Without question, the Germans rule when it comes to diesel luxury cars. This is reflective both of the higher fuel prices in Europe and the resultant longstanding demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Consequently, German manufacturers consider diesel power a necessity for pretty much every mainstream product. This includes such prestigious marques as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Contemporary diesel engines burn cleanly, run smoothly, and generate outstanding torque – while delivering exceptional fuel economy. Because of this, the best diesel luxury cars are quite capable of matching economy cars when it comes to fuel efficiency.
Diesel Luxury Cars: Buyer’s Guide
Photo Credit: Lyndon Bell
Audi A3 2.0 TDI
This new version of the Audi A3 actually marks the second A3 offering with diesel power here in the U.S. However, rather than a four-door hatch, this time it is packaged in a traditional four-door sedan. Power comes from a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel good for 236 ft-lbs of torque. Offering all of the attributes we’ve come to appreciate about Audi automobiles – at a more affordable price point – the A3 2.0 TDI’s fuel economy is rated at 36 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $32,600.
Audi A6 3.0 TDI
Buttressing the Audi A6 TDI’s extensive luxury features and cutting edge technologies is a joyfully delightful balance of ride and handling. Further, the A6 is both handsome and quiet. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg overall. Yes, it is entirely possible to have a powerful, luxuriously appointed car, and still experience solid fuel economy. Pricing starts at $59,500.
Photo Credit: Audi
Audi A7 3.0 TDI
While the sleek profile of the Audi A7 may be the first attribute to garner your attention, the A7 also delivers a gorgeous interior treatment, outstanding ride and handling, exceptional power, and a long list of standard features. Also, like the A6, power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg overall, making it the most fuel-efficient car in its class. Pricing starts at $70,400.
Audi A8 L 3.0 TDI
The all-aluminum Audi A8 is one of the lightest full-size luxury cars offered today. It’s also one of the most handsome and luxurious. Furthering the case for the Audi is its exclusivity. For diesel power, you’ll be looking at the long wheelbase A8 L, which means an even more spacious environment. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $85,100.
Audi Q5 3.0 TDI
Among compact luxury crossovers, Audi’s handsome Q5 is one of the nicest examples of the genre. You’ll find a welcoming interior treatment, a comfortable ride, capable handling, and a wealth of contemporary comfort and convenience features. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $47,500.
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI
Audi’s seven-passenger Q7 is the marque’s foray into the full-size SUV category. While the company has done little to update the model since its introduction, the Q7 does benefit from having been so good in the first place. Its handling is quite remarkable for its size, and luxury features abound. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 406 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $53,400.
BMW’s 328d is offered in four-door sedan and wagon formats. While BMW's turbocharged diesels lack the high-winding characteristics of their gasoline counterparts, they more than make up for it with abundant low-end torque. The 328d uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, good for 180 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 37 mpg overall for the sedan. With all-wheel drive, the wagon and the sedan return an estimated 35 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $39,000 for the sedan, and $43,450 for the wagon.
BMW 5 Series
BMW’s 5 Series sedans enjoy benchmark status. Offered with both rear- and all-wheel drive diesel powertrains, everything people love about the gasoline-fired 5 Series models translates rather well to the diesel car. An awe-inspiring 413 ft-lbs of torque spins out of the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine – along with 255 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated at 30 mpg overall, regardless of powertrain. Pricing starts at $57,100.
BMW 740Ld xDrive
The BMW 7 Series pairs diesel power with a long wheelbase, all-wheel drive, a palatial luxury quotient, and well above average driving attributes. The highly regarded full-size BMW 740Ld xDrive goes like sports sedan, but still offers the comfort of a flagship luxury model. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and an eye-opening 413 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $82,500.
BMW X3 xDrive28d
Got your heart set on a luxurious compact crossover, but performance, handling, and strong fuel economy are key on your list of desired attributes? You’re looking for the BMW X3 xDrive28d. Yes, its 180 horsepower sounds tame, but its 280 ft-lbs of torque give you all the pull you need. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four also delivers an estimated combined rating of 30 miles per gallon. Go ahead, have some cake. And, it’s OK, you can eat it too. Pricing starts at $42,000.
Photo Credit: BMW Media
BMW X5 xDrive35d
Looking for a more spacious package with even more power? Consider the BMW X5 xDrive35d. The “large” BMW luxury crossover SUV runs the same 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and the eye-opening 413 ft-lbs of torque found in BMW’s 7 Series flagship sedan. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $57,700.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
One look at its interior and you’ll agree, the Jeep Grand Cherokee definitely deserves to be here. Power comes from a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 240 horsepower and a stump-pulling 420 ft-lbs of torque (only SRT8 makes more torque in the Grand Cherokee lineup). Fuel economy clocks in at 24 mpg overall with all-wheel drive, and 25 with rear-drive. Pricing starts at $41,960.
Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC
If you’re looking for a four-door sedan capable of seating up to five in supreme comfort and luxury while offering the performance of a sport sedan and the fuel economy of a compact, here it is. Power comes from a 2.1-liter twin-turbocharged inline four-cylinder with 195 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque, which is rated at 33 miles per gallon overall. Pricing starts at $52,650.
Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC
The Mercedes-Benz of full-size SUVs, the GL350 BlueTEC seats seven, exudes airs of both class and quality, and is more than up to the task of dealing with a wide range of roads and conditions. Componentry, fit, and finish are all first class, as is the list of standard features. Power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 240 horsepower and 455 ft-lbs of torque. Overall fuel economy is rated at 22 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $63,600.
Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
The handsomely sculpted compact crossover from Mercedes-Benz proves small in size can still be big otherwise. The GLK delivers ride and handling characteristics on par with the market’s best luxury sedans, and yet it is quite competent off road too. You’ll also find outstanding build quality and a broad variety of contemporary tech features. Power comes from a 2.1-liter twin-turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque – rated at 28 miles per gallon overall. Pricing starts at $39,400.
Mercedes-Benz ML250 BlueTEC
The mid-size Mercedes ML model was the marque’s first crossover SUV, and it still ranks as one of the best in the category. A quiet and smooth ride, comfortable seating for five, easy handling, and the high lux quotient make ML a strong contender in the category. Power comes from a 2.1-liter twin-turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with 195 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque, rated at 33 miles per gallon overall. Pricing starts at $49,800.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Not content with the howls of derision it endured with the launch of a Porsche-badged SUV, the marque’s product team upped the ante with a diesel-powered model in 2009. In the process, it marked the first time a production Porsche featured a diesel powerplant. Porsche’s current 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 makes 240 horsepower, 406 ft-lbs of torque, and returns an estimated 23 mpg overall. Meanwhile, the driving experience you expect from Porsche is solidly in place. Pricing starts at $62,300.
Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel
Lest the VW badge fool you, the Touareg, Cayenne, and Q7 all share commonalities, as the three were co-developed on similar platforms. With the VW, this means you get many of the qualities of the more pricey marques, in a more reasonably priced package. Just as with its cousins, power comes from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 making 240 horsepower, 406 ft-lbs of torque, and returns an estimated 23 mpg overall. Pricing starts at $52,245.