-ADVERTISEMENT-

Here at Diesel World, we love the diesel engines for the massive power they provide in our trucks. But diesels also make great car engines, delivering outstanding fuel economy and camel-like range. While diesel cars are still rare in the U.S., government-mandated fuel economy standards mean we’ll be seeing more and more of them hit the market in the next few years. Here’s our guide to the current crop of diesel-powered cars and SUVs.

-Advertisement-
-Advertisement-

Audi A3

Audi A3

Audi’s new A3 is bland to look at but exciting to drive, and the fact that the TDI borrows its 2-liter diesel engine from Volkswagen is fine with us. It’s not the most luxurious of entry-level luxury cars, but it is the only one to offer a diesel.

HIGHS: Great to drive, strong brand image.

LOWS: Dull styling inside and out.

Price range: $33,495 – $45,045

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 150 hp, 236 lb-ft

-ADVERTISEMENT-

31 mpg city/43 mpg highway/36 mpg combined

AUDI A6, A7, A8

AUDI A6, A7, A8

We’ve lumped these three Audis together because we love them all for the same reason: The magnificent 3-liter V-6 engine, which delivers smooth, strong thrust with fuel economy and cruising range far superior to their gas-fueled counterparts. The A6 is a sensible buy and the A8 is opulent, but it’s the fastback A7 that takes our breath away.

HIGHS: Magnificent power, surprising fuel economy.

LOWS: A7 and A8 are expensive, though A6 is attractively priced.

Price range: $59,595 – $120,745

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 240 horsepower, 428 lb-ft

A6/A7: 24 mpg city/38 mpg highway/29 mpg combined

A8: 24 mpg city/36 mpg highway/28 mpg combined

Audi Q5/Q7

Audi Q5/Q7

Audi’s SUVs get the same 3-liter V-6 as the A6, A7 and A8, and the engine does just as good a job despite the Qs’ extra bulk. We’re partial to the smaller Q5, a fleet-of-foot compact with a roomy back seat and lots of cargo space, but if you need a three-row SUV, the Q7 does the job nicely, and both deliver far better fuel economy than gas-powered SUVs.

HIGHS: Luxurious and roomy interiors, great fuel economy.

LOWS: High prices.

Price range: $47,895 – 83,695

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 240 horsepower, 406-428 lb-ft

Q5: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/27 mpg combined

Q7: 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway/22 mpg combined

BMW 328d

BMW 328d

All BMWs are good fun to drive, and the 328d is no exception; 280 lb-ft of torque applied to the rear axle makes for big grins in the curves. The 328d even more frugal than expected—we easily hit the 45 mpg on a long trip—but it’s noisy and compared to other diesels, and the auto-stop feature (which shuts off the engine at stoplights) is annoying.

HIGHS: Big fun to drive, awesome highway mpg.

LOWS: Noisy idle, not as refined as other diesel cars.

Price range: $39,950 – $62,635

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 180 horsepower, 280 lb-ft

Rear-wheel drive: 32 mpg city/45 mpg highway/37 mpg combined

All-wheel drive: 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway/35 mpg combined

BMW 740Ld xDrive

BMW 740Ld xDrive

For 2015, BMW is adding a diesel option to its top-of-the-line 7-Series; as with the Audi A8, it comes exclusively in the long-wheelbase version with all-wheel-drive. Power coming from a version of the 3-liter inline six we last saw in the 335d of 2009.

HIGHS: Like most BMWs, it’s great to drive.

LOWS: Dated—current iteration of the car dates back to 2008.

Price range: $83,450 – $115,000

Engine: 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, 255 horsepower, 413 lb-ft

23 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined

BMW X3 xDrive28d/X5 xDrive35d

BMW X3 xDrive28d/X5 xDrive35d

BMW added a diesel version of the X5 last year, and the X3 follows for 2015; while the X5 uses a straight six, the X3 shares its four-cylinder engine with the 328d, and it beats the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK on fuel economy. We haven’t yet driven it, but given our experience with the diesel 3-series, we think BMW has a winner on its hands.

HIGHS/LOWS: We’re withholding judgment until we drive it.

Price range: $42,950 – $76,100

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 180 hp, 280 lb-ft (X3)/3.0-liter inline six, 255 hp, 413 lb-ft (X5)

X3: 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway/30 mpg combined

X5: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/27 mpg combined

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

The Cruze’s VM engine is an older design, but it has a nifty overboost feature that pumps the output up to 280 lb-ft for short periods of time. That makes the Cruze very quick; unfortunately, it’s loud and vibrates at idle, sins that have been excised from most modern diesels.

HIGHS: Quick and torquey, cool overboost feature.

LOWS: Noisy and unrefined compared to other diesels.

Price range: $26,000 – $32,000 (est.)

Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 151 hp, 264 lb-ft (overboosts to 280)

27 mpg city/46 mpg highway/33 mpg combined

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The latest iteration of the Grand Cherokee is one of Chrysler’s best vehicles, and the 3-liter VM V-6 diesel (as seen in the Ram 1500 pickup) only enhances the experience. Quick, efficient and luxurious, this is one of the best American SUVs on the market.

HIGHS: Great to drive on-road and off, high-class interior.

LOWS: Diesel isn’t available in lower trim levels.

