Is the idea of a diesel-powered car starting to settle in your head? An increasing number of people are feeling the same way, encouraged by the technology’s improved reputation compared with the somewhat unpleasant and unreliable diesel-engined vehicles of the past.
There are more choices, too. You’ve probably already noticed that diesels are becoming more commonplace on American roads and diesel fuel more readily available.
It’s quite a list, but before ownership numbers begin to grow on a large scale, even more affordable mainstream diesel cars will need to join the market. Mercedes-Benz’s general manager of product development, Bart Herring, said that luxury brands will rely on Japanese and American carmakers to help build consumer confidence about diesel in the United States. It’s not just about selling cars—Herring believes (and he’s got plenty of company) that diesel is “one solution for a more sustainable future.”
We’ve already given you our best diesel pitch, but what do you buy once you’ve settled on an oil burner? Here’s a guide to the diesel models that are available in North America (alphabetical by brand for your convenience), plus a few that will be soon. Keep scrolling for a comparison chart at the bottom. (Note: all prices include destination charges.)
Audi currently offers diesel versions of its A3 wagon and Q7 crossover. The A3 TDI wagon starts at $31,145 and makes 30 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway. By way of comparison, the 2013 A3 with a 2.0 TFSI powertrain instead of the 2.0-liter diesel tops out at 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway. The Q7 with a 3.0-liter TDI engine starts at $52,895 and bests its gasoline counterpart’s range by 100 miles.
Audi is just getting started with its TDI models. In early spring, the company will begin selling the A8 L TDI, which will cost $83,395 and deliver 24 mpg city/36 mpg highway, compared with 18/28 mpg from the the six-cylinder A8 L with a 3.0-liter gasoline engine. The tradeoff? The gasoline engine will launch you from 0 to 60 mph almost a full second faster (two seconds faster if you spring for the W-12 engine instead of the six-cylinder). But with 240 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque in the diesel model, you’ll still have plenty of power to smoke the competition off red lights. Audi is also launching TDI incarnations of the A6, A7, and Q5 in the fall of 2013. Pricing and fuel economy haven’t been announced for those models yet.
BMW doesn’t offer quite the complement of diesel vehicles that some of its German competitors manage. In fact, since discontinuing its diesel 3-series for 2012, BMW only offers one diesel for the U.S. market: the X5 xDrive35d crossover. It starts at $57,595 and earns a fuel economy similar to Audi’s Q7: 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Chevrolet’s new Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel was the big news out of this year’s Chicago Auto Show. Chevrolet is bringing a turbo-diesel variant of the Cruze to North America as a 2014 model. General Motors expects the sedan to return 42 mpg on the highway. The Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel will start at $25,695. Admittedly, that highway fuel economy is matched by the Cruze Eco with manual transmission, but the diesel model boasts more horsepower and significantly more torque, with 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to the Eco’s 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet.
Jeep announced in January that it will bring diesel back on the 2014 Grand Cherokee. The redesigned SUV will go on sale in the first quarter of 2013, priced starting at $29,690. With its 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine, Jeep expects the Grand Cherokee to earn 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping number Jeep has released on the car is its expected range: 730 miles. That’s enough to go from New York to Boston, back to New York, and back to Boston again without stopping to fill up. Not too shabby.
When Mazda brings the Skyactiv-D 2.2-liter clean diesel version of its 2014 Mazda 6 sedan to dealer lots in the second half of this year, the company will have the distinction of being the only Japanese automaker to offer a diesel in the United States. Mazda has been mum on expected fuel economy for the 2.2-liter engine but says the Skyactiv-D engine will offer twenty percent better fuel efficiency, plus “smooth and linear response” thanks to its two-stage turbocharger. Pricing is also still unannounced, but the gasoline-engined 2014 Mazda 6 starts at $21,675.
Mercedes-Benz isn’t about to let the Volkswagen Group have all the diesel glory among German automakers. Mercedes-Benz sells diesel variants of its E-, GL-, M-, and S-Class vehicles. The company’s current BlueTec models all use a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. That engine is good for 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway in the E350 BlueTec, 21/31 mpg in the S350 BlueTec, 19/26 mpg in the GL350 BlueTec 4Matic, and 20/28 mpg in the ML350 BlueTec 4Matic. Mercedes-Benz has said it plans to add a four-cylinder diesel engine to the E-Class and GLK-Class lineups. And, in case you’re the kind of person who orders the most expensive thing on the menu just because: the $93,905 S350 BlueTec is the priciest car on this list.
The Cayenne Diesel is Porsche’s only diesel model. With its 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, it makes 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Better news is that Porsche says it has a range of 546 miles between fillups. The Cayenne starts at $56,725, bucking the diesel trend in not being the most expensive model in the Cayenne’s lineup. While the diesel version costs more than the base Cayenne, it sets owners back less than the S, S Hybrid, GTS, Turbo, and Turbo S versions of the SUV.
Ram made waves this month when it announced that it will bring a diesel engine to its half-ton 1500 pickup starting in the third quarter of 2013. This will make Ram the only brand to sell a light-duty pickup with a diesel engine, which makes us wonder if other carmakers might follow suit in the near future.
Volkswagen isn’t shy about its love for diesel. The Volkswagen Automotive Group is responsible for fully half of the light diesel cars sold in the United States, including the only diesel convertible available here. VW offers TDI Clean Diesel versions of the Beetle, Beetle convertible, Golf, Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Passat, and Touareg. Excepting the Touareg, VW’s TDI models all share a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 28 to 30 mpg in the city and 40 to 42 mpg on the highway, depending on the model. Range between fillups for the diesel Beetles is 418 miles; for the Golf and the Jetta, it’s 444 miles; for the Jetta SportWagen, it’s 431; and for the Passat, it’s 566 miles.The Touareg TDI, which makes use of a larger, more powerful engine, makes 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway and offers a range between fillups of 546 miles.
The price for Volkswagen’s TDI is lowest on the Beetle Convertible, where a diesel engine will set buyers back an extra $2,900, and highest for the Jetta sedan, which costs an extra $6,335 with a diesel engine.
Plus, Trucks from U.S. Automakers
In addition to the passenger cars we’ve just listed, there are also several heavy-duty pickup trucks on the market that use diesel power because of its superior towing capabilities. The Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD and 3500 HD, Ford F-150 Super Duty, GMC Sierra HD, and Ram 2500 HD and 3500 HD and 3500, 4500, and 5500 Chassis Cabs all come with diesel engines.
|VEHICLE||STARTING PRICE||CITY/HIGHWAY MILEAGE||RANGE BETWEEN FILLUPS|
|2013 Audi A3
|2013 Audi Q7
|2014 Audi A8L
|2013 BMW X5
|2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel||$25,695||42 hwy (est)||655|
|2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD||$30,545||n/a||n/a|
|2013 Ford Super Duty||$30,580||n/a||n/a|
|2013 GMC Sierra 2500 HD||$30,545||n/a||n/a|
|2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel||$29,790||21/30 (est)||738|
|2014 Mazda 6
|2013 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec||$53,105||22/32||675|
|2013 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec||$93,905||21/31||737|
|2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec||$63,305||19/26||686|
|2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec||$52,175||20/28||688|
|2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel||$56,725||19/29||765|
|2014 Ram 1500 Diesel||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|2013 Ram 3500||$39,215||n/a||n/a|
|2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI||$27,020||31/43||740|
|2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI||$24,290||28/41||594|
|2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI||$28,690||28/41||594|
|2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI||$25,290||30/42||609|
|2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI||$23,785||30/42||609|
|2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI||$26,590||30/42||609|
|2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI||$48,320||20/29||765|