2012 Diesel Cars in USA: Here’s the Lineup

2012 Volkswagan Passat Diesel
2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI courtesy of VW.com

Update: Our 2013 Diesel Cars in the USA article is now available!

In the market for a vehicle and thinking about buying a new diesel car in 2012? It’s an idea worth considering.

From images of long-haul trucking, to nightmares of sitting in the back of a grandparent’s noxious Olds vista cruiser diesel, Americans haven’t shown too much interest in diesel cars in the past. Yet with the economy still in the doldrums, and gas prices rising faster than an express elevator, diesel cars are suddenly getting a lot more attention.

The good news is that many of the world’s manufacturers make great diesel products. The bad news is that lack of domestic demand and tightening budgets mean that few have been certified for sale in the U.S. The EPA has more stringent requirements than Europe does for controlling NOx – Nitric Oxide, the key compound that produces smog. The technology to meet these standards exists, but it’s expensive (to develop, manufacture and certify), which is why many of the diesels you see on the market in the U.S. are at the high end of the price range.

This issue is also the reason why there are so many diesel cars available in other countries that are not available in the United States. Simply put, it’s so expensive to develop a diesel engine that meets US emissions standards that most manufacturers don’t bother. Particularly since diesels have never been a popular engine choice in the US market.

It also doesn’t help that the average price per gallon of diesel in the U.S. (as of June 2011) is 25 cents more than gasoline. However, a diesel’s increased miles per gallon means that it usually comes out ahead on overall savings, thus the new surge in consumer interest. Check out this article for more on the differences between American and European diesel markets.

Nonetheless, there are some excellent diesel alternative cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks for sale in America right now.

Here’s the lineup. We’re still adding photos of these cars as the 2012 photos become available.

Audi Diesels

Audi is a marketing leader when it comes to diesel, despite having a small product offering in showrooms. Recent Superbowl ads, dominance in sports car racing with diesel-engined winners, and several global awards have put Audi TDI Clean Diesel Technology in the forefront of many shoppers minds. Availability is a concern, as evidenced during a recent trip to a local Audi dealer when a dealer informed me earliest delivery would be in 4 months. However a quick search on cars.com and autotrader.com showed there are indeed TDIs available — you just have to be prepared to take a drive to get one.

A3 TDI – The A3 currently for sale will be replaced by an updated model for 2012. Expect the same award-winning handling and performance/economy balance. New will be a fresh interior, bringing the A3 up to date with the latest Audi A8 and A6 designs. The exterior too will be new, and offer for the first time a sedan variant (the current model is offered only as a compact wagon). Fuel economy will likely remain unchanged as Audi has not indicated the current TDI engine will be replaced by a vastly different unit. MSRP of the 2011 A3 TDI is $30,250, and a slight increase in price is likely for the 2012 model. Fuel economy is the A3’s strong suit, and it’s doubtful that the 30 city/42 highway MPG figures will decrease at all.

Q7 TDI – The Q7 will remain unchanged for the 2012 model year. Unlike the much smaller A3, the Q7 is a full-size luxury SUV. The engine up front is bigger, while performance is similar. Fuel economy however drops considerably from its little brother. Car & Driver magazine observed an average of 22 MPG in testing. Prices start at $51,450 for a TDI Q7.

BMW Diesels

BMW is well-known in Europe for their sublime diesel engines, and we’ve been enjoying one of those engines in several models here in the U.S. for the past few years. BMW is planning a replacement of the 3 series for 2012, with no indication if a diesel model will remain available. The rumormill is rife with stories of the 3.0 diesel currently offered making its way into other models, but there has been no confirmation from the manufacturer.

3 Series – What is certain is that BMWs bread-and-butter 335d model is getting replaced for 2012. Expect new styling, new interior design, an optional turbo 4-cylinder gas engine and an 8-speed automatic. What is unclear at this point is whether the 335d engine from last year will continue, or if we will get a new diesel engine, or if the diesel option will be discontinued altogether. A hybrid is also rumored. The current 335d gets 23/36 MPG. Expect the new model to improve upon that figure. MSRP is not available. 

X5 xDrive35d – Refreshed for 2011, the X5 family of SUVs soldiers on with few significant changes for 2012. The well-regarded diesel option remains 19/26 MPG for close to the current MSRP of $51,800. Buyers love the regular X5 for its uncanny mix of road car smoothness and handling, with the high seating position and cargo room of a crossover. The 35d keeps the fuel bills reasonable.

Chevrolet Diesels

Chevy hasn’t made a diesel passenger car in years, but they do offer the GM family Duramax 6.6L V8 turbodiesel in several full-size trucks and vans. Fuel economy is improved slightly from the standard V8 models, but the real draw here is monster torque to haul serious cargo. If your primary focus is hauling and you love the Bowtie brand, look no further. Update: Chevrolet has announced they will release a diesel version of the Cruze in 2013.

Express Cargo & Passenger Van Prices start at $38,000 for the Cargo model, $44,000 for the passenger version. These vans are large, sturdy traditional full-size vans. Minivan shoppers won’t be able to fit these in a typical garage. However, if you own a small business the Express family of vans are a good value for hauling maximum cargo. Mileage figures were not given by Chevrolet.

Silverado 2500/3500 – Pickup trucks for power users, the Silverado 2500 is the smallest truck buyers can get with the optional Duramax diesel. Power is king with this admittedly pricey option (which must be bundled with a heavy-duty Allison automatic transmission) bringing the entry price to $37,800. However 765lbs/ft of twist is enough to haul a 30-foot boat, or yank stumps from the ground. According to Chevy, expect fuel economy improvements of 15% or greater with the Duramax diesel engine. 

Dodge / Ram Diesels

Dodge has recently spun the Ram brand off as a separate entity, encompassing its full range of pickup trucks. The idea was to distinguish Dodge products in the showroom as sporty, powerful cars, while the Ram brand could focus on a full range of truck products.

Ram Pickup 2500/3500 – The Ram 2500 is the starting point for diesel Ram trucks. A 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel engine that hits the pavement with 350hp and 650lbs/ft is optional on the 2500 and standard on the 3500. MPG figures are not given by Ram, but the manufacturer cites a 15% improvement over the standard engine when towing, hauling or traversing challenging terrain. MSRP for a base Ram with the Cummins package is $35,400, but can vary by region.

