Diesel-powered cars are making a comeback as consumers clamour for cars with robust engines with a more responsible fuel economy, meaning a diesel car is worth considering for your next major get-around.
The best diesel-powered cars are not only for standard passenger cars. Some of our top picks include SUVs and substantially sized trucks, and you’ll find foreign and domestic options loaded with all the comfort features and entertainment options you could want. Here are the best diesel-powered cars for 2020, to fit a range of budgets and needs.
At a glance
|Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel||Best diesel overall|
|Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6||Best diesel performance SUV|
|Chevrolet Colorado ZR2||Best diesel truck|
|Land Rover Range Rover Td6||Best luxury diesel|
Why should you buy this: You want an SUV that’s as efficient as it is capable.
Who’s it for: Off-roaders who hate stopping for fuel.
How much will it cost: $39,290+
Why we picked the Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel:
Popular demand convinced Jeep to make a turbodiesel engine available in the United States for the first time. Called EcoDiesel, the unit in question is a 3.0-liter V6 that delivers 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque to the four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
If it’s efficiency you’re wondering about, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates it at 22 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in a mixed cycle. To add context, the 3.6-liter V6’s figures check in at 19, 22, and 21, respectively.
The EcoDiesel’s torque also gives the Wrangler a useful 3,500-pound towing capacity. The one major downside is that the engine is only offered in the four-door Wrangler Unlimited — two-door models can’t be equipped with it – and Jeep charges $4,000 for it.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6
The best diesel performance SUV
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: $69,500+
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 Range Rover Sport Td6 will leave you totally flabbergasted. It’s everything a modern six-cylinder diesel 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. That’s pretty quick for an SUV weighing almost 5,000 pounds. Because this is a diesel, you also get the ability to tow up to 7,716 pounds, as well as EPA-rated fuel economy of 24 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway).
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 going far off the beaten path. That low-end torque is exactly what you need when off-roading, which typically involves crawling along at a slow, steady pace. 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
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: $37,710+
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, efficient workhorse to drive on a daily basis. 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 that 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 30 mpg highway. Chevrolet also notes that the Colorado Diesel can tow up to 7,700 pounds when it’s properly equipped. Chevy, Ford, and Ram all offer diesel engines in larger half-ton trucks, but the Colorado offers plenty of capability in an easier-to-park package.
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.
Land Rover Range Rover Td6
The best diesel luxury car
Why should you buy this: You like spending money on everything except fuel.
Who’s it for: Luxury car shoppers who drive a lot.
How much will it cost: $91,700+
Why we picked the Land Rover Range Rover Td6:
If the Range Rover Sport shows that diesels can be refined, the bigger Range Rover shows that they can be properly luxurious. The fact that Land Rover felt confident enough to offer the Td6 engine in its flagship model shows just how far diesels have come.
The Range Rover uses the same 3.0-liter V6 as the Range Rover Sport that makes 254 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. This slab of luxury will do zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and tow up to 7,716 pounds, according to Land Rover. It will also return 24 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway). Not bad for a big SUV shaped liked a stately mansion.
What really sets this Range Rover apart, though, is its luxurious feel. This is an SUV that can rival the best Mercedes-Benz or BMW in quietness and comfort, but also go where those cars can’t. The Range Rover isn’t luxurious for an SUV, it’s simply a great luxury car. The diesel engine adds better fuel economy to the mix, and enhances the Ranger Rover’s off-road capability with its low-end torque. If you can afford one, this really is the complete package.
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.
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- The best off-road vehicles for 2020
- The best trucks for towing
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- The difference between diesel- and gasoline-powered cars