Diesel does it

Diesels by the (half) dozen

July 9, 2014
by Emily Atkins and Tony Whitney

Brawny SUVs

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4 EcoDiesel V-6
By Tony Whitney

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

The current Jeep Grand Cherokee is the fourth generation version. For 2014, the product benefits from a ‘refresh’ with various styling and equipment upgrades.

We tested a top-of-the-range Summit 4X4 equipped with Chrysler’s new 3.0-litre V-6 EcoDiesel. This turbo diesel unit, built in Italy, produces 240-horsepower and perhaps more importantly, 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual override paddle shifters. The SUV uses Jeep’s Quadra-Drive 4WD system, which has three modes and is probably the best all-round ‘go anywhere’ option in the industry.

A base Summit costs $62,445 MSRP, and our test model with all its added features was priced at $69,995, including destination charge and ‘green’ levies. The EcoDiesel is part of an options package listed at just under $5,000, which includes Quadra-Drive and other beneficial features.
Fuel consumption figures tag the Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel at 9.8 L/100 km in the city and 7 on the highway.

This Jeep is very comfortable to ride long distances in and all occupants get lots of head- and leg-room in the cabin. Cargo space is also outstanding—folding down the rear seatbacks creates a huge load area. The noise normally associated with diesel engines is certainly present with this SUV, but it’s not that intrusive.

The EcoDiesel is no ‘barn burner’ in the acceleration stakes, but its lavish reserves of torque are nice to have when things get rough. Most of this luxury product’s appeal lies in its fuel economy, powerplant durability and impressive range.


2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
By Emily Atkins

2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Naturally, the Porsche entry in the diesel class lands in the executive/luxury end of the range, and at $75,415 (as tested) this is the most pricey of the diesels we drove. Its base price, however, is comparable to the Jeep, at $65,500.

What you get with the Porsche is not just the name brand, but also a larger power plant than most of the vehicles we’ve reviewed here. Its 3-L, 6-cylinder motor makes 240 HP and 406 lb/ft of torque through an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic. This falls in line with the Jeep, although it’s a bit less torquey. The Porsche delivers 10.8 L/100km city and 6.7 highway, versus the Jeep’s 9.8 city and 7 highway.

Inside, the luxury-package equipped Porsche offers a true luxury ride with lots of details like heated steering wheel, 14-way power seats, and 10-speaker sound system. It’s also loaded with safety and tech features and came with 18-inch wheels and nice big brakes. It’s a comfortable ride for four adults, and cargo capacity is adequate, although not expansive.

This SUV drives like a Porsche—meaning it handles like a sports car, and goes like the wind—and once you get inside you don’t need to come out for a very long time. On the highway, our test drive extended over 800 km on a single tank, which is a true luxury. If you like to drive, and have places to go, this diesel could be your faithful companion.

MSRP: $65,500; As tested: $75,415
Fuel Economy: 10.8 city, 6.7 hwy


Fleet-friendly fuel misers

2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel
By Emily Atkins

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

GM has made a lot of noise about the diesel Cruze and its fuel economy, and with good reason. In our test drive of 750 km the Cruze managed 6 L/100 km, in mostly (fairly quick) highway driving, right on the advertised spec. This is a pleasant finding for a car that is the least expensive of our diesel testers.

The car’s 2-L, 4-cylinder turbo diesel motor turns out 151 HP with 264 lb/ft of torque. With the 6-speed automatic transmission the Cruze is not exactly quick, but accelerates well both from a stop and at highway speeds. It has an overboost feature which will goose the torque up to 280 lb/ft for a 10-second period.

The Cruze handles very well; a relatively firm suspension lends it a sporty feel, and it takes corners confidently. It’s also got good visibility and aided by a back up camera, is easy to reverse and park in tight spaces. On the highway, its truly responsive cruise control—operated from buttons on the left face of the steering wheel—can be adjusted using just your left thumb. This makes a long drive much more relaxing.

Inside, the Cruze is nicely designed and well appointed. Controls are in the right places and easy to read, with the exception of a gas gauge that seemed to be upside down, always necessitating a second glance each time to be sure of the level.

There’s plenty of room for four people in the Cruze, accommodated in relatively comfortable seats. Trunk space is ample, and easy to access, although shallow.

Of all the ‘oil burners’ we tested, the Cruze emitted the most ‘diesely’ engine note. It’s loud and GM should be proud.