Ford Diesels

Ford is another player in the diesel pickup market domestically. Overseas, however, buyers of smaller Fords have enjoyed diesel engines for years, including in the Focus and Mondeo mid-size sedan (which is not sold here). Unfortunately, that trend doesn’t look to be changing any time soon, as Ford US has committed to investment in hybrid and electric technology for domestic cars. Nevertheless, these technologies are far too young to replace the big diesel V8s in Ford trucks for the foreseeable future.

Superduty F250/350/450 – Powered by a Ford-designed 6.7L engine marketed as the Powerstroke, the Superduty line of Ford trucks was designed to maintain Ford’s market dominance. Offering buyers the most power and ability in their class, the 400hp and 800lbs/ft of torque neatly wins numbers bragging rights. Ford claims a 20% fuel economy improvement over their previous diesel. Count on stylish interiors, and class-leading options packages. Prices start at $36,550 for a base F250XL with the Powerstroke diesel.

GMC Diesels

What goes for Chevrolet goes for GMC. The GMC brand exists as a truck-only division of GM (much like Ram for Dodge Chrysler), many of which are rebranded Chevrolet products. So the Chevy Express van becomes the Savanna, and the Silverado 2500/3500 are the GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD.

Where GMC pulls ahead is a focus on luxury, offering Denali versions of the Sierra trucks. The focus in the Denali models is interior features, additional sound deadening, exterior styling improvements from the regular models, and standardization of many desirable features and packages. For 2012 the GMC diesel lineup remains unchanged. Prices are similar to comparable Chevy models, while the Denali line with the Duramax diesel starts at $44,000.

Honda Diesels

Part of Honda’s global strategy is to provide engines appropriate to each market. As a result, Honda Europe offers a 2.2L turbo diesel in the Accord, Civic, and CRV. Despite interest from diesel fans stateside, Honda continues to pursue an exclusively hybrid and fuel cell strategy in the United States, and is likely to discontinue diesel development altogether globally.

Hyundai Diesels

With each successive generation, Hyundai’s offerings only get better. In the rest of the world, Hyundai does offer diesel alternatives to gas and hybrids. For the foreseeable future that looks unlikely to change, especially given Hyundai’s introduction of the Sonata Hybrid and several electric concepts at recent domestic auto shows.

Infiniti Diesels

Nissan’s luxury brand has expanded into Europe recently, and now offers a diesel V6 engine for the complete range. There are no plans to bring that engine here.

Jeep Diesels

The Jeep brand has had diesels engines up until recently, when the Liberty and Grand Cherokee models were redesigned. Jeep will not have any diesel models for 2012, but the big industry buzz is on the 2013 introduction of a brand-new diesel engine for the Grand Cherokee. Prices have not yet been released. Jeep is now part of the Fiat empire, so the engine is sourced from VM Motori, another Fiat division. Early tests of the powerplant are promising, showing 20/26 MPG. The Wrangler and Liberty models are available overseas with smaller diesel engines, but Jeep has not confirmed that either will be available in the U.S. by 2013.

Jaguar / Land Rover Diesels

One brand that has had much success in Europe with diesel is Land Rover / Range Rover. That trend continues for 2012 with the new compact Evoque. The U.S. will be getting the new baby Range Rover, but not the European diesel option. The 2.2L diesel introduced with this compact crossover is also going to be available on the Jaguar XF, however there are no plans for a U.S. introduction at this time. The rest of the Land Rover European family continues with a range of efficient, powerful and reliable turbo diesels. Hopefully Land Rover and Range Rover will see fit to offer one of them optionally in the U.S. in the future.

Mazda Diesels

The zoom-zoom brand is slated to introduce the Skyactiv engine family next year. These economical gas engines are tipped to provide diesel-like economy while burning regular gasoline. In the interim, Mazda Europe has developed diesels for all models aside from the RX8 and MX roadster. None of these diesels are for sale in the U.S. now, but there are rumors that a 4-cylinder diesel engine could be hitting our shores in late 2012 — possibly for one of their SUV models.

2012 Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC Diesel
2012 Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC courtesy of mbusa.com

Mercedes Benz Diesels

If any company has kept the glowplugs lit for diesel it has to be Mercedes Benz. They have offered a diesel engine in their domestic lineup for decades. Thankfully, the 2012 Mercedes lineup doesn’t show that changing. The core of their diesel family is the 3.0L V6 BlueTEC engine. This sophisticated powerplant manages to earn its “clean diesel” name from use of AdBlue, an additive that helps reduce NOx emissions. The only downside to the BlueTEC engines is the tank of AdBlue needs replacement every 15,000 miles, and the car will not run if it goes dry (Audi and VW clean diesel engines also require an additive for maintaining their emissions compliance). What might stretch that tank of AdBlue out double or triple the distance is the rumored 2013 introduction of Mercedes’ first diesel hybrid: the E300 BlueTEC Hybrid. Concepts of the powerplant have been shown recently, so it is only a matter of time until it is available for customers to take home.

E350 BlueTEC diesel car – With class-leading dynamics, timeless design and refined engineering the E has been a critical car in the Mercedes Benz lineup. Redesigned in 2011, the 2012 E Class remains unchanged. For $50,900 buyers get 24/34 MPG rating in a true luxury sedan. Sadly the wagon no longer gets the diesel option as most domestic buyers gravitate to the ML and GL SUVs. Acceleration belies the oil burner underhood, getting to 60 mph in quick 6.4 seconds.

ML350 BlueTEC diesel SUV – For $410 less than E350, buyers can choose the ML BlueTEC SUV. For tradeoffs in economy (figures drop to 18/25 MPG) owners get to enjoy all-wheel-drive, a cavernous trunk and a high seating position. MLs drive similarly to the BMW X5 – which is to say car-like and agile. I can personally attest to the exceptional performance of the ML350 diesel, having driven one on the German autobahn. 

GL350 BlueTEC diesel SUV – Lovers of large cars, German luxury and SUVs will find plenty to appreciate in the GL350. Trading a bit of car-like athleticism for massive presence might not be to every buyer’s liking, but seating for seven and a 7500-lb tow capacity might prove to be the hot ticket for buyers willing to part with the $61,000 base MSRP. Fuel economy is class-leading, at 17/21 MPG. 

