger sedan that boasts 38 mpg on the highway, and the X5 xDrive35d, BMW’s largest SUV, which will return 26 mpg on the highway and around 19 in urban settings.
Mercedes-Benz was not about to be left out of the luxury diesel circuit. It offers four models with its BlueTEC diesel power train: the GL350 large SUV, the GLK250 small SUV, the S350 full-size sedan, and the ML350 midsize SUV.
With the exception of a small, entry-level car like BMW’s 328d, Mercedes has just about covered its most popular bases here in the U.S. The GLK is the most affordable at a base price of $38,200 for the diesel variant. It offers about 24 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway. The ML’s larger size and bigger engine results in lowered efficiency, at 21 and 28 for city and highway, respectively — though that’s a significant improvement over the gasoline ML250′s 17 and 22 miles per gallon.
At the top, the S350 — Mercedes’s largest sedan — will still return 21 and 31, respectively, an impressive feat for a car that weighs almost 5,000 pounds. The GL, Mercedes’s biggest SUV, will return 19 miles in the city and 26 on the open road; if that doesn’t sound like a lot, compare it to the 14 and 19 that the gasoline version was awarded.
After a not-so-pleasant adventure with diesel engines in the 1970s, Chevrolet is giving the oil-burner market another shot with the Cruze Diesel. Mercedes and BMWs are nice and all, but they are often well outside of the average buyer’s price range. The Cruze, in the meantime, starts just shy of $25,000, returns 46 mpg on the highway and about 27 in the city, and offers 264 pound-feet of torque — quite a figure for a car of its stature.
However, where the Cruze runs into some trouble is with its sibling that drives under the Eco badge. The Cruze Eco offers 42 mpg the highway, and it runs on normal gasoline — which, in the states, is still cheaper than diesel fuel. Moreover, the Eco starts at a tad under $20,000 — a full $5,000 less than its diesel sibling.
As Volkswagen’s high-end line of automobiles, most models under Audi’s lineup can be easily traced back to their VW counterparts. While Audi’s initial diesel offerings consisted of the recently discontinued generation of the A3 (based on the VW Golf) and the luxurious Q7 (based off the Touareg), the German firm will be bringing a slew of new TDI diesel models for 2014: the A6, A7, A8, and Q5, as well as the incumbent Q7.
Given that Audis — being the luxury cars that they are — tend to be heavier and possibly more performance oriented, the fuel economy suffers somewhat when compared to their VW counterparts. The A6, which most closely matches the 35 mpg Passat, gets 24 miles in the city, 38 on the highway, and 29 combined. The A7′s figures are expected to be similar.
The Q5, Audi’s small SUV offering, will return 24 miles in the city but just 31 on the highway for 27 combined. The A8, Audi’s flagship sedan, will return 24 mpg city — better than the equivalent Lexus or BMW hybrid, GreenCarReports notes — and 36 miles on the highway, besting the Mercedes S350, which it is intended to compete with directly.
Although Jeep enthusiasts have been getting vocal over their desires to put a diesel unit into the Wrangler, Jeep instead slid the V6 EcoDiesel engine into the Grand Cherokee. The result is an SUV that can supposedly get up to 30 mpg on the highway and a 730 mile range before needing to hit the pump. Thanks to its improved torque, the Jeep can also pull up to 7,400 pounds.
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