Life after Dieselgate Part 1: The Domestics

If you’ve been reading the automotive headlines the last three years, you’ve no doubt heard of “Dieselgate,” the emissions scandal that involved Volkswagen’s calculated uploading of emissions-cheating engine calibrations into its TDI model vehicles. After the news broke in 2015, diesel has been slowly trying to recover from the proverbial black eye left by the German automaker, and VW has since discontinued any plans of offering diesel-powered vehicles in the States.

Life Goes On

So what is life like after Dieselgate? Are OEMs now afraid to introduce or offer new diesel models? How many manufacturers are even offering diesels these days? We’re happy to report that the answers to these questions are: good, no and plenty! Although the hybrid-electric and anti-diesel crowds would have you believe diesel is on the ropes, nothing could be further from the truth. Even with Volkswagen pulling the plug on diesel and backing out of compression ignition engines in North America altogether (which means VW, Audi and Porsche are out), several OEMs are introducing new diesel-powered vehicles, while others continue to hold the line on existing models.

Press-Worthy

While mainstream media and (sadly) even the manufacturers do very little to report or promote the fact that diesel engines are available in many North American cars, trucks and SUVs, fear not. We’re doing it here—and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. With GM releasing the revamped diesel-powered Cruze for ’18 and the coming unveiling of a diesel option for the all-new ‘19 half-ton pickups this fall, the General has been busy. Also, for the first time in history a Power Stroke can be had in a Ford F-150. Meanwhile, Ram, Jeep and Nissan continue to press on with their respective oil-burner options.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know to become better-acquainted with the current crop of diesel-powered domestic cars, trucks and SUVs available in North America.

Playing by The Rules

001-Bosch-Diesel-Future

Trust us, if you think any OEM would dare tinker with emissions defeat functions within its engine calibrations at this point, you’re sorely mistaken. Don’t believe us? Just ask VW executives (the ones that aren’t headed to prison) how their $30 billion in losses for selling dirty TDIs helped improve their company’s bottom line, worldwide reputation or future business model. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the entire dieselgate scandal is that Volkswagen didn’t have to cheat. Other manufacturers are proving that emissions regulation standards can be met using the technology that’s already available. The OEMs have been able to make their cars, trucks and SUVs cleaner, more fuel efficient and powerful without the need for an illegal workaround.

Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500

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General Motors has made a huge investment in diesel in recent years and the latest newcomer to the compression-ignition party is the 3.0L inline-six Duramax, available on ’19 Silverado and Sierra 1500s in LT, RST, LTZ or High Country trim. While official power figures have yet to be released, GM has led us to believe it will be comparable (if not more powerful) than Ford’s new 3.0L Power Stroke, which is rated at 250hp and 440 lb-ft. The I-6 Duramax will be bolted to a new Hydra-Matic 10L80 10-speed automatic transmission, which should also help the oil-burning GM half-tons rival Ford’s 30 mpg Power Stroke F-150 in the mileage department. In our opinion, a diesel-powered Silverado/Sierra 1500 is more than just a “me too” decision to keep up with Ford’s F-150 and stay ahead of Ram’s 1500 in terms of sales. Over the last five years, GM has made a conscious effort to include a diesel option in various classes of vehicles. For more on that, keep reading.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 3.0L LM2 Duramax, direct-injection, turbocharged I6
  • Injection System: TBA (but likely Denso high-pressure common-rail)
  • Horsepower: TBA
  • Torque: TBA
  • Emissions Equipment: TBA
  • Transmission: Hydra-Matic 10L80 10-speed automatic
  • Payload Capacity: TBA
  • Towing Capacity: TBA

Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon

003-2018-Chevrolet-Colorado-Duramax

In 2016, GM brought diesel back to the compact pickup market—a segment that had been void of a diesel option for three decades—by offering the 2.8L inline-four Duramax in its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Thus far, the diesel-powered compacts have been a subtle hit despite their limited publicity. The 4,700-pound trucks, while somewhat hefty for the compact category, can tow as much as 7,700 pounds and haul in excess of 1,500 pounds in the six-foot two-inch long bed. Thanks to a common-rail injection system that makes use of a Denso HP4 high-pressure fuel pump and advanced solenoid-style injectors, the 170 ci baby Duramax produces 181hp at 3,400 rpm and a very respectable 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 2.8L LWN Duramax, direct-injection, turbocharged, 16-valve I4
  • Injection System: Denso high-pressure common-rail with HP4 pump and solenoid-style injectors
  • Horsepower: 181hp at 3,400 rpm
  • Torque: 369 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic
  • Payload Capacity: 1,508 pounds
  • Towing Capacity: 7,700 pounds

Chevrolet Cruze: 52 MPG

004-2018-Chevrolet-Cruze-Diesel

While first introduced in ’14, the original diesel-powered Cruze was canceled after the ’15 model year. This wasn't due to lack of demand or emissions issues, but to prepare for an all-new version of the sedan that included a fresh diesel mill under the hood. The ’18 Cruze makes use of a 137hp 1.6L ECOTEC inline-four sporting an aluminum block with a bed plate, dual overhead cams and a common-rail injection system that makes use of a Denso high-pressure pump and injectors. Better yet, the Cruze is available in six-speed manual transmission form, with the MZ4 gearbox allowing the car to achieve as much as 52 mpg highway.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 1.6L LH7 ECOTEC, direct-injection, turbocharged, 16-valve I4
  • Injection System: Denso high-pressure common-rail with solenoid-style injectors
  • Horsepower: 137hp at 3,750 rpm
  • Torque: 240 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: MZ4 six-speed manual (standard) or Hydra-Matic 9TXX nine-speed automatic
  • MPG Highway: 52 mpg (manual), 47 mpg (auto)
  • MPG City: 30 mpg (manual), 31 mpg (auto)

Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain

005-2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-Diesel

Load up the family and fill up the tank 600 miles later. By lightening up its curb weight for 2018 (without sacrificing cabin space) and using the same 1.6L ECOTEC diesel found in the Cruze, GM’s Equinox and Terrain are some of the most fuel efficient crossovers in North America. While the compact SUVs aren’t rocket ships, off-the-line performance and highway merging performance is adequate, while a six-speed automatic transmission (not the nine-speed offered in the Cruze) keeps gear hunting at a minimum. Front wheel drive models can knock down 39 mpg highway and 28 mpg around town, while all-wheel drive versions are good for 38 and 28 mpg, respectively.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 1.6L LH7 ECOTEC, direct-injection, turbocharged, 16-valve I4
  • Injection System: Denso high-pressure common-rail with solenoid-style injectors
  • Horsepower: 137hp at 3,750 rpm
  • Torque: 240 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • MPG Highway: 39 mpg (FWD), 38 mpg (AWD)
  • MPG City: 28 mpg

Ford F-150

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Even with its immensely popular EcoBoost mills and the revered 5.0L V8 already available in the F-150 stable, Ford still believes a diesel half-ton will sell. While FoMoCo only expects a five-percent take-rate on Power Stroke-equipped models, there was never a question as to whether or not the company would bring one to market. Similar to the engine used in Land Rover and Range Rover applications and produced in the U.K., the 3.0L Power Stroke V6 is based on a compacted graphite iron (CGI) crankcase, utilizes aluminum cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder and features dual overhead cams. The high-pressure fuel pump for the injection system is belt-driven from the rear, while quick-firing piezoelectric injectors keep combustion ultra quiet and extremely efficient.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 3.0L Power Stroke, direct-injection, turbocharged, 24-valve V6
  • Injection System: Bosch common-rail with piezoelectric injectors
  • Horsepower: 250hp at 3,250 rpm
  • Torque: 440 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: 10R80 10-speed automatic
  • Payload Capacity: 1,940 pounds
  • Towing Capacity: 11,400 pounds
  • MPG Highway: 30 mpg (4x2)
  • MPG City: 22 mpg (4x2)