R350 BlueTEC diesel crossover wagon – For $9,210 less than the GL, Mercedes offers one of the world’s few luxury crossover vans in the R-Class. With seating for 6 or 7, 18/24 MPG and All Wheel Drive, the underrated R350 might be the sweet spot in the Mercedes diesel lineup for buyers who put a premium on space. Contemporary road tests laud the R’s comfortable ride, quiet interior, and sedan-like layout. If you can live with the van shape, then you might find a lot to love here too.

Mini Diesels

Mini offers diesel cars in its complete range in Europe, and has recently introduced for 2012 “S” models in diesel, bringing the fun of the Cooper and Clubman S models to the frugality of the D models. The new for 2011 Countryman crossover is available with a diesel as well. But Mini has not announced any plans to make these diesel models available in the U.S.

Nissan Diesels

Nissan CEO Carlos Gohsn announced back in 2008 that Nissan would be bringing a clean diesel engine to the United States in the 2010 Maxima. With that date come and gone, the future looks uncertain for a return of diesel in domestic Nissans. They are available overseas however, and perhaps the recession only delayed a launch. But with the introduction of the Leaf, and a redesigned Altima Hybrid due next year, Nissan may be banking on electric and hybrid models for the U.S..

Porsche Diesels

The seminal sports car (and now SUV and sedan) brand offers diesel engines in the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan in Europe. And we might just be lucky enough to get them here in the United States. “We are discussing internally if we should introduce the Cayenne diesel in the U.S. this year. Also a Panamera diesel is an option,” Bernhard Maier, the brand’s sales and marketing chief, told Automotive News Europe in February.

Saab Diesels

Saab is still with us, after a tumultuous saga that nearly ended with the brand’s death in 2009. The diesel Saab cars offered overseas will remain just that, as Saab focuses on new products to grow their small lineup.

Smart Diesels

After initial excitement faded, the Smart microcar has struggled to find buyers. Of concern for most would-be buyers is the disappointing fuel economy of the gas-engined version. The diesel Smart Car, available since the brand’s introduction in Europe, returns outstanding mileage. Sadly, there are no current plans to bring that engine to the U.S. for its 2012 redesign.

Subaru Diesels

Subaru is a brand loved by fans of the outdoors and the environment, so it is a shame they have not yet brought the Europe-only green diesel engine available in their Impreza, Legacy, Outback and Forester models to the U.S. The Impreza compact has been redesigned for 2012, so it is possible that the engine may make it here in that car at a later date. For now, Subaru has not confirmed or denied that possibility.

Toyota / Lexus Diesels

Toyota continues to pursue its all-hybrid strategy in the United States, despite offering Toyota diesel cars in Europe. For 2012 the focus is on the new Prius models, so a diesel reveal is unlikely. The Lexus brand offers diesel versions of their IS and forthcoming GS models in Europe but shows no sign of bringing them to the U.S.

Volkswagen Diesels

Volkswagen is the only manufacturer that currently offers affordable diesel cars in the United States. Thankfully, it has made sure to offer a wide range of products to appeal to a variety of buyers. From the compact Golf and Jetta to the luxurious Touareg SUV, VW’s TDI clean diesel range offers the best alternative to hybrids, electrics and compact-engined small cars.

Beetle TDI – The Beetle TDI is expected to arrive in Spring 2012. It will be powered by Volkswagen’s efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine with 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Fuel efficiency is expected to be about 40 mpg highway. The 2012 Beetle has an updated style that has been described as “bolder” and “more masculine.” The price has not yet been announced but is expected to be around $23,000.

Golf TDI – A bestseller and award winner in Europe, VW’s compact Golf hatchback has been the smart buyers diesel choice. The current design Golf dates back to 2010, and has been available in relatively limited supply with the TDI engine. Equipped with either a manual or 6-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission, the Golf TDI is zippy and entertaining with a standard sport suspension and grippy seats. Options do drive the price up rapidly, but a base 2-door Golf TDI starts at a reasonable $23,225 and it delivers 30/42 MPG. 

Jetta TDI – The cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a 140hp VW TDI engine is the Jetta, which starts at $22,995. Redesigned for 2011, the 2012 model will be unchanged. Critics pan a recently downgrade in finish and quality, with a less sophisticated chassis than the Golf TDI. Nevertheless, the Jetta offers excellent value for buyers who put a premium on efficiency.

Jetta Sportwagen TDI – While same in name to the 2011 Jetta, the Sportwagen is crucially similar to the Golf. Being based closer to the Golf means it has a higher quality interior, and more sophisticated rear suspension than the 2011 Jetta. Softer suspension tuning however means this is not one for enthusiasts. Instead, buyers will find a versatile interior with ample cargo space out back. Options like a panoramic glass sunroof and upgraded stereo mean buyers can enjoy taking it easy on the open road. At $24,995 and the same excellent economy of the the Jetta and Golf, buyers will find they’re getting a lot of car for their money.

Passat TDI – VW’s full-size offering was redesigned for 2012, and has been sized and featured more like a full-size family car than ever before. While this may disappoint buyers used to the Audi-on-a-dime Passats of old, it will likely appeal to a wider swath of the population. The 2.0L TDI engine returns here to offer a great mix of mainstream sedan with Germanic efficiency and character. Fuel economy is excellent at an EPA estimated 43 MPG highway. MSRP starts at $25,995 for the sedan-only model, as the wagon variant has been discontinued. 

Touareg V6 TDI Sport SUV – The only Volkswagen to offer a 3.0TDI diesel engine (shared with the Porsche Cayenne diesel, Audi A4 and A6 overseas exclusively) the TDI Touareg is as economical as the compact Tiguan crossover.  For 2011 the Touareg has been redesigned, and offers a sumptuous interior and a refined ride rivaling the best German luxury crossovers on the market. At $47,950 it undercuts their pricetags too. A hybrid Touareg will be new for 2012, but the TDI remains the more economical alternative at both the dealership and the pump. EPA estimates the economy at 19/28 MPG. As ever, your mileage will vary.

