It takes a long time to live down a bad reputation, but Chevrolet is well on the way to overcoming its reputation of not being able to build a good passenger car with a diesel engine.
Thanks to Carey Williams, executive manager of James Wood Motors in Decatur, I had the opportunity recently to spend some time behind the wheel of a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze with a 2.0-liter turbo diesel 151 horsepower four-cylinder engine.
It is a very impressive power train in a very nice car priced at $26,210, about $1,800 more than a comparably equipped 2013 Cruze with the 2LT trim package and a 1.4 liter gasoline engine.
What is most impressive is the low-end torque of the new engine. When you step on the accelerator the car literally lunges ahead to cruising speed. There is a slight turbo-lag at first, but it doesn’t last long and once you get used to it, you don’t notice it at all. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
This is the first diesel engine in a GM passenger car since 1986 and if successful, it could be an option in other GM vehicles. Off-hand I could easily nominate the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, both compact sport utility vehicles, to inherit the engine.
Here’s what’s impressive: the car has an EPA highway mileage rating of 46 mpg – which Chevrolet says is the highest of “any non-hybrid vehicle sold in America.” On a short trip to Alvord, our general manager Mark Jordan and I managed a steady 39-40 miles per gallon at 70 miles per hour. Ease off on the accelerator and watch the “instant” mileage calculator in the dash zoom up to 99 mpg in a hurry.
Largely missing is the traditional diesel “clatter” when the car is in motion, but it is noticeable when you first start the engine. The sound pales, however, in comparison to diesel engines in pickup trucks that roam the streets and highways of Wise County.
Volkswagen makes the only direct competitor to the Cruze with the diesel-powered compact Jetta, but the Cruze has a $600 price advantage over the Jetta and Volkswagens are not sold and serviced by Wise County dealerships.
The engine isn’t the only nice thing about the 2014 Cruze diesel. It’s offered in only one trim level with comfortable leather seats and the latest version of Chevrolet’s My Link infotainment system that makes syncing your cell phone a breeze. The car, like the regular Cruze, has 10 airbags and carries a five-star safety rating.
At the Messenger this is not our first experience with a diesel powered GM car. In the early ’80s we owned a Buick Park Avenue equipped with GM’s much-maligned 350 cubic-inch diesel that I drove for about 50,000 miles before our vice president, Ken Roselle, drove it for another twenty-or-thirty thousand miles. Since we had heard of problems with the engine, we followed the service manual’s recommendations closely and as best I recall, we had absolutely no trouble with the car.
Every review of the new Cruze Diesel I have read has been positive. One Internet site, The Detroit Bureau said “the 2014 Cruze Diesel is as far away as one can imagine from the horrific GM diesels of the ’80s. It’s well mannered on the road, peppy, smooth and clean. And its incredible mileage – and 717-mile range on a single tank – are hard to ignore. If the math adds up, the new sedan definitely should be on your radar.”
After our day behind the wheel in Wise County, we agree completely.