Diesel isn’t just for trucks and SUVs anymore. A growing number of automakers have decided to install turbodiesel engines in a wide range of passenger cars in order to benefit from both their substantial fuel efficiency and also their impressive torque. The days of slow, noisy, and sooty diesel engines are behind us, done away by technologies like direct injection and advanced turbochargers, and in their place are a host of ultra-modern diesel cars that range from affordable entry-level models to high end luxury vehicles.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best diesel cars for 2013.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI is a compact car that can be had in both coupe and convertible editions. In fact, the newly-released Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI is the only diesel-powered drop top on the market. Providing buyers with a dose of classic cool is the primary mission of the Beetle's recently updated design, and the TDI model makes use of a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that is good for 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission can be paired with the Beetle TDI, and fuel mileage checks in at 28-mpg city and 41-mpg highway.
The 2013 Audi A8 TDI represents the apex of the German luxury brand's sedan lineup, and as such the full-size four door is stuffed full of high tech features and creature comforts (not to mention one of the best interiors in the business). The recent announcement at the L.A. Auto Show that the Audi A8 would be gaining a turbodiesel drivetrain option was a welcome one for those who had been looking for an all-wheel drive premium sedan that didn't skimp on prestige. The turbodiesel A8 will feature a 240 horsepower V-6 that also generates 406 lb-ft of torque, all the while providing fuel mileage of 24-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. An on-sale date of late 2013 is expected for the A8 TDI.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze will be the first small car from General Motors to ever offer a turbodiesel engine. Slated to hit dealerships within the first six months of 2013, the Chevrolet Cruze diesel will feature a 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbodiesel engine. A version of this motor is already available in Europe, where it delivers 161 horses and 266 lb-ft of torque, and it is not unreasonable to expect similar numbers in the U.S. Official fuel mileage numbers for the Cruze - like final its output ratings - have yet to be released, but it would not be unreasonable to expect the car to provide in the range of 40-mpg during highway cruising.
The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is offered in sedan and wagon (SportWagen) body styles, and it represents the only turbodiesel option in its class - at least, until the diesel-powered Cruze shows up. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI is notable for its spacious interior (and enormous 67 cubic feet of total cargo room in the wagon), and its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine matches the output of its Beetle TDI stable mate (140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque). Buyers can choose to row through the gears using a traditional six-speed manual transmission, or they can opt for quick paddle-instigated shifts via the Jetta TDI's available six-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Fuel economy for the Jetta TDI is listed at 30-mpg in city driving and 42-mpg on the highway.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec is another full-size luxury sedan that features a turbodiesel drivetrain. The Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec represents the German brand's flagship, and as such it is stuffed to the brim with the sum total of Mercedes-Benz's years of experience as a leader in the premium segment. The S350 Bluetec comes with a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine that makes use of a turbocharger in order to provide a healthy 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, output that is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission and standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage is listed at 21-mpg in stop and go driving and 31-mpg on the highway.
The 2013 Audi A3 TDI has been available for quite some time, and it continues to represent solid value in the compact luxury segment. The Audi A3 TDI is exclusively offered as a hatchback for 2013, but next year it becomes sedan-only, which means saying goodbye to the vehicle's 39 cubic feet of total cargo space. The A3 TDI is motivated by a 140 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is also capable of producing 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is offered free of charge with the hatchback, and front-wheel drive is also standard. Fuel mileage for the AW TDI is advertised as 30-mpg around town and 42-mpg on the highway.
The 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI has long enjoyed its status as the only non-luxury hatch in the compact segment to be available in the United States with a turbodiesel drivetrain. The Volkswagen Golf TDI shares the same engine and transmission options as the VW Jetta, which means a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder mill that generates 140 ponies and 236 lb-ft of twist (managed by either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox). Fuel mileage is listed as a solid 30-mpg city and 42-mpg highway, and the Golf TDI also comes with 46 cubic feet of total storage space with the rear seats folded forward, as well as great handling and good ride comfort for its price.
Mazda will be taking a risk with the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 mid-size sedan, which is set to debut early in 2013. The Mazda Mazda6 will become the sole Japanese passenger car sold in North America with a diesel option on the order sheet. The move is designed to help improve Mazda's overall fleet fuel economy, as the 2.2-liter, four-cylinder Skyactiv turbodiesel engine is expected to deliver efficiency figures of roughly 40-mpg highway when it eventually arrives. Horsepower should check in between 150 and 175 ponies, while torque will hover around the 300 lb-ft mark. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission can currently be mated to the Mazda6 diesel in the European market.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec adapts the German brand's turbodiesel technology to a more affordable mid-size luxury platform. Available only in the sedan version of the E-Class, the Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec trim level further differentiates itself from the pricier S-Class diesel by way of its rear-wheel drive-only setup. The E350 Bluetec's 3.0-liter V-6 offers up 210 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and the turbocharged engine's fuel economy is listed at a very competitive 21-mpg in stop and go driving and 32-mpg on the highway. A seven-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission offered with the Bluetec drivetrain.
The 2014 Audi A7 - essentially, a full-size, slope-roofed luxury hatchback - will also benefit from Audi's recent push into the U.S. turbodiesel sphere. The elegantly-styled Audi A7 TDI will maintain the standard A7's excellent road manners and striking looks while grafting in an ultra-efficient turbo V-6 engine and standard quattro all-wheel drive. The 3.0-liter motor offered with the A7 TDI will deliver 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, and fuel mileage for the unit should crest the 35-mpg mark out on the highway. Around town, it is reasonable to expect the A7 TDI to return roughly 24-mpg after it goes on sale later this year.