Volvo Diesels

Volvo offers diesel cars in the European market, but as of yet has not seen a strong case for certifying one for U.S. sale. By 2013 the V60 wagon is rumored to be introduced with a diesel plug-in hybrid, which should radically blend the best elements of diesels, hybrids and pure electric vehicles. U.S. sales look unlikely at introduction, but expect an evolution of this innovative platform to make it to our shores in the future.

So there you have it, the diesel car, diesel SUV and diesel truck and pick up lineup in the USA for 2012.

Did we leave anything out? Did we make any mistakes?

Leave a comment and let us know!

If you’ve test driven or own any of these cars, please leave your review to help others who are researching. Tell us about your real life gas mileage too.

Did you find this post useful? If so, please like it on Facebook, Stumble it with StumbleUpon, or save it on Delicious or your favorite social bookmarking site. We’d really appreciate it.

About the author: Jonathan Eziquiel-Shriro is an industrial designer specializing in transportation and product design, and an automotive industry pundit with over a decade of blog and magazine experience.

195 thoughts on “2012 Diesel Cars in USA: Here’s the Lineup”

  1. My wife has a diesel VW Sports Wagon. While the milage is good (47mpg) the car has many flaws. First as all VW’s the electrical system is a pain. Also the interior heating and cooling system stinks as does the cruise control controls, the sound system, and the interior finishes. The car has 60,000 miles and is showing signs of falling apart. I am waiting for Subaru to bring a diesel state side so I can get rid of the VW and get the Subaru.

  2. Low to mid-range cost Diesels ($20K-$30K)are not being marketed in the USA because the major players (GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda) all prefer to sell high mark-up gasoline hybrids that have 15+ year dealer-only service requirements attached to them. No one has any interest in marketing a car that sells for 20% less but gets the same or better highway mileage than their flagship hybrids and can be serviced by virtually any garage. There are apparently infra-industry sanctions keeping out everyone else but VW, who seems to be tolerated as long as they don’t get too reliable. Another group not interested in better mileage is “Big Oil”, as an influx of 40-60 MPG affordable vehicles would obviously adversely impact their revenue.

    Strangely enough, every US car maker also offers quite good $20 – $30K diesel cars and trucks in Europe. In the USA we have carefully worded emissions regulations that are providing plausible deniability to importing small diesel vehicles, yet simultaneously manage to ignore Diesel trains, ships, generators, commercial vehicles, and a bewildering variety of $50K to $90K 15 MPG giant pickups, 25 MPG luxury sedans, & 15 MPG SUV’s.

    So to sum up: it is apparently impossible to import a $25K, 35MPG AWD diesel (a Ford KUGA comes to mind) but it is OK to buy a $65K 16MPG Dodge RAM 3500 or 25MPG $80K high end BMW/Mercedes/Audi. Right…

    The Golden Rule states it quite simply: “They that have the gold make the rules.” The only reason we don’t have affordable diesels offered for sale in the USA is that the automakers and oil companies can make better profits from prohibiting access to them. They have the money to hire the right lobbiests, Senators and Representatives to do it for them. It’s just “too bad” for you and me; we’re not even allowed to buy the equipment that would make the average guy more competitive and the USA less dependent on oil imports. The same equipment that is offered for sale to most of the rest of the “free” world right now.

  3. Well, I’ve always been a VW fan and owned 4 VWs. I’ve had a 1998 Passat and a 2008 Passat; both gas-powered turbos, 2-point-slow-Beetle & currently, a 2012 TDI. My favorite: 2012 TDI. The only things I would change on the TDI are giving it better handling tires and removing the d975 diesel requirements so you could run straight on B100 bio-diesel.

  4. The 2012 VW Passat TDI is amazing, especially for the price. Just bought one after years of larger vehicles. Liked the design, but swept away by the roominess in this vehicle. Had hesitated on getting a diesel, but so glad I did. Quiet, responsive, and driving at least 700 miles between fuel stations is great. The car handles very well, little sway, quick steering and good visibility all around. People in the back seat think they are still riding in my “big” sedan of the past. Comfortable seating and just about every gadget and convenience you could ask for — all value priced. For “diesel doubters” don’t hesitate on taking the new Passat TI for a test drive. You may drive out of the dealership leaving your gas powered trade in behind like I did.

  5. Diesel cars are awesome AZ_Utilitarian sad it right. Thank your corrupt government who is being told what to do by industry, not to allowing us to have a wide market of diesel cars here in USA. You can’t even import one if you wanted to because the EPA and US Customs work for the oil companies and car companies to place very difficult hoops to jump through on importing cars from Europe. The consumer is the loser and that’s the way it’s gonna stay. Both parties right and left are happy to see it that way too. How else do you think they get voted in office.

  6. I keep hoping for a better selecation of diesels vehicals. I own a Jeep Liberty diesel, it gets great fuel economy 24/30+ (Keep the rpms under 2000) I have 115,000 miles so I’m praying I can get a replacement in the next 5 or so years.

  7. First, I live in an area where driving an SUV, a crossover, or a pickup/truck best suits the terrain so my daily driver is an ’05 Dodge 2500 diesel pickup. I was surprised by the mileage quote in the article as my truck consistently gets 16-18 in town and 20-22 on the highway (depending on how much I’m hauling around). On occasion, I even get an average of 23 mpg on the highway. No joke! I don’t have any fancy tuning devices or any modifications – just a stock Dodge diesel truck. My mileage goes down a little if I’m towing a boat or a travel trailer, but it still beats a gas engine. I find the Cummins diesel to be a reliable and economical engine and I’ve been very happy with my truck’s performance, creature comforts (I built my truck online and purchased it with all but two of the options available for that year), and durability.

