Overview of 2009 diesel cars

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While the rest of the world is crazy about diesel technology for its fuel efficiency, the US’s stringent emission regulations introduced in 2008 are preventing several otherwise great diesel cars from being marketed in this country.

Diesel cars typically have higher exhaust levels of nitrogen oxide than gasoline cars. Automakers cite the high cost of developing an engine clean enough to meet the US standards. Understandably, this has made a lot of them lukewarm about diesel engines as a solution for boosting fuel economy. That, along with the fact that diesel cars have never really been a mainstream choice here in the United States.

The fact is that you have to be a brave automaker even to consider manufacturing a diesel passenger car for marketing in the US. Until technology rises to meet the challenge, or until the regulations are relaxed (an unlikely scenario) in the US diesel engines are destined to power mainly pickups, buses and trucks.

Automakers also perceive the US market as being unfriendly to diesel for passenger cars – but that is largely based on diesels from the 1970s. The brave few automakers who have been selling diesel SUVs in the US have good reason to argue to the contrary. But 2009 sees some genuine diesel pioneering. Read on.

The following is a line-up of the few diesel-powered passenger cars that will be available in the US in the 2009 model year, and a few that aren’t available.


Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Hands-down winner for courage and innovation is Volkswagen, set to be the only major automaker, and the first, to launch a genuine clean diesel passenger car in all 50 states in the US in 2009. This is the first diesel-powered passenger vehicle to meet the world’s most stringent emission control standards, California’s Tier II, Bin 5.

Clean diesel Jetta TDIs are powered by 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines that produce 140 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.

If you are in any doubt that this is a regular passenger car, rest assured it is as far removed from the old-style diesel cars (stinky, slow and loud) as it is possible for a car to be. The Jetta TDI’s clean diesel engine is the strong, silent type . Clean diesel engines get better mileage than their gasoline equivalents.

The Jetta TDI comes as a sedan or a wagon, both with 4-cylinder, 2.0 L engines. Estimated miles per gallon for both are 29 to 30 in the city and 40 to 41 on the highway, although buyers are reporting much higher real world mileage with better highway mileage than a Prius in some cases. More details here at Edmunds., or at the Volkswagen site.

Watch a Wall Street Journal video review of the Jetta TDI, or read the article. Popular Mechanics also has a great review.

And guess what! You can also get a $1,300 Federal Alternative Motor Vehicle tax credit for this car.


2009 – ML320 (5 passenger), GL320 (7 passenger), R320 (7 passenger)

Small diesel cars are outside the Mercedes-Benz realm it seems, with diesels of this marque still aimed at the SUV market. After a late release in 2008 of three diesel-powered SUVs, Mercedes-Benz has not gone much further with its diesel offering for 2009. However, they have made sure all these models are now emission-compliant in all 50 states – unlike 2008 when some key states, including California, were excluded. A urea injection known as AdBlue has made the difference.

The 2009 model SUVs, powered by BlueTEC (developed in conjunction with VW and Audi) clean diesel V6 engines (among the world’s most environmentally friendly) look elegant and fulfill the promise of Mercedes-Benz class and reliability.

With 23 MPG and a 600 mile range on a single tank of diesel, and advanced Mercedes-Benz diesel technology (remember, Mercedes- Benz has been involved in diesels since time immemorial) the BlueTec range could gain some traction high fuel price times. Here is the Edmunds take on the range. Watch a video about Mercedes diesel technology at the Wall Street Journal site.

Prefer to drive a Mercedes diesel car? Consider the highly refined and quite expensive 2009 Diesel E Class sedan. The BlueTec clean diesel design gets a respectable 23 MPG in the city, and 32 MPG on the highway and has a quick 0 to 60 time of just 6.6 seconds. Pretty impressive for a large, luxury sedan.

Read more at Edmunds, or on the Mercedes USA site.


2009 Audi 3.0 liter V6 Q7 (7 passenger)

Without much fanfare, Audi has announced it will place a less powerful version of the powerful V12 Q7 SUV on the US market in the first quarter of the 2009. The Q7 3.0 liter V6 Q7 is the only Audi TDI that meets the stringent US emission guidelines set in 2008.

Although this particular model is about half the V12 version it still packs quite a punch. The 3.0-litre V6 TDI turbodiesel engine pumps out an estimable 224 horsepower and a stout 406 pound-feet of torque, starting at 1,750 rpm.

Audi is claiming 30 percent fuel savings against comparable gasoline-powered models, and also 25 mpg, and over 600 miles per tank. The Audi V6 Q7 has a cozy, well-appointed cabin where the engine’s drone is barely audible. It’s a big car, but the V6 is adequate to make quite nimble. Go to Edmunds for further details, though when I looked only the gasoline version was featured there.


