The best diesel cars of 2018

Diesel isn't evil! The best diesel cars on the market do it right

2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch Diesel review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Diesel-powered engines became public enemy number one the minute Volkswagen Group admitted to programming illegal software into many of its TDI engines. The so-called defeat device turned off the car’s emissions control equipment (such as the urea injection system) under normal driving conditions, and turned them back on only when the car was undergoing an emissions test.

Volkswagen’s announcement spurred a veritable witch-hunt against diesels on both sides of the pond, often in favor of other types of fuels like gasoline, electricity, and hydrogen. But when the cameras stop rolling and the mics are turned off, a majority of executives in the automotive industry admit diesel is key to meeting looming emissions targets. Modern diesel technology done the honest way “is better for the environment than [an equivalent] gasoline engine,” according to Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralph Speth.

Though the United States hasn’t been a big diesel market since the 1980s, not every automaker has abandoned the technology and jumped on the demonization bandwagon. A diesel-powered car, truck, or SUV is worth checking out if you’re looking for a clean, fuel-efficient vehicle capable of driving hundreds and hundreds of miles between fill-ups. Here are the best diesel cars on the American market.

At a glance

Product Category
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Best diesel overall
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6 Best diesel SUV
Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Best diesel truck
BMW 328D Best luxury diesel
Chevrolet Equinox Diesel Best diesel crossover

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

The best

2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch Diesel review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s an efficient, fun-to-drive compact that won’t break the bank.

Who’s it for: Commuters looking to save cash at the pump.

How much will it cost: $23,820+

Why we picked the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel:

Chevrolet openly wants to lure former TDI owners into showrooms, and it made sizable investments in clean diesel technology to reach its goal. The most affordable oil-burning Chevy is the compact Cruze. It’s offered as a sedan and a hatchback.

Both body styles use the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, a unit rated at 137 horsepower and a stout 240 pound-feet of torque. Transmission options include a six-speed manual and a nine-speed automatic. Properly equipped, the diesel-slurping Cruze Sedan returns up to 52 mpg on the highway, meaning it’s more efficient than the Prius hybrid, the poster child of fuel efficiency.

Chevy estimates the Cruze Diesel offers a 700-mile range. You could drive from New York City to Indianapolis on one tank if your foot is light enough. And, at under $25,000, the Cruze is certainly more of a mass-market car than the electric Bolt. Of course, don’t expect the federal government to thank you for your purchase with a big ol’ tax break.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6

The best diesel SUV

best diesel cars 2016 land rover range sport td6 115

Why should you buy this: 443 lb-ft. of torque – ‘nuff said.

Who’s it for: Adventurers with something to tow.

How much will it cost: $68,750+

Why we picked the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6:

If you haven’t driven a diesel since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6 will leave you totally flabbergasted. It’s everything a modern diesel six-cylinder should be: quiet, smooth, powerful, and efficient. Land Rover went to great lengths to design an oil-burning engine it can market to discerning luxury buyers.

The 3.0-liter Td6 V6 develops 254 hp and a massive 443 lb-ft. It propels the SUV from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, which is comparable to the supercharged, gasoline-burning V6 also available on the entry-level Range Rover Sport. Land Rover estimates the diesel’s fuel economy is 32 percent better, however.

It’s not all about fuel mileage figures. The V6 generates peak torque at 1,750 rpm, so the Td6-powered Sport is well-suited to towing heavy loads and going far off the beaten path. Listen up, adventurers. This is the engine to order if you don’t want to step up to a more expensive V8-powered model.

Chevrolet Colorado Diesel

The best diesel truck

best diesel cars 2018 colorado gal ext 11

Why should you buy this: The Chevrolet Colorado Diesel is all the truck you’ll ever need.

Who’s it for: Buyers seeking a daily-drivable workhorse.

How much will it cost: $35,785+

Why we picked the Chevrolet Colorado Diesel:

Dropping a diesel engine in a compact pickup truck makes a lot of sense, especially for customers who need a reliable workhorse to drive daily. The oil-burner’s low-end torque makes towing and hauling a breeze, and the truck segment is one where any mpg improvement is welcomed like a Christmas basket.

Like the identical GMC Canyon, the Chevrolet Colorado benefits from a 2.8-liter four-cylinder developed by Duramax, the same company who designs the diesel engines used by Chevy’s heavy-duty trucks. It’s tuned to generate 181 hp and 369 lb-ft, and it returns up to 31 mpg on the highway. Additionally, Chevrolet notes the Colorado Diesel can tow up to 7,700 pounds when it’s properly equipped.

The Colorado Diesel is available in several configurations. The base truck comes with four doors and 61-inch long cargo bed. Buyers who need to put more junk in the trunk can order a 74-inch long bed, and those who want to hit the trail can select the ZR2 package. It adds serious off-road goodies like a special suspension with additional ground clearance, all-terrain tires, and skid plates.

