While EVs are the hot media darling of the moment, diesel vehicles quietly soldier on. Due to engine design, this super high octane fuel creates lots of torque and impressive MPG numbers. Plus, diesel engines are solidly built and tend to last forever, resulting in solid resale value. If you’re looking for an alternative to gas that doesn’t involve an electrical plug, take a look at the best diesels you can buy right now.
The VW Golf is probably what Americans think of when they hear “diesel car.” While it used to be a tiny and loud economy car, the Golf grew up in the last few decades, now feeling more expensive than it is. Part of that is the quiet and smooth TDI diesel engine. Horsepower gets all the advertising space, but torque is what makes cars fun to drive. The Golf’s 2.0L four cylinder has 150 horsepower, but the 236 lb-ft of torque is equivalent to a much bigger V6. Pack that engine into a stiff chassis with an Autobahn ready suspension, and an interior that seems lifted from an Audi, and you have a solid all-round great car that just happens to get 40 MPG. The Golf will assuredly cruise at 80 all day long, up to 450 miles on one tank.
Diesel isn’t just for trucks and economical cars. Put a diesel engine in the benchmark sport/luxury sedan, and you have a great driver’s car that can hit 43 MPG even with all-wheel drive. The standard 328i is an award winning and class leading car, and BMW kept what works here. A turbocharged 2.0L diesel engine attached to an eight-speed automatic transmission generates 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That torque makes for easy on-ramps and passing, as the engine doesn’t spin up much to get the car moving. The rest of the d is typical 3 Series, which is a high compliment. The handling is agile, but the ride stays poised. The brakes are first-rate, and the interior is polished. The 328d is the Bimmer you’ve always wanted, with extra efficiency.
The Chevy Cruze is a quietly competent car, one that Consumer Reports says can go toe-to-toe with Japanese compacts. If the standard Cruze takes any criticism, it’s for being too sedate, but a diesel and manual option make this an affordable and fun Euro fighter. There’s even an attractive hatchback version now, so it really is like America’s Golf. The diesel Cruze also sports extra equipment, with the Convenience Package coming as standard equipment, while it’s an $1,100 option for the gasoline Cruze. Plus it’s cool that you can get it with a six-speed manual or nine-speed auto. And now for the numbers: the 1.6L turbo diesel engine makes only 137 horsepower, but with 240 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 RPM, this Cruze will cruise to 52 MPG highway. That’s the same as the current Toyota Prius.
The E-Class diesel looks fantastic, and drives better. This car will change your mind about diesel engines. The 2.1L four cylinder engine is fed air from two turbos for increased throttle response and high-end power. This is the hot rod of the diesel cars here, with 210 horsepower and a truck-like 400 lb-ft of torque. With that power comes slightly reduced MPG figures compared to the Cruze, but 45 highway is still pretty impressive for a comfy sedan. The engine is almost silent, and transmits very few vibrations to the cabin, like a proper Benz. Inside, the leather is high-end and the seats are incredibly comfy. The dash features a sporty design, and being a German luxury car, it’s loaded with safety and convenience tech. Plus, Mercedes diesels are nearly indestructible, so if you don’t keep driving it for the next 30 years, your resale value will be high.
Dodge kicked off a new trend when they installed a smaller diesel in their 1/2 ton truck. Usually the 5.7L Hemi V8 gets all the attention in this full-size, but the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is no boat anchor. With 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, this diesel V6 has more torque than the Hemi V8. It drives like it too, easily hauling the large truck around, making it surprisingly easy to drive. Plus it can tow over 8,000 lbs. Keep your foot out of it, and the rear-wheel drive model returns 27 MPG highway. 4WD weighs more and takes a fuel economy hit, but 23 MPG highway is impressive for a full-size 4×4 truck. Dodge says the driving range is an astonishing 702 miles, which is longer than you can last between pit stops.
The Ford Super Duty series of trucks are the best-selling heavy duty pickups available, due to more than the diesel engine. Ford typically yells the stats at you in their commercials (“Hardest working trucks for 40 years!”), but they are impressive numbers. The legendary 6.7L V8 has a reputation for durability and longevity (“At the work site!”), but it also makes a Mustang GT-like 440 horsepower, and has all the torque in the world. Seriously, its 860 lb-ft of torque is enough to tow most houses down the road (“Best in class towing!”). Those are the 2015 specs, which have since been increased. Newer models feature (“Military grade!”) aluminum construction for increased efficiency.