    I have family that lives some distance away and I’ve been considering a smaller diesel vehicle (want a crossover or small SUV) for longer road trips. I hadn’t looked for diesel cars in the past, and my truck was the first diesel I’ve ever owned. I’ve been disappointed with the lack of choices available and I agree with some of the comments expressed by others about why I’m not seeing a good selection of diesel cars on the market. I was really hoping to take a closer look at a Passat TDI Wagon, but there are no new ones being offered and the used ones are so well liked by their owners that it makes them really hard to come by. I did an Autotrader search today and came up with 0 within 500 miles of where I live. My husband and I went to look at Audis and Volkswagens at a couple of dealerships because those are the most readily available in our area. The Audi A3 TDI (with the hatchback) is a great looking crossover and the mileage is superb, but it’s really tight inside and it only had 1 cup holder in the console (in fact my husband and I could only find 1 cup holder in the whole car – which seemed odd). The dealer told us that the A3 is really made for a single person who’s wanting to travel with a friend or two once in awhile. Must be true because once the driver sets their seat where they like it for driving, the leg room in the back was super tight (and I’m only 5’9″). We found the same to be true with the Jetta TDI Sportwagen – along with very narrow, tightly bucketed, front seats that caused my arthritic hip to start aching after a short test drive. In order to get more comfortable seating, you end up shelling out a whole lot more money ($50K+) on a larger vehicle (like some of the Mercedes models and the Audi Q7 TDI) Bigger vehicles mean the mileage shrinks back to 24-26 mpg. If you get the vehicle in AWD, you’ll see those numbers drop even lower. The luxury level beats my truck, but the mileage isn’t much better. 🙁 Unfortunately, Audi doesn’t offer their mid-sized crossover, the Q5, in a diesel. That size vehicle should offer up better mileage stats. And that’s more the size I’m in the market for.

    I LOVE my diesel. I LOVE its dependability, the longevity of a diesel engine vs. a gas engine, the increased mileage benefits, and the option to run bio-diesel. I really want a comfortable, mid-sized, reasonably price, diesel crossover of some kind, but the limited choices in the U.S. market make the shopping process frustrating!!! After reading the article, it’s sounding like I might have better luck if I wait to buy a crossover style vehicle in a year or two from now. I hope so!

  8. A co-worker has a VW diesel and claims to get 44 mpg. However the maintenace on those things is ridiculus (expensive). Also, diesel fuel is now running much higher than gasoline or E85.

  9. I drive a VW Touareg TDI and it is amazing. It is very large and gets amazing gas mileage. I get more than 30 mpg (I am still amazed) per tank. I drive mainly highway miles (between 55&75 mph) and it has no problem. If you are willing to spend the money, look into this car as an option. It is for sure the nicest vehicle I have owned and it’s AWD is awesome for Minnesota winters.

  10. It’s a shame that we don’t get some of the terrific diesels from Europe here in the states. Even companies that make diesels don’t offer their full lines (I’m looking at you, BMW with no X3 or 5-series diesel!).

    Of course, diesel is 15-20% more expensive than regular unleaded in the USA, but it is cheaper than regular unleaded in Europe. Some of this is due to tax regimes, some due to refining ratios, some due to supply and demand. But until we see a critical mass of diesel engines, the price difference will continue to be an issue.

  11. During visits to the UK I have rented a GM 4 seater model which got 60 miles to four litres, a larger Peugeot that had a glass roof, it got 10 miles to the liter, a Ford Mondeo, a roomy midsized car from Hertz which got 10 miles to the liter. It was difficult to tell that these cars were not a gasoline models they were very quiet and responsive. Interestingly they also had a large warning labels on the tank fill tube. Warning that the car required diesel fuel. I always rent a diesel as fuel is currently about $8 for four liters. (Four liters equals one US gallon, give or take) I have always wondered why we could not have these models here.

  12. I think part of what has held diesels back was transmissions. When VW debuted the DSG box, it changed the game. Diesels with their very narrow power bands were always a bit of a chore to drive. I’ve always had a manual, so no big deal, but once I drove a DSG equipped GTI, I never wanted to get away from a clutch faster!! Look at the 1/4 miles times of any well tuned Nissan GTR! They are astounding!! Due primarily in part to it’s transmission. Veyron, same thing. I believe it is the transmission that has unlocked the true potential of diesels. I have always thought hybrids were not going to be the answer, although I marvel at the applications. The problem is NO CAR ON EARTH will ever be efficient as long as it is getting heavier. Hybrids are way too damn heavy. I want more diesels!!! I have not owned a German car yet, but diesel tech will be the reason I jump shit. That I can assure you of.

  13. What is the new 48 MPG Mercedes 2.1L TDI ML250 priced at – $40K to 45K?? The ML350 seems to be pushing $50K. This may be a small first step in the right direction.

  14. How about the news that the euro-designed Ford Kuga is going to be built in Kentucky as a 2012 replacement for the aging Escape? The Kuga has had a nice 2.5L Diesel TDI motor for about 8 years across the pond – maybe they could be browbeat into bringing it here to compete against the ML250? Maybe $35K for an “Amurrican” oil burnin’ car to compete agin’ them pesky German furriners and their dad blamed $40K “M” cars. Since the Kuga TDI seems to get about twice the mileage of the basic Ford F250 powerstroque, how tough could the emissions hurdle REALLY be?

  15. I just finished reading about the Chevrolet minicar they are selling in India, the “Beat”. About 1000cc, 24Km./L (56 MPG), about $11,500 US dollars, holds two people and a couple bags of groceries.
    But according to GM, it’s most assuredly just waaay to tough to build an affordable small diesel car for the USA market…just cain’t hardly be done. But hey, iffen’ y’all gots about $60K we do gots this here shiny new Duramax 15 MPG pickemup truck that you kin drive yoself to your $12/hr job at the Piggly-Wiggly and you’ll be lookin’ just FINE, yesiree bob…
    Other countries get the vehicles they need or request; in the USA hundreds of millions are spent convincing people to spend BILLIONS on high mark-up vehicles that don’t really fit the daily needs of the buyers. And considerable effort is expended on the legal front as well to make sure your own government won’t allow you just get one that does from across the Canadian or Mexican borders. Luckily for us we live in a “free” society, not some carefully controlled Socialist paradise like France, Germany, Spain, England, Italy, etc…where if you so chose you could actually buy an affordable $25K, American branded 45MPG small diesel car instead of a $35K, 45MPG, dealer maintenance only, 600 lbs. of battery-toting hybrid.

  16. All USA diesel lovers can do is keep letting local dealers and emailing the car companies direct that you wanted to buy their products but then found out you chose not to sell the diesel version that is offered in Europe…maybe they will get the message!!

  17. I’ve thought for awhile that the US really needs to start offering more Diesel powered cars. Ones that use BioFuel that is. I don’t see myself using BioFuels, but it would be nice to have as an option. Especially with the research going on with Algae and other techs, even if they are really 10 years down the road to mainstream usage. However I think all diesels that are made should only be made to work with 100% BioFuels. Like someone else said, I think the transmission will also be a key player.