BMW 328d

The best diesel luxury car

best diesel cars 2017 bwm 328d sedan

Why should you buy this: Efficiency, performance, and luxury come together in the 328d.

Who’s it for: Luxury car shoppers who drive a lot.

How much will it cost: $41,750+

Why we picked the BMW 328d:

BMW demonstrated diesel and performance aren’t mutually exclusive when it introduced the first oil-burning 3 Series in Europe in the 1980s. That idea of a sporty, efficient sedan with a diesel engine under the hood lives on in the current 328d.

It offers what enthusiasts love about the 3 Series, including taut handling, responsive steering, and the upmarket interior. It’s not as quick to 60 mph as the gasoline-burning variants, but the bottom-end torque provides another way to have fun behind the wheel of Bimmer’s bread-and-butter model.

The 328d’s heart is a 2.0-liter turbo four rated at 180 hp and 280 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive come standard, while BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is offered at an extra cost. With this car, buyers don’t need to choose between efficiency and winter traction.

Fuel economy checks in at 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. To put those figures into perspective, the EPA states it costs $1.93 to drive the 328d for 25 miles, versus $2.71 for the comparable, gasoline-powered 320i. That may not sound like much – it’s not even the price of an espresso at Starbucks – but it adds up over weeks, months, and years of driving.

Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

The best diesel crossover

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel review
Chris Chin/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want a crossover that’s as efficient as it is practical.

Who’s it for: Families who hate stopping for fuel.

How much will it cost: $41,750+

Why we picked the Chevrolet Equinox diesel:

Crossovers are hugely popular in the United States, but a vast majority of them leave the factory with a gasoline-burning engine between the fenders. That’s what makes the Chevrolet Equinox Diesel so unique: It’s the only diesel-powered model in its segment, and it returns up to 39 mpg on the highway when ordered with front-wheel drive, according to the EPA. The penalty for all-wheel drive is a single mpg. To add context, the most efficient gasoline-powered Equinox returns 32 mpg.

The Equinox receives the same 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine as the Cruze, meaning it offers 137 horsepower and a solid 240 pound-feet of torque. It rides on the same platform as the Cruze, too, so it delivers car-like ride and handling in spite of its taller silhouette.

Chevrolet designed the Equinox with families in mind. To that end, the model boasts 29.9 cubic feet of trunk space with five passengers on board and 63.5 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. That’s big enough to fit a bike without taking it apart, or a flat-screen TV.

How we test

The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.

Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.

Cars

From drones to pickup trucks, Workhorse CEO believes the future is electric

Workhorse wants to make sure your next package gets delivered more efficiently. The Ohio-based company builds electric vans, and is branching out into drones, an electrified pickup truck, and a small personal helicopter.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, or tons of features.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as hard as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.
Product Review

Grins come standard: Mazda's 2019 MX-5 Miata will plaster a smile on your face

We take Mazda’s updated 2019 MX-5 Miata on a road trip from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco to experience the updates. With a revised engine and more power, the already awesome Miata gets even better.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang Cobra Jet strikes as quickly as its venomous namesake

The 2018 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet is a purpose-built drag racer that will run the quarter mile in around eight seconds, according to Ford. It will be as rare as it is quick, with just 68 cars planned.
Cars

How to watch Formula 1 online

There are plenty of Formula 1 races every year, many of which take place in some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Check out our brief guide on how to watch Formula 1 online, if you're looking to keep up on the action.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.
Cars

Whistleblower says a drug-peddling Mexican cartel thrives in Tesla’s Gigafactory

A former Tesla employee says the firm covered up links between some of its workers and a Mexican drug cartel, spied on its employees by wiretapping their phones, and failed to report a $37 million theft. Tesla denies the claims.
Cars

Redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester crossover starts at $25K, hits showrooms in fall

The 2019 Subaru Forester hits showrooms this fall with more tech than ever, including a system that uses facial recognition to detect driver fatigue. Pricing starts at $25,270, but goes up to $34,295 for the top Touring model.
Cars

Lack of domestic battery production could short German automakers’ EV plans

As automakers ramp up efforts to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles, this has increased the demand for battery production. However, analysts fear some companies could struggle with this demand, specifically German car companies.
Cars

Nvidia ‘more than happy to help’ if Tesla’s self-driving chip doesn’t pan out

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the intention to use an in-house Autopilot chip, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang responded to an analyst's question, saying that if the Tesla chip doesn't work out, he'd be more than happy to help.
Cars

A bit of patchwork can have you back on the road

Flat tires often come at the worst possible time. Whether you're fixing a flat tire or replacing it, our step-by-step how-to guide will help you get your car back on the road with time to spare.
Cars

Bugatti’s new Divo will be light, nimble, and sharp as a scalpel

Bugatti doesn't introduce a new model very often. When it does, the whole industry sits up and takes notice. Named Divo, the firm's next car will arrive in August as a light, nimble model inspired by race cars built in the 1920s.