Remember those Oldsmobile V8 diesels that were all the rage in early 1980's Cadillac Sevilles, Eldorados, Olds Ninety-Eights and Toronados? How you could hear them from two blocks away? Merely idling? Piston connecting rods likely cracking? Belching out dark plumes of smoke?
Last year the "Drive...He Said" crystal ball forecasted a diesel engine "Renaissance" in the U.S.. Europeans, contending with high gasoline taxes, have improved compression engines with turbocharging, piezo-electric injection, and exhaust urea treatments. Clean diesel fuel emits lower nitrates (soot). No surprise, then, that most diesel introductions have come from...you guessed it...European brands. 2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDi.
But now Chevrolet brings back diesel power to an American passenger car, the 2014 Cruze Turbo Diesel.
On their last diesel foray the "Bow Tie Boys" went to their Japanese Isuzu unit for a diesel mill that prodded the Chevy Chevette with all of 52 horsepower. This time they partnered with another Diesel-experienced maker, FIAT. The goal was to design a Family B diesel to meet strict US and CARB Tier 2 Bin 1 and Euro VI emissions regs. Family Z Daewoo diesel engines, already used in other small global GMs, wouldn't cut the muster. This mill is assembled in Germany.
Soot and Mirrors?
The high-compression clatter at idle has been at least halved from the Oldsmobile days. On the inside all is quiet on account of heaps of extra noise insulation material. Headphone-less pedestrians will notice the clatter on parked-car full residential streets.
Urea additive breaks down exhaust Nitrogen Oxide particulates ...aka "black soot"... emitting neither dark plumes nor foul odors. The trade name for the fluid is "Ad Blue", hence the blue colored tank cap. Mileage between refills runs about 10,000. A 12V inflator with sealant stands in for flat tire repair duty.
Under the Chevy Cruze Diesel hood forged pistons, crankshafts and connecting rods handle the 16.5:1 compression and 23 psi max boost from the air-to-water intercooled variable nozzle turbocharger. While 150 horsepower is unremarkable, 264 lb-ft, which momentarily overboosts to 290 lb-ft, is a tidal wave. Shorter lower gearing and low speed torque mask and turbo-lag. Finally, there is a Cruze that can startle a Ford Focus. At 100 miles per hour, tall overdrive gearing spins the Ecotec diesel mill at just 2500 rpm.
Roll On Down the Highway:
Chevy uprated Cruze Diesel damping and bushing rates to handle the extra weight now standing at some 3500 pounds. The addition of a Z-cross link in the rear holds sway at bay. The chassis now exhibits more composure without losing compliance. A quick steering rack transitions from high to low boost rather abruptly. A gentle disc brake pedal delivers urgent stopping power when needed.
Interior by Buick?
Priced at $24,000, if you check off 2014 Cruze Turbo Diesel the rest of the package is the equivalent of high contented gasoline LT2 trim. That means glove leather seating and a matching soft dash top. Panel gaps are tight and, for the most part even. Combined with many power and automated conveniences this Cruze Diesel interior nearly emulates that of the Buick Verano. Our tester had optional Blind Spot, Lane Departure & Forward Collision Warning. A 7" LCD display commands MyLink communication, navigation and a Pioneer entertainment system with app suite and OnStar telematics.
For now only the Hecho-en-Mexico Volkswagen Jetta TDi is on the 2014 Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel's radar. The lighter Jetta TDi equipped with dual-clutch transmission returns 31 mpg urban cycle, which surpasses the 27 mpg we got in the Cruze Diesel. For that matter, the lower-priced Chevy Cruze Eco sips gasoline just as slowly in-town.
Why choose the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel over those two options?
A) How about a "Cruze-ing" range of 610 Jetta-beating miles, compliments of a gallon larger fuel tank, drag-reducing grille shutters and low-rolling resistance tires pushing 50 highway miles-per-gallon; OR
B) A 100 lb-ft torque edge over the gas Cruze Eco implies quicker and smoother acceleration off the line, without noticeable turbo-lag.
For now we hold onto our accurate crystal ball. And our bladders.
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