It’s a painful memory. But GM hopes it’s about to be put to rest once and for all by the 2014 Chevy Cruze diesel.
For those too young to remember when Ronald Reagan was president and Michael Jackson was king, it was the 1980s that GM last dabbled in diesel passenger cars. Alas, those ’80s-era oil-burners were smoky, smelly and about as reliable as an ex-boyfriend while delivering 0-to-60 performance slower than your last dance on prom night. As a result, a generation of American passenger-car buyers has preferred root-canals to diesels.
Undaunted, GM has entered the fray again with its new 2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel. And this time, the General promises, things will be different.
“This Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel represents a new era in diesel performance for American cars,” said Jens Wartha, GM chief engineer. “We’ve adapted a proven engine from Europe, the world’s diesel capital, and married it with the emissions-reducing technology that was perfected in the United States.”
Wartha refers to Cruze’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel, borrowed from GM’s European Opel brand but reworked for Cruze to meet stricter U.S. emissions standards. Buttoned to a standard six-speed automatic, it makes 148 hp.
That’s less than the 163 hp of its European counterpart due to North American emissions tuning. More importantly, however, in Cruze it grinds out 258 lb.-ft. of torque, which promises satisfying acceleration. At 8.6 seconds to 60 mph, GM figures the Cruze diesel will be quicker than its primary competitor, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, rated at 140 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of grunt.
Both Jetta and, by GM’s estimate, Cruze diesels get a gratifying 42 mpg on the highway.
At our deadline, the national average price for regular gas was $3.75 per gallon – a whopping increase of 45 cents in just a month. Diesel, though still more expensive at $4.16 per gallon on average, is rising much more slowly, shrinking the price gap.
At launch, the Cruze diesel will be offered only in 2LT trim, Cruze’s second-fanciest décor. That, along with inherently costlier diesel technology, results in a price of $25,695. That’s 4 grand more than a gasoline Cruze Eco automatic, itself EPA-rated 39 hwy, and a whopping $7,770 more than a base Cruze LS. However, at only $800 more than a Jetta TDI automatic, the better-equipped Cruze is price-competitive.
Ultimately, of course, it’ll be up to buyers whether this high-mpg diesel’s value equation adds up.
Look for this new Cruze diesel in June.