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Chevrolet Unveils First Diesel Car For U.S. Since 1986

9:55 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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CHICAGO -- In another sign that diesel power is starting to make inroads with American drivers, General Motors today at the show here took the wraps off its first diesel-powered car for the U.S. since 1986.

A high-mileage diesel model of the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan will go on sale this summer.

On the outside it looks pretty much the same as any Cruze except for the 2.0 TD for Turbo Diesel.)

But under the hood is a 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower diesel engine that is expected to be rated 42 miles per gallon on the highway -- good for a 600-mile range on the 15-gallon tank.

The diesel, with a strong 248 lb.ft. of torque, also is expected to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds.

That's faster than its chief rival, GM says. What is that? GM executives didn't hold back in saying the diesel Cruze is aimed squarely at the oil-burning version of the Volkswagen Jetta, one of several VW diesel models that are proving popular.

Cruze diesel with automatic will start at $25,695 including shipping -- and including a two-year maintenance plan. The Jetta diesel with automatic starts at $24,950 ($23,850 with manual). The Jetta diesel is rated 30 mpg in the city, 42 mpg highway, 34 mpg in city/highway mix.

It's the second high-mileage offering for Cruze, which also offers the special Eco model with mileage boosting tweaks also good for 42 mpg on the highway, but not as much performance as the diesel. The Eco with automatic starts at $21,685.

Mazda's also planning a diesel the second half this year for its redesigned Mazda6 midsize sedan. Honda and Nissan had said they'd have U.S. diesels by now, but backed off several years ago and stuck with hybrids as their mileage champs.

GM, in the manner of other diesel sellers, emphasizes that the Cruze diesel will be clean and quiet, unlike those of the past.

"Cruze turbo diesel is the cleanest operating diesel engine ever produced by General Motors," said Gary Altman, chief engineer for GM's small cars, in a conference call with reporters this week. "We leveraged our global engineering expertise to take a great diesel engine from Europe and improve it to meet the stringent U.S. standards"

Even though GM sells 40% of the Cruzes in Europe with diesels, it chose a larger diesel, from an Opel Astra, as the engine for the U.S.

In modifying it for the U.S. market, engineers tried to make it more fun: it holds the maximum turbo boost for 10 seconds to increase the torque during acceleration to about 280 foot-pounds of torque, more than a good-size gasoline V-6.

GM hasn't sold a diesel car in the U.S. since the subcompact 1986 Chevrolet Chevette. Yet GM has sold more than 500,000 diesel cars globally in the past year alone, including 33,000 Cruzes.

The car will be made in the U.S., but the engine will come from Germany.

As good as it sounds, GM isn't expecting it to be a huge seller. Diesel fuel costs more than gasoline in the U.S., eating into the fuel savings. Nationwide average price for diesel is $4 today, according to AAA, while regular gasoline averages $3.56.

Cristi Landy, a GM marketing executive, says GM expects the car to be popular with families that already have a GM diesel-powered pickup truck in the house, those who know and appreciate the benefits of diesels.

"We're going to describe the vehicle as having great performance," Landy says. "Once you test drive it, there is no question that there is a tremendous difference."

USA TODAY

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