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

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Other than offering the EcoDiesel in more trim levels over the years (for 2018, the EcoDiesel was offered in Sport models for the first time), Ram’s VM Motori-built 3.0L V6 has gone virtually unchanged since its inception in 2014. Still, all things considered it’s a lightweight anvil of an engine—with its CGI block, one-piece bed plate, 14mm head bolts and sub-500-pound overall heft—and it’s still slated to be offered in the ’19 Ram 1500 lineup. While the EcoDiesel is undergoing some emissions-system changes and won’t be available until midway through ’19 model production, it will likely have the same 240hp and 420 lb-ft rating, with the same proven eight-speed 8HP70 automatic transmission backing it. With the improved aerodynamics package on the ’19 model Rams showing fuel economy gains in gas-powered trucks (see PickupTrucks.com’s testing), who knows? Ram’s EcoDiesel may rival Ford’s best-in-class 30 mpg highway figure.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 3.0L VM Motori, direct-injection, turbocharged, 24-valve V6
  • Injection System: Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and solenoid-style injectors
  • Horsepower: 240hp at 3,600 rpm
  • Torque: 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic (TorqueFlite 8)
  • Payload Capacity: 1,620 pounds
  • Towing Capacity: 9,200 pounds
  • MPG Highway: 29 mpg (4x2)
  • MPG City: 21 mpg (4x2)

Jeep Grand Cherokee

008-2016-Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-Eco-Diesel

North American Jeep owners have been privy to several different diesel options over the last dozen years. First, there was the 2.8L VM Motori-equipped Jeep Liberty offered in ’05 and ’06. Then the 3.0L Mercedes V6 finally became available in stateside Jeep Grand Cherokees from ’07-‘09. Since ‘14, the same engine and transmission package used in the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has been an option for Grand buyers—with the latter being its most fuel efficient and powerful version yet. Two-wheel drive models are rated for 30 mpg highway while 4x4 versions are pegged for 28 mpg. With a 700-mile range, a 7,400-pound maximum tow rating (4x2) and all the classic off-the-beaten-path agility a Jeep is known for, the EcoDiesel rendition of the Grand Cherokee literally makes it one-of-a-kind in the domestic mid-size SUV category.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 3.0L VM Motori, direct-injection, turbocharged, 24-valve V6
  • Injection System: Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and solenoid-style injectors
  • Horsepower: 240hp at 3,600 rpm
  • Torque: 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic (TorqueFlite 8)
  • Towing Capacity: 7,400 pounds (4x2)
  • MPG Highway: 30 mpg (4x2)
  • MPG City: 22 mpg (4x2)

Nissan Titan XD

009-2016-Nissan-Titan-XD-Cummins-Diesel

Although it’s yet to take a big bite out of the half-ton or ¾-ton truck markets, Nissan continues to field its “5/8-scale” Cummins-powered Titan XD. While sales have remained low in comparison to the kind of numbers the Big Three see (and the press on the Titan XD typically trending toward the negative), most XD owners will tell you they really like their truck. It’s often praised for its roomy cabin, more-than-adequate power provided by the 5.0L Cummins V8 and the smooth operation of the six-speed Aisin automatic transmission. Those who abandoned their half-tons for the Titan XD are especially fond of its towing stability.

Hard Facts

  • Engine: 5.0L Cummins, direct-injection, turbocharged, 32-valve V8
  • Injection System: Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and piezoelectric injectors
  • Horsepower: 310hp at 3,200 rpm
  • Torque: 555 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
  • Emissions Equipment: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
  • Transmission: Aisin A466ND six-speed automatic
  • Payload Capacity: 2,420 pounds
  • Towing Capacity: 12,640 pounds

It Goes Without Saying…

010-2018-Ram-3500-2500-Cummins-1500-Eco-Diesel

As always, the diesel options offered for ¾-ton and larger trucks from the Big Three continue to see an exceptionally high take-rate (Cummins-powered Ram 2500 and 3500s, Power Stroke equipped Ford Super Dutys and Chevrolet/GMC Silverado/Sierra HDs, respectively). Based on their capability alone, these mountain-movers will likely always keep Detroit humming along, but it would be neglectful to not credit them with helping to bring modern diesel to the masses. After all, the extraordinary popularity of the heavy-duty segment was the catalyst behind the OEs bringing diesel power to the light-duty truck market.

Photography courtesy of the manufacturers

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