    Even if diesel is 20% more expensive and you get 20% better gas mileage then the oil companies should make the same amount of money. Roy: ” Some of this is due to tax regimes..” I didn’t know that diesel was taxed differently.
    I also agree that battery powered hybrids are cool, but then you increase the weight so much more. Let alone all it takes to make a battery. I think the net effect of batteries do more harm than good, with “current” technology of course. I also think the “current” technology on ethanol is a joke. Of course you have to start somewhere though, I just wish they’d include all the subsidies they get for most of these environmentally “friendly ?” options.

    I hope that Subaru will offer their European diesel within one to two years max. I think that’s when my mom will be getting a new Subaru and I’d like her to have diesel as an option at least.

    I’m not an environmentalist at all, but I think we need to look at __common sense solutions__. Well I recycle and try use White Vinigar for cleaning things. I also think 80% of Global Warming is hype. Do they add new temperature stations or locations each year? If it’s not constant then they need to use temperature from this period (ie. 2009B results) were this…. Sorry of topic.

    With people in China, India and other countries getting better standards of living, ie. consume more and you can NOT blame them for trying to better their lives. We do need to offer more alternatives here in the US. In 10-20 years with more diesels hopefully on the road (biodiesel capable), more people will at least have an option to choose BioFuels if petroleum goes way up or there is major war in the middle east or a big terrorist attack on the shipping lanes where the big oil tankers go.

  18. I am looking at getting a new car in the next year or two, and I wanted to get a diesel because both me and my partner want to get good gas mileage to cut expenses. What spurred me to believe diesel was the best option? Top Gear’s special about diesel cars, and the cars they drove all got about 60-80mpg!

    You see this and can not help but agree that the political environment in the US revolves around absurd procedures.

    Besides agreeing with most everyone here, I saw a commercial for a 75mpg VW diesel coming on the market in the US. Has anyone seen any evidence when this’ll be released, or, god help me, if it will not?

  19. I just spent 2 weeks driving a rented Ford Focus diesel in Europe. What a great little car! No problem running at 150 kph with good accelleration and incredible fuel economy. I wish I could buy one in the US

  20. Great article. I’ve watched top gear for years and am always struck by how well the small diesel cars do over in Europe and how we have none of them. The VW’s seem great, but not everyone is a fan of VW (my wife for example). Would be great to see more engine options in North America. Thanks for compiling this list – cheers.

  21. Volkswagon’s Amarok which I believe is built in Argentina would be an awesome addition to their diesel lineup. An incredibly handsome small 4 door truck.

  22. I am afraid that AZ_Utilitarian has hit the nail on the head. No good reason for the dearth of nice small diesels in the US, other than collusion among lawmakers (I won’t call them public servants) and the major auto powers. I’ve been nothing but tantalized by the diesel vehicles available outside of the US. They keep getting announced, displayed and pulled away like Lucy and the football whenever you try to buy one. Has anyone had sucess buying overseas and then bringing their little diesel gem back to the US as a used car? if so, please share!!

  23. Thanks for the vote, Mr. Widgren. The only way I know of getting a useful diesel vehicle at present is to have DieselToyz convert your Toyota Pickup, Tacoma, 4Runner, Tundra, Landcruiser, FJ Cruiser, Yaris or Scion xA to use one of many current production Toyota diesels. They also offer this service for Jeep Wrangler owners. Turn-key conversions run from $16K to $25K. Since Toyota trucks are kinda immortal, and you would probably end up paying at least double this amount for a new Toyota factory diesel-powered truck IF it was available, I think it’s a pretty good deal. As for myself I’m putting all my extra pesos away in anticipation of a new Prius-stomping 60MPG D-4D heart for my trusty Scion xA.

  24. I pulled up this article because I expected to find “diesel cars in the U.S.A.”. Stupid me! Instead I found diesel cars in the world, and diesel trucks and cars in the U.S.A. I suppose this makes a longer article, but bears little truth in the title. We all know you can buy diesel trucks here, and great diesel cars in Europe. What I was interested in learning was what diesel cars I could buy in the U.S.A.

  25. My experience with diesels is only my current vehicle, a 2006 Jetta TDI. This is the older, dirtier 1.9-liter diesel. I know some people make exaggerated claims on fuel economy, but I’ve been carefully measuring mine since inception, and I even subtract a possible trip meter error by multiplying my results times .96 (accounting for up to a 4% trip meter error). When the car was very new, I averaged 40-41 mpg, but after just a few thousands miles, the mpg began to climb. I now average about 45.5 in very cold weather, and 46.5 the rest of the time. I drive conservatively on the highway (about 60 on state highways and 65 on interstates), which I’m sure boosts my numbers, however, these are not 100% highway miles. These are tank fill up to tank fill up miles, which includes cold starts and about 15% city driving. My actual highway miles would fall somewhere between 48-49, but the EPA claims only 38 mpg (under the new system).

    That is a huge gap in reality and I wonder how many other diesels are as underrated as my older TDI. One has to wonder how the EPAs mpg system is politically skewed. For example, I challenge anyone to take one of these full-size pickups on a highway trip and get anything near the claimed 20-22 mpg. As usual, the small vehicles are underrated and the large vehicles are overrated with respect to mpg. It appears as though small diesel vehicles are even more underrated than their gas-powered cousins.

    Looks like Mazda diesels may becoming to the U.S. in addition to the Chevy Cruise. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1064599_mazda-next-gen-sky-d-diesel-cleaner-than-vw-tdi

  26. Ray. Diesel cars available in the U.S.:

    VW Jetta TDI
    VW Jetta Sportwagon TDI
    VW Golf TDI
    VW Passat TDI
    Audi A3 TDI
    All listed above have the same power trains (2.0-liter 4 cylinder) the only four cylinder diesel on the U.S. market at this time. They all can be mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Jetta TDI is the lowest priced diesel available in the U.S. at about $23K before destination charges. The Passat TDI has the highest rated highway mpg @ 43. The other variants are rated @ 42 mpg. If you shop, you will see that the Passat TDI beats its’ hybrid competition with respect to highway mpg, making it the highest rated, true mid-size car with respect to highway fuel economy.