BMW 118d (winner 2008 World Green Car award – not available in US)

BMW is taking the all-or-nothing approach to marketing diesel-powered passenger cars in the US. Apparently if it can’t make all models optional for gasoline or diesel, and if it can’t make its diesel models emission-compliant in all 50 states then, well, it won’t market any diesel passenger cars here at all.

BMW made noises about launching 3 and 5 series diesel models here in 2008, but nothing came of it and nothing is officially on the cards for 2009 either. That’s a real pity, because the BMW 118d shows that the US motorist is missing out on some great value. In the 118d, the engine makes 141 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, sending the car to 60 mph in about 8.8 seconds, returning 59 mpg on the highway and spewing only 118 grams of CO2 per kilometer into the atmosphere. (All stats from Europe.) Not bad at all. And it goes 700 miles on a single tank of diesel!


2008 Cadillac CTS – GM’s Diesel V6 (marketed in Europe only – not available in the US)

The 2008 CTS turbodiesel was Cadillac’s 406-lb-ft guinea pig, marketed in Europe only. Despite announcements about making a diesel-powered CTS available in the US in 2009, no further announcements have been forthcoming from GM.


GM has never gotten over its belief that diesel engines are for trucks. A new technology mindset is needed to take their brands forward in the diesel market. Their experience with Cadillac (see above – they teamed up with Italy’s VM Motori for that) seems not to have inspired their confidence in passenger diesel car technology. So nothing new in the US diesel passenger car pipeline for these brands either.


While they offer diesel options in several of their trucks and SUV’s (notably the Grand Cherokee) they have no diesel cars in the 2009 lineup. It appears that Chrysler jumped onto the electric bandwagon instead. Let’s see if they really deliver by 2010!

2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee

This Jeep diesel-powered SUV was first launched in 2008 in the US with a Mercedes 3-liter V6, which provides the best gas mileage of any current Grand Cherokee engine, complete with lots of torque. Expected in 2009 is a Cummins V6 turbodiesel, whose factory is still being built; this powerplant should be less expensive but just as durable as the Bosch/Mercedes version to be used until Cummins is ready. However, Jeep is saying very little about the 2009 model year diesel Grand Cherokee so don’t expect many advances from the 2008 version.


2009 Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

(sold in Europe only – not available in the US)

Yet another unattainable beauty!

As in 2008, not offering any diesel powered vehicles, other than trucks, in the US in 2009. Ironically, US auto giant Ford is marketing the super-efficient diesel Ford Fiesta ECOnetic — in Europe only.

It’s the 65 MPG Ford that Americans can’t buy.


There she goes — the new clean diesel Honda Accord that was never manufactured and never launched on the US market.

Honda is yet another automaker having trouble building a diesel engine that meets the high US emission regulations introduced in 2008. In 2006, at a press event held at its Tochigi technical center north of Tokyo, Honda announced plans to launch a diesel car in the US market by 2009. “The car, probably a Honda Accord, will be Tier 2 Bin 5 emission compliant, thus qualifying for sale in all 50 states,” said Honda. But it was not to be.

There were reports in 2007 of a diesel powered Honda being tested on US soil, and then nothing. Now there are rumors that Honda is planning to launch a diesel-powered Acura in the US in 2010.

Honda did show off its i-DTEC clean diesel engine technology at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, if you want to see what’s coming eventually.

Will they launch in 2010? And if so, will it be a Honda or an Acura model? Only Honda knows for sure.


Toyota Avensis (not for sale in the US)

There has been speculation for at least three years that Toyota would launch a diesel passenger car in the US market — perhaps a version of the diesel powered Toyota Avensis that has delighted Europe.

No such luck.

There’s a rumor of a Toyota hybrid diesel subcompact car coming as soon as 2010, but it is doubtful that would make it to the US market the first year. The first Toyota diesel in the US will probably be a Tacoma or Tundra pickup.


Nissan Maxima Diesel V6 3.0 – not in 2009 but maybe in 2010?

Nissan is an automaker that is plainly uneasy about launching a diesel car on the US market. As early as 2007 it was making plans to launch the diesel Nissan Maxima in all 50 states in the US. Then it was going to be 2009, and now it’s planned for 2010. It has been touted around auto shows in the US to much oohing and aahing — but still no launch. Word has it that compliance issues have caused the delays. A familiar clean diesel refrain we hear from many automakers.


Volvo DRIVe diesels

Volvo has no plans to sell a diesel-powered passenger vehicle in the US anytime soon.

