The best diesel cars for 2021

Diesel-powered cars are making a comeback as consumers clamor 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 2021, to fit a range of budgets and needs.

At a glance

Product Category
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

Jeep Wrangler

The best

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 an 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 a 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 you’re looking for a diesel with a touch of luxury, the Range Rover Sport may be the diesel for you. Now you can have the reliability and fuel economy of a diesel power plant in Land Rover’s flagship model.

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. According to Land Rover, this slab of luxury will do zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and tow up to 7,716 pounds. It will also return 24 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway). 

Engine aside, the Range Rover offers a luxurious feel that’s hard to find in a diesel vehicle. The interior is whisper-quiet and rivals the comfort of even the best Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Not only that, when the pavement ends, you can take this vehicle much further afield than anything else in the luxury class.

The Range Rover offers a wonderful driving experience, providing luxury in style with a powerful and efficient diesel engine. The Range Rover delivers a nice ride and  you might forget its off-road capabilities. 

The only caveat for the Range Rover is the hefty price tag. While there’s a lot to love about the luxury and power of this vehicle, you have got to be able to afford one.

How we test

Our team of experts puts each vehicle through the same rigorous testing process. Working together, they judge vehicles across every aspect of performance, usability, look, and feel.

Our test drivers take each vehicle out for a spin on regular roads like highways and city streets, as well as off-road terrain and race tracks. We won’t complete testing until our drivers are satisfied they have a full picture of each vehicle’s capacities and handling.

As a final step, our judges test safety features and examine each vehicle’s features up close. With results in hand, we compare each vehicle against competitors for features and price to help you make your final purchase.

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