    VW Touareg TDI with a 3.0 V6
    Audi Q7 TDI with a 3.0 V6

    Mercedes E350 BlueTec
    GL350 BlueTec
    R350 BlueTec
    ML350 BlueTec
    All MB are a 3.0 V6 Available only with an automatic tranny.

    BMW 335d
    BMW X5 qdrive 35d
    Both BMWs have a 3.0-liter Inline six diesel. Available only with an automatic tranny.

    That’s it. There are only four engines from three manufacturers not counting heavy-duty pickups and vans. VW/Audi has a four cylinder and a six cylinder. BMW has a six cylinder and MB has a six cylinder. There are rumors that MB will soon offer a 2.2-liter four cylinder and that Mahindra will offer a 2.2 four cylinder, mid-size pickup. Mazda has announced a Sky-D, 2.2-liter and GM has announced a diesel variant for the Cruise, both for 2013, however, similar announcements have been made by manufacturers in the past and very few ever make it to market. It’s extremely hard to get a diesel certified for emissions in the U.S. and the cost to do so is prohibitive.

  27. Missed one diesel car available if your inclined to go full luxury and spend $92,550. Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec 4-matic. This more luxurious, higher-end Mercedes incorporates the same diesel set up in the much-more-affordable E350 BlueTec. MB offers this same car with a standard, gas engine; a hybrid; and a few performance-enhanced versions, the diesel (bluetec) version blows away the hybrid and other variants in fuel economy and is just about $800 more than the standard, gas version. The performance versions are much, much more pricey than the diesel. The S65 AMG version, for example, gives you over 600 horsepower for a measely $211,000.

  28. I’m almost inclined to believe that the EPA handcrafts the regulations to keep Diesels out of North America, and as a supporter of Diesels, i found this disappointing.

    Diesels are so much more improved than Gas engines. Also, because their low end torque arrives in low revs, you burn less diesel while still getting thrown forward standing still, which is advantageous in day to day traffic lights driving.

    What i still can’t figure out is why didn’t anyone build a Diesel+Electric Hybrid yet… It would even surpass the Prius in fuel consumption if achieved i reckon.

    If there was that option of Diesels here in North America, i would have jumped on owning a MB C350 CDI.

  29. I owned The VW TDI. And had to dump it – literally – as others in small owners group. The problem was that despite more patches on a shirt than Patton, the dealer mechanics are outright incompetent – even ruining the engines and transmissions in the TDIs. In europe the mechanics have experience, here they are dangerous. Unless you can get your TDI serviced in Europe, avoid VW diesel like the plague.

  30. You missed Mercedes Sprinter. I drive an older 118 station wagon. 8 seats, towing, at 30 mpg. And handling is amazing with optional swaybars. Mercedes isn’t importing the smallest sprinter station wagons.

  31. Man … only in America .. we can’t get Diesels the Fiat D or Mini D a horror repair record… on the Gas… why not?… maybe new jersey wants to outlaw them … or people are getting smart and filling up with heating fuel oil … not to pay the greedy thugs controlled by the feds in our cesspool of a DC. go figure only in AMerica. this is not the land of diesels or the land of the free… it is the land of pay me now .. and we may let you bring it over if it sucks on Gas Mileage… IMPEACH NOW!

  32. Its just disturbing how dumn US car makers are. I fail to see the attraction to a battery powered acid leaching death box hybrid that cant compete with the Jetta TDI and god forbid the VW POLO…

  33. @#*&^% USA automakers wont give us their small diesels because they make too money soaking us with engine technology that is 40 years OLD !!
    THE FIX IS IN and always has been. I suggest anyone with the mechanical knowhow to get their hands on a TDI engine and do the conversion themselves. I would LOVE a Ford Ranger type with a 4 banger diesel 157 LB torque (WHICH IS SOLD AROUND THE WORLD ! BUT NOT THE USA), but will they sell it here ? HA ! Even FIAT has the DOBLO which gets fabulous milage and great towing cap , but can you get it here through Chrysler ? NO !

  34. Buy your 1or 2 year old diesel car in europe or latin america and get it to Mexico and drive it across. I know a few who did that

  35. Bravo “KODA” for the expression “battery powered acid leaching death box hybrid “; priceless!

    The Toyota/Scion iQ is here finally, albeit in a somewhat hamstrung form. The brilliant, well received Euro gasser versions get 45-55+ MPG US, and the lovely D-4D is offered as a 50MPG torquey option too. We USA zeks get a $16K spaghetti suspended 37MPG CVT slushbox droner.

    Fortunately Toyota has an alternative to the US spec iQ; the 2012 Prius “C” (compact??). Starting at a mere $19K and weighing only 800 pounds more than the iQ, it gets about 45MPG on the highway. Almost as good as the Euro-spec iQ, and for only $3K more. How lucky izzat? And who really wants to corner quickly anyway. Those Prius “C” batteries are, as Buick claimed in th ’60’s, just “Road hugging weight”. Right?

  36. @Sam–one of the reasons you don’t see diesel-electric hybrids is that initial starting of a diesel engine is tougher on a diesel than gas engines. Hybrids do much more frequent starts compared to a gasoline or diesel-only power plant so your diesel engine life would be much shorter than expected (probably even more frequent change-out than the battery).

  37. Re: Dave’s reply to @Sam:

    Well….VW seems to have little enough issue with the “stop-the-engine-at-the-stoplight” game. So it’s not an intractible engineering problem.


    I think the real impetus here for a gas now-vs-diesel is that you don’t have anywhere left to go for future sales. If the Prius had come out with their exquisite D-4D instead of the lovely 1NZ-FXE it would not be able to (in the future) be offered as a 20% more fuel efficient, bio-diesel swilling, eco-frieundlich “Greenie” accessory.

    By the way – has anyone put an 1NZ-FXE into a Yaris coupe or Scion xA to see just what the MPG would be on a car that’s roughly 800 pounds lighter than a Prius?

    I know they are dimensionally very close. Bore & stroke are the same. I don’t know if the block casting is the same, because it bolts up to an electric motor. No real reason it couldn’t be though.

    The compression on the 1NZ-FXE is 13/1, but the Prius cams are different because it is set up as an Atkinson Cycle powerplant at about 75BHP and it takes more squish to make up for the lesser intake charge. The regular 1NZ-FE motor has 10.5/1 compression and churns out 107BHP, but still manages close to 40MPG.