It’s the same old story: while Volvo expects to sell 20,000 units of the 2009 Volve DRIVe diesels in Europe in 2009, they are not compliant with our strict US emission regulations and so will not reach the United States.


So there you have it: a few pioneers, a few automakers stuck to diesel SUVs, a lot of promises and a lot of fence-sitting.

Maybe the 2009 VW Jetta TDI will finally persuade the US public and automakers that diesel-powered passenger vehicles can be an efficient, eco-friendly option that Americans will buy and drive.

Don’t forget that you can also find good background information with some of our previous posts like an Introduction to Biodiesel and our overview of 2008 diesel cars.

There’s also a great Diesel Center over at Edmunds.com.

Did we miss anything? What’s your favorite diesel?

Leave a comment and let us know.

21 thoughts on “Overview of 2009 diesel cars”

  1. I have a 1998 VW New Beetle TDI that gets better mileage than these new cars. I’d like to get a new (diesel) car, however I’ve been spoiled by years of getting darn near50 MPG. Any MPG less than my 10 year old car is giving me seems more like a trade down than a trade up. What’s the deal?

  2. There’s a different standard for measuring MPG that was introduced in 2008. So the window sticker MPG numbers look lower on most cars compared to years past.

    I think that’s part of the problem. Read about the new clean diesel Jetta on some of the forums, and you’ll see people getting mileage in the 50s on the highway.

  3. @S – while it may appear that the new clean diesels are less fuel efficient, you have to look at the whole picture … in addition to the dramatic reduction in pollution, they also deliver more power. The ’98 Beetle TDI was rated at 90 HP and 149 foot pounds of torque. The 2009 Jetta TDI is rated at 140 HP and 236 foot pounds of torque.

  4. GM should not sell hummer to a foreign buyer. By revamping the Hummer product line – offering only fuel efficient clean-diesels such as Bluetech in all Hummer models and focusing on the release of the H4 model based on the HX concept vehicle, Hummer can again become profitable. The goal for the H4 would be to reach 30 mpg highway. By focusing on small diesel technology, something Europe does well but has been neglected in the United States, Hummer can become the leader in small diesel technology domestically. Thus, biodiesel could become the environmental solution for hummers. The H2 could be phased out or re-imagined as an on-highway towing vehicle, like a small semi-tractor. In addition, I can see an H5, a sporty Hummer Rally Car that could target the Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru WRX STI Rally Cars. but feature an advanced all wheel drive system and dual clutch transmission. All Hummer vehicles would use clean diesels of various sizes. The technology exists to make smaller hummers that are still exceptional off road vehicles and thus will only strengthen the brand. In addition, by using aftermarket parts in upgraded top of the line models and using technology from its racing team, Hummer could do what subaru did in creating its own niche-following backed by the sport of baja racing. it would not be that hard to market to those who dislike the “crossover”. By offering real off-road ability AND good fuel economy, hummer could once again profit from its in-your-face image. Thus hummer could use its over the top reputation as a pillar of credibility while making smaller and lighter models. The niche market would be those who prefer a street legal dune buggy with good looks, good fuel economy, some creature comforts and a warranty. This is why land rover and subaru have great reputations: THEY WIN OFF ROAD RACES.

  5. The biggest problem here that needs to be solved with Diesels lies with the imperious, rapacious und meddling US Government. The lunatic EPA Bureaucracy needs to get on the “same Sheet of Musik” as the rest of the world and use the same pollution standards! This “one upmanship” Crap playing out with pollution Standards is non productive Scheisse and costing Americans untold sums of Money because we cannot buy the really good, reliable and cost effective Diesel Automobiles here that a great many of us would like to have available to us!

  6. I drove in CANADA a Pontiac Acadian Diesel in the late 80s! Great mileage!! Then they scrapped it,WHY??? Presently I have a VW Golf Diesel. VW in CANADA doesn’t offer Golf in diesel, only the Jetta.
    I Europe ALL car makers offer diesel! The problem with us North Americans is the too stringent regulations!!

  7. Test drove the VW Jetta TDI today and had a great time. Just a little hesitation up to 30mph then smooth sailing. Excellent handling, of course, and smooth enough for me.

  8. What about the Subaru developments with a diesel and Saab that has one but does not want to bring to US?

  9. I owned a 2000 tdi Jetta….Open road mpg was 53…it took me 3 3/4 tanks of 14.5 gal….to drive to Dallas and back to Akron,Oh.
    I loved this auto….and plan to get a new 2010

  10. I live in Spain and now, in Europe, diesels are best sellers. Common rail and Variable geometry turbochargers allow diesel cars to have similar or superior performance than petrol engines with the same size. For example, a BMW Series 1 coupé in it’s 123d version (with a 2.0 liters diesel) have practically the same performance than a 125i (with a 3.0 petrol, it’s far away than a 120i), being a 30% more fuel efficient with less emissions than the smallest gas engine in the range.

