As automakers search for new ways to meet the government’s 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard by 2025, diesel engines are becoming more common. While once only found under the hood of heavy duty pickups and the occasional German car, diesel engine’s high torque output and great fuel economy make them viable options for many manufacturers looking to boost their CAFE.
Several automakers are planning to add diesel engines to their engine repertoires in the near future. Chrysler recently announced that the 2014 Ram 1500 will be available with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine paired with an eight-speed automatic. The Ram 1500 will be the first half-ton truck available in the United States with a diesel engine. Chrysler says that its diesel half-ton truck will be the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup available, a title that Ram currently holds with its new gasoline V6 engine and eight-speed automatic. At 17/25 mpg city/highway, the Ram 1500 is more efficient than the most fuel efficient powertrains of gas-only trucks like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee will also be available with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel. Chrysler estimates that with this engine, the Grand Cherokee will achieve up to 30 mpg on the highway and have a maximum cruising range in excess of 730 miles per tank. Currently, the most fuel efficient Grand Cherokee achieves an EPA-estimated 17/23 mpg city/highway.
Chevrolet will offer the Cruze with a diesel engine for 2014. In a press release, the automaker says the Cruze diesel will achieve up to 42 mpg on the highway. While that figure is no better than the gas-powered Cruze Eco’s EPA highway estimate, its 258 pound-feet of torque estimate far surpasses that of the gas model’s 148 pound-feet.
Mazda announced at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show that it will offer the redesigned 2014 Mazda6 with a diesel engine. Also at LA, Audi announced that it will soon offer diesel engine options for the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 in the U.S.
While American and Japanese automakers are just getting into the game, German automakers have offered diesel engines in the U.S. for some time. Current models available with diesel power include the Volkswagen Golf, Passat, Jetta, JettaSportWagen, Beetle and Touareg, as well as the Audi A3 and Q7. Other models currently available with diesel engines include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, M-Class and GL-Class, as well as the BMW X5.
Popular Mechanics is pleased with the growing popularity of diesels, but notes that diesel power is not without drawbacks. They note that diesel models often cost more money than their gasoline counterparts, and that diesel fuel also is typically more expensive than gasoline. They say that “making up the purchase- price difference in fuel economy takes tens of thousands of miles.” Still, they point out that you typically also have to pay a premium for a hybrid model, and that long per-tank range makes diesels a good fit for the American driving style.
Shopping for new car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.