Price range: $41,990 – $61,170

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 240 hp, 240 lb-ft

22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined (4×2)

21 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined (4×4)

Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec

Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec

The E shows why diesel is such a great choice for a big luxury car. Power comes from Mercedes’ new 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel, which provides strong passing power and runs nearly as quietly as a gasoline engine. Best yet, there’s no price premium for the diesel—in fact it’s $500 less expensive than the gas-powered E350.

HIGHS: comfortable and quiet, no up-charge for the diesel.

LOWS: Expensive, especially as you add options.

Price range: $52,325 – $73,885

Engine: 2.1-liter four-cylinder, 195 hp, 369 ft-lb

Rear-wheel drive: 28 mpg city/42 mpg highway/33 mpg combined

All-wheel drive: 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway/31 mpg combined

Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec

Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec

Frankly, we’re a bit surprised that more automakers don’t use diesels to power their full-size SUVs. Mercedes’ GL is the biggest SUV you can buy with diesel power; unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive SUVs on the market.

HIGHS: Quick, quiet and efficient.

LOWS: Pricey, even by Mercedes standards.

Price range: $64,525 – $100,985

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 240 hp, 455 lb-ft

19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined

Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec

Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec

The GLK shares its stout 2.1 liter four-cylinder engine with the E250; it’s quiet and refined and well suited to the heavy loads that SUVs are asked to carry. Unfortunately, the GLK doesn’t offer as much back seat room as competing SUVs, so it’s not particularly practical.

HIGHS: Engine is well suited to the application.

LOWS: Cramped back seat.

Price range: $40,325 – $62,820

Engine: 2.1-liter four-cylinder, 200 hp, 369 lb-ft

24 mpg city/33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined

Mercedes-Benz ML250 Bluetec

Mercedes-Benz ML250 Bluetec

For 2015, the diesel-powered ML is switching from a V-6 to a 2.1-liter four-cylinder. We haven’t driven the ML250 yet, and we’d be skeptical had we not seen how well this engine works in the E-Class sedan.

HIGHS AND LOWS: We won’t know until we drive it.

Price range: $50,725 – $81,585

Engine: 2.1-liter four-cylinder, 200 hp, 369 ft-lb

Fuel economy: TBA

Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Porsche Cayenne Diesel

The Porsche Cayenne shares its Audi-sourced diesel engine—as well as a lot of its mechanical components—with the Volkswagen Touareg. We love the optional air suspension, the one major component missing from the Toaureg, but the truth is that you can get the same basic functionality (and similar performance) from the VW, and for far less money.

HIGHS: Great engine, go-anywhere air suspension.

LOWS: Doesn’t deliver the sports-car performance we expect from Porsche.

Price range: $62,695 – $143,965

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 240 hp, 406 lb-ft

20 mpg city/29 mpg highway/23 mpg combined

Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Volkswagen Beetle TDI

If you’re a regular Diesel World reader, this probably isn’t your cup of tea, but it’s cute, it’s frugal, and it’s a diesel. Oh, and the Beetle Convertible happens to be the only diesel-powered drop-top sold in the USA.

HIGHS: Cute, cuddly and willing to go topless.

LOWS: Build quality isn’t the best.

Price range: $25,615 – $32,215

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 150 hp, 236 lb-ft

Coupe: 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway/24 mpg combined

Convertible: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway/24 mpg combined

Volkswagen Golf TDI

Volkswagen Golf TDI

One of Europe’s most popular family cars, the Golf is all new for 2015 with a nicer interior than past Golfs and the new EA288 version of VW’s 2-liter four-cylinder diesel under the hood. VW now offers the TDI engine in lower trim levels, making this a great entry-level diesel car.

HIGHS: Easy to park, good fun to drive.

LOWS: Build quality remains an unknown quantity.

Price range: $22,815 – $29.915

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 150 hp, 236 lb-ft

Manual: 30 mpg city/45 mpg highway/36 mpg combined

Automatic: 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway/36 mpg combined

Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Volkswagen Jetta TDI

VW’s most popular TDI in America, the Jetta is built to a size between typical compact and mid-size cars. Fuel economy with the new EA288 is fantastic, and you can expect to exceed the EPA estimates; we’ve repeatedly seen 50-plus on highway runs.

HIGHS: Roomy interior, great to drive.

LOWS: Plain Jane dashboard makes for a dreary cabin.

Price range: $22,460 – $28,330

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 150 hp, 236 lb-ft

Manual: 31 mpg city/46 mpg highway/36 mpg combined

Automatic: 31 mpg city/45 mpg highway/36 mpg combined

Volkswagen Passat TDI

Volkswagen Passat TDI

The Passat TDI is one of our favorite family cars. Despite using the same 2.0-liter EA288s engine as smaller VW TDIs, the Passat has plenty of power and can easily return 40 mpg in day-to-day driving, with a 700-plus mile range. Bonus: The Passat is built in America at VW’s new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. DW

HIGHS: Stretch-out back seat, long range, made in USA.

LOWS: Dull exterior styling.

Price range: $27,645 – $34,405

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 150 hp, 236 lb-ft

Manual: 30 mpg city/44 mpg highway/35 mpg combined

Automatic: 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway/34 mpg combined