MSRP: $24,945; As tested: $26,525
Fuel Economy:  7.5 city; 4.2 highway; 6 combined


2014 VW Golf Wagon TDI
By Emily Atkins

2014 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI

2014 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI

VW’s Golf wagon TDI is a stealth highway cruiser. Not quick off the line by any means, at cruising speed this car really finds its niche. Its autobahn heritage shows through as it rolls along sipping the diesel at well over Canadian posted speed limits. For long distance driving the Golf wagon combines the fuel economy of a small car with the roominess of a wagon.

Its design is plain, and the interior is uncluttered. Dials and controls are simple, while the nav and communications are intuitive to learn. The controls on the steering wheel are well located and also easy to use. Connectivity with the smart phone was average, and the car lacked a USB port for charging, an oversight in today’s connected world.

This Golf wagon is comfortable to drive and ride in, and offers excellent visibility all around, with practically no blind spot. It handles extremely well, and offers good city maneuverability alongside its highway chops. According to VW, the car delivers 7 L/100km city and 4.9 highway with its 2-L, 4-cylinder 140-HP turbo diesel motor mated to a 6-speed automatic DSG transmission with tiptronic shifting. The base model comes with a 6-speed manual.

MSRP: $33,185; As tested:  $34,075


Highway-happy sedans

2014 BMW 328d xDrive
By Emily Atkins

2014 BMW 328d

2014 BMW 328d

The BMW 328d xDrive is the sportiest of the cars tested in our diesel review and it definitely delivers the best driving experience of the group. It also comes in at the top of the price range, making it more of an executive level vehicle.

The car offers a cleanly designed interior, with plenty of room for both front and rear passengers. Fit and finish are impeccable, the controls are ergonomically well-placed, and the multi-adjustable power seats are very comfortable. The trunk is shallow but spacious, and has a pass-through feature for skis or long items. Visibility is excellent, aided by great wipers, lights and back-up cameras. From a comfort point of view the car suffers only from poor aerodynamics with the windows open—like so many cars these days, it seems designed to be driven sealed up.

On the connectivity side, this BMW offered all the bells and whistles, and excellent interface with smart phones. However, the ‘mouse’ dial used to select and control the computer leaves this driver confused and frustrated. Fortunately, the voice control works rather well, rendering the mouse less important for getting things done.

You won’t forget the 328d is a diesel—its 2L, 4-cylinder, 181-HP motor quietly shares that diesel chug with the world—but it handles with all the aplomb expected of its pedigree and all-wheel drive configuration. In sport mode it’s reasonably peppy; in normal driving mode the automatic transmission feels a little sluggish, and there’s a heartbeat of delay in waking up from auto-off mode when you need to start out from a stop light. Shifts from the seven-speed (optional) sport automatic transmission were a bit rough, both on full auto and when using the paddle shifters.

Fuel Economy: 6.4 city, 4.5hwy, 5.5 combined; Our test returned 6.5 L/100km
MSRP: $47,700; As tested: $56,200


2014 Mercedes Benz BlueTEC E250
By Emily Atkins

Mercedes Benz BlueTEC E250

Mercedes Benz BlueTEC E250

The BlueTEC E250 is a solidly built, clean-lined sedan that’s firmly in the executive class of cars. It offers the typical teutonic tidiness and substance you’d expect from a Mercedes Benz, but with a more economical cost of operation thanks to the 4-cylinder, 174-HP diesel motor. And, as you might expect from this car maker, this diesel is quiet, but the requisite “chuga-chuga” can stil be heard—from outside the cabin.

This Benz cruises very nicely on the highway, but lacks a little pizzazz in the acceleration department. Its 7-speed automatic can be run in eco, regular or sport modes, and when the paddle shifters are used, the car will hustle along a little more quickly, but at the expense of fuel economy, of course. In our relatively short test we averaged 7.6 L/100km of aggressive city-only driving. This aligns well with the advertised mileage specs.

It handles very well, and is equipped with an above average braking system that brings this sedan to a halt crisply every time. On the highway particularly, this car is extremely well-mannered, and would be pleasant to take on a long road trip.

Inside, the car is equipped with comfortable seating for four adults, and there’s lots of room for their luggage in the trunk. Fit and finish is excellent—the E250 has a definite luxury feel to it. The driver is well-cared for with easy-to-use controls, a fat, grippy steering wheel and decent all-round visibility. The audio system sounds superb in this car, and smartphone connectivity is seamless. Alas, however, the interface is not intuitive, leaving the poor driver fumbling with the mouse controller on numerous occasions.
Fuel economy: City: 7.4; Highway: 4.6; Combined: 6.1
MSRP: $57,800; As tested: $63,900