    In USA use to measure emissions by a different way different than Europe. Here we use the grams per kilometer of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere, and always win diesels.

    If diesel are more efficient, and If the electric cars don’t have the wished autonomy, future are diesel hybrids, and is a technology available NOW.


    This light SUV it’s capable of doing near to 58,4 miles per gallon with 200 hp.

  11. I said it ten years ago after coming home from a trip to Europe, that American auto makers needed to offer a diesel engine platform as an option for almost all their cars, and all-wheel drive as well. If they did, we would catch up with everyone else and start selling more cars. SUV’s were a big hit when they came out because they were a utility vehicle. All-wheel drive and diesel motors will do the same. I drive a Cadillac STS 4, and i waited years for the all-wheel drive. Now, if you give me a diesel, it will cause me to keep buying American. For now, i am thinking of trading a few of my cars, for companies who give me these options. Better hurry up guys…..I will need a new car and truck soon.

  12. the prob is not most of the 50 states its the big CA most states emmisions regs are about half of what CA reaquiers and most US auto makers have overseas diesel platforms as GM own`s Opal and SAAB and has other investments. ford has maszda and ford europe w/t diesels that meet or exciead the emmisions regs in at least 36 states

  13. The biggest problemI have with Diesels are the expense.
    While pricing a Benz ML350, I decided to look at it with a Diesel.
    PLUS $5000!
    I would never pay that for an engine.

    I think they need to be the same price per HP. Maybe a little premium. I might have gone an extra thou…….

    But $5000? Surely you jest.

  14. there is one funny thought… are we get rob by Oil businessman …. they are the one doesn’t like Diesel to be popular in the U.S… for example George W…..BXXh

  15. 1985 Ford Escort with 2L diesel/Masda….50mpg.
    Weight over front-wheel drive for traction,transverse mount for torque…..body rusted out after a mere 250k miles….sigh.

  16. My first diesel was a very old London Black Cab (terrific turning circle 25 feet and fantastic capacity 6 passengers with a seat in the front) It was ok and a bit of fun. After that it was back to a regular car but WOW when I got my first Diesel Golf (is it called Rabbit in the US?) I was hooked, they were as different as chalk and cheese and when warmed up you couldnt tell it from a gas car apart from the fact it literally cut my fuel bill in half and was still speedy. I think the following excert from a mag shows the difference between Europe and the US. “Subaru Tribeca
    … sadly for Subaru, not enough buyers were tempted by the Tribeca, as more than 90 per cent of SUVs sold in the UK have a diesel engine, and the hideously ugly Tribeca was petrol-only. Doh!

  17. I’ve been tracking the Euro-spec Toyota IQ with includes a 1.6 liter
    diesel. It’s supposed to make about 110 Hp and 146 Lbs/Ft torque which is plenty powerful enough to push the light weight demon (2100 Lb.) to freeway speeds and run the power robbing air conditioner. With the impressive handling, aero-dynamics and the 6 speed; this little guy could turn out to be a real cannon carver! But it’s the 75 mpg part that I can’t wait for. I’m a courier and it would be great all kinds of small package deliveries.
    whew, Hurry up Toyota!

  18. Emissions standards – Really? That’s the story they keep telling us…
    So where are these so called standards for the loads of new giant-engined diesel pickup trucks etc sold at the same car dealers in this very same market year after year? Existing manufacturers of smaller vehicles aren’t finding technology or consumer attitude a hurdle at all. In fact, In my area diesel VW’s are the first to sell.
    What about Biodiesel? It can be made from ANY oil and burns clean if the source is organic – you don’t need to make it out of Fossils! Google “Algae Biodiesel”
    Diesel is the number one fuel for all vehicles in North America – except for passenger cars where it’s scarce.
    Notably, when I’m in Europe (where you’re an oddball if you don’t drive a diesel), I’ve been impressed by the lack of pollution and smog that I associate with major North American cities. I don’t recall seeing or smelling exhaust from vehicles there. They are also very eco-attuned there. Kind of makes you wonder about the implication that emission standards aren’t as high there… depends on where you are I guess?
    Don’t get me started on the subsidisation of massive gas guzzling SUV’s and trucks in the NA market – what’s that about? Ever notice the negligable price difference? Does that make you wonder?
    Shure smells like a political oil agenda if I may iterate my conspiracy leanings… but I digress.
    I’ll be first in line for a new, clean domestic Diesel (small engine), AWD, Standard trans, light truck/crossover (running biodiesel of course) – and I won’t look back!

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