Diesels in America: 4 Makes, 15 Models

The diesel-versus-hybrid game in America continues as a no-contest landslide victory for the gas/electric hybrid. Since the Prius came to town and blew the doors down by promising, and delivering, 40+ mpg while using regular gas, deisel-powered cars have fallen behind in a game they never had a shot of winning.

Could a comeback victory be in the works?

Not anytime soon, unfortunately. For the 2012 model year, only four automakers will offer diesel engines. (I’m not including American heavy duty pickups here, since those workhorses use diesels for their massive towing power rather than fuel efficiency.)

No less than 18 automakers will offer around 37 hybrid models in the U.S. for 2012. Always one to root for the underdog, I’m hoping diesel can gain some steam as people realize the technology is clean and has years of proven reliability and longevity without requiring expensive battery changes down the road. Toyota, Subaru, Honda and Nissan all offer oil-burners in other countries, and would here, too, if the market demanded.

For now, though, here are the 2012 U.S. diesel options:

Audi offers the A3 with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel rated at 32 mpg city and 42 highway. The Q7 has an optional 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel rated at 17/25.

BMW’s contributions to the diesel game include the 3.0-liter, 265-hp 3 Series 335d rated at 36 mpg on the highway. A 2012 version hasn’t been confirmed, but we know buyers can opt for the X5 xDrive35d rated at 26 on the highway.

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Mercedes-Benz ups the ante for 2012 by offering five luxurious models in the States including the S-Class S350 BlueTec (mpg of 20/31),  M-CLass ML350 BlueTec (18/25), E-Class E350 BlueTec (24/34), GL-Class GL350 BlueTec and the R-Class R350 BlueTec (18/24).

Finally, the biggest player in the U.S. diesel market is Volkswagen and its whopping six diesel models.

The all-new Passat TDI has an incredible 800-mile range with EPA ratings of 31/43.

The Beetle TDI will arrive in the U.S. by 2012. Volkswagen estimates it will get 40 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city.

The Touareg TDI was all-new for 2011 and is largely unchanged.  It’s rated at 19/28.

Other Volkswagen diesels, including the Jetta TDI, the Golf TDI, and the Jetta SportWagen TDI, offer 30/42 mpg.

All this diesel goodness doesn’t come cheap, though, with the least expensive Jetta TDI starting around $22,500 and the most expensive Mercedes-Benz S350 BluTec easily topping out over $100K. If that’s too steep, DealFinder has some great deals on pre-owned diesels!

Where do you fall: Diesel, hybrid, or regular unleaded?


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  1. Well, if you think about it, Diesels are at a competitive disadvantage because the US does not give new Diesel models hefty tax credits like they do hybrids. Also, for some reason, manufacturers have never really tried to be cost-competitive on Diesel models, and customers look at the higher cost of Diesel cars and don’t see any real cost advantage.
    If they didn’t have tax credits most of the hybrids wouldn’t sell, either. Only Toyota seems to have been able to field a good hybrid at a reasonable price (Prius) and tax credits seem to be driving the other sales.

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