    It would be VERY interesting to see just what a purpose-built high thermal efficiency engine would do pushing around 800 pounds less car. Maybe we already have the 55MPG on gasoline miracle machines all around us, we just need different cams and pistons…


  38. In September I was in Port Au Prince, Haiti. There I saw a small, brand new, 4 door VW TDI pickup. Why is there no information about this truck?

  39. On the contrary, diesel hybrids are technologically just as effective at saving fuel as gas-powered hybrids. The idea that diesels are harder to start goes back to the last century before the high pressure fuel delivery systems. While it is true that diesels don’t gain as much fuel savings by shutting off, because they don’t use much fuel idling anyway, the technology can help with diesels as well and is being used in city bus fleets and delivery van fleets all over the country, but these are commercial vehicles with hefty price tags where the lost margins can be hidden.

    The problem for diesel hybrid applications for cars has to do with costs. It’s a big premium for an auto maker to build a hybrid, and thanks to the NOx limits for diesels in the U.S., it’s also a big premium to certify diesels for America, so a diesel-hybrid would be a double whammy to engineer, and customers won’t give up an extra eight grand on a compact car no matter what the fuel savings. Larger cars and pickups would have even larger premiums (profits being equal).

    But does anyone on here really believe that hybrid technologies (that is a dual propulsion system working in parallel) is a long-term, economical solution to save fuel and energy costs on a macro level. I mean–we’ve got one car using two motors (electric and ICE, with two different fuel supplies and two different fuel storage systems. It takes up twice the space; it doubles the weight, and it will always require two motors with advanced synchronization to get them to work seamlessly. I’m all for any ICE with fuel-saving technologies that can use more alternative fuels, and I’m all for electric cars as battery technologies become better and less costly, but I can see no situation where a parallel hybrid will be the norm. It just makes no sense from an accounting, engineering, or environmental point of view. My views are not negative against current hybrid owners; I’m just referring to this concept being the norm in the auto industry. I just don’t see it.

    With respect to a serial hybrid, i.e. the Chevy Volt, this makes a little more sense, because only one system propels the car; only the fuel source (generator or battery) switches to run the electric motor, however, there are still alot of extra machinery that will always be much more intricate than a straight electric or a straight ICE vehicle.

    Maybe more smart folks should look into low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). The nuclear energy in this field of study is nearly limitless and totally harmless if it could ever be harnessed and commercialized, however, some of the traditional researchers in the field, known as cold fusionists, are holding back this field of study strapped to old theories. The nuclear energy is real; transmutations have been shown in many experiments, but cold fusion never was the mechanism that caused the reactions in these experiments. It’s actually weak interactions. Go to http://www.newenergytimes.com, and look at the Widom-Larsen Theory of Ultra-Low Neutron Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metal Hydride Surfaces. Someone has finally figured out a mechanism that explains the Pons-Fleischmann effect first discovered in 1989 and coined Cold Fusion. It was thought at that time to be fusion at room temperature. Nuclear physicist unscientifically criticized their experimental studies, because their theories were threatened by chemists, and the research went under ground.

    Over the last twenty-two years evidence points towards weak interactions, not fusion to cause this effect. Weak nuclear reactions are known to exist in our universe and the Widom-Larsen Theory may explain how experimentalists have created this effect for twenty-two years but have not been able to explain why. If the mechanism is known, then much ground can be gained in this area of research, but more people need to get involved in this discipline, because it is so interdisciplinary.

    A LENR battery, if ever produced, could power a car around the world before needing to recharge.

  40. Is there a reason why nobody in US offers a RWD/AWD diesel with manual transmission? If I look at VW TDIs, I am stuck with FWD if I want manual transmission. I can’t even get a BMW 335d with a stick shift! Audi A3 doesn’t come with manual transmission if you get the AWD version either (even the gasoline version, which is odd since I have driven an old S4 AWD with stick shift in the US before). DSG might give me slightly faster shift times but at the add expense, weight, complexity, maintenance, etc. all of which I don’t need. Just get me a carbon clutch disc and aluminum flywheel please!

  41. AZ_Utilitarian, Before you go blaming the US auto manufacturers (for not introducing any diesel cars) as recent Car & Driver article pointed out that it is the US Government’s more stringent Anti-Smog emissions standards that has auto manufacturers offering diesels in Europe and not the US. So once again, it is the popularized myth that Corporations are bad, when actually the truth is that it is the Federal Government that is bad.

  42. I have 3 Diesels, and I luv ’em. An ’05 Jetta TDI that gets 40-53mpg, And an MB ML320 CDI and an MB GL320 BlueTec.

    The MB’s get 20 around town and 33MPG on cruise at 60mph on the highway. Take THAT! all you gas hybrids. And there are no batteries to replace! Please Bring a Hybrid Diesel/Electric to the U.S. !!!!! Please…..

  43. 2012 Mercedes also offers Turbo Diesel in the AWD S Class. Pricey but gives Cadillac and Lincoln a goal to shoot for.

  44. Ford and GM will not offer Turbo Diesels as long as USA customers will buy their gasoline engined cars. If they wanted to offer diesels, they could use part of their billions in profits and either tool a diesel line or arrange with Cummins, VW, Mercedes, or one of the other world mfrs of diesel to develop a good engine for the USA. Be patient…Europe usually gets new automotive developments in production about 10 years before Ford or GM accept them.

  45. I have driven Diesel cars in the UK for over 20 years. These are quick, quiet and economical. They have great torque and hence a good acceleration. As for polution mine is very very clean. No smoke or smell of diesel fuel. Why the US drivers are so resistant to the idea is strange to us here in Europe. Every time I drive a petrol (Gas) car I get disapointed and want my diesel back. Same make and model just the other fuel. (Often as a loan car when my is in for work. ) As for servicing no harder than a Petrol (Gas) car. No plugs to deal with, no coil packs to go wrong. One of my friends has done over 110,000 miles with his diesel and only had routine serviceing and you would not know it from driving the car. No smoke, no rattles, no use of oil, just great economy and a very quiet quick ride. 0-60 5.7 seconds in his case. 47MPG on UK gallons 39MPG US.

Comments are closed.