The Consumer Guide to 2012 Diesel Vehicles
For generations, drivers of heavy-duty pickup trucks have enjoyed the benefits of diesel engines. They have been willing to overlook a diesel’s noisy clatter due to its greater pulling power, higher fuel economy, and traditional long-term durability. But because today’s high-tech diesel engines are nearly as refined as regular gasoline engines, diesels have recently gained favor in midsize and large SUVs, and a growing number of cars are offering them as well. Diesel vehicles are emissions legal in all 50 states. We won’t be covering the heavy-duty pickup applications in this report; instead, we’ll concentrate on the passenger-vehicle market.
For 2012, three cars join the diesel fraternity: the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC, Volkswagen Beetle TDI, and Volkswagen Passat TDI. One has been discontinued: the BMW 335d, as the diesel engine isn’t offered in the redesigned 2012 edition. Of the 13 diesels in the 2012 lineup, six are SUVs and seven are cars.
Because diesel fuel is much cheaper than regular gasoline in Europe, roughly half of the vehicles driven on that continent have diesel engines. That helps explain why all 13 of the diesel-engine vehicles available in the U.S. are built by European automakers: Mercedes-Benz (five), Volkswagen (five), Audi (two), and BMW (one).
According to Bosch, a diesel system developer and manufacturer, 26 new diesel-powered vehicles will be introduced in North America as either 2013 models or in calendar year 2013. Six of the other 26 are known: the Audi Q5, A6, A7, and A8; the Mazda 6 SKY-D; and the Chevrolet Cruze. Bosch did not reveal the names of the 20 other vehicles.
Volkswagen offers the least expensive diesel cars, but diesel SUVs cost quite a bit more. The least-expensive diesel SUV is VW’s Touareg TDI Sport at $ 46,475. If you want the cargo space of an SUV and can forgo all-wheel drive, the roomy Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen–starting at $ 25,260–might be a good compromise.
Why Choose a Diesel?
In passenger vehicles at least, the diesel’s trump card has long been fuel economy, with diesel models typically delivering 25 to 35 percent better mileage than their gasoline-powered counterparts. This also results in increased range between fill-ups–another diesel advantage. Furthermore, if you plan to tow a trailer, nothing beats a diesel for low-end torque.
The downsides are that diesels usually cost more at the time of purchase and can incur higher maintenance costs. For some buyers, however, both of these drawbacks are offset by the fuel savings. Moreover, diesels have traditionally made back some of their initial price difference with higher resale values.
One other concern is that diesel-fuel prices often vary more than gasoline prices–which vary quite enough already. Part of the reason is that diesel-fuel production is tied directly to gasoline production; there’s a set ratio for each from a barrel of oil. Gasoline consumption often drops during tough economic times, with prices doing the same. But diesel demand is tied more to commercial use, which is more consistent. When less gas is called for, less diesel is produced, and with demand fairly constant, the price of diesel goes up.
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