The advent of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel has enabled improved air quality for diesel powerplants. In fact, they run cleaner than comparable gasoline models. Additionally, diesel engines produce more torque and are more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines of similar displacement. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, diesels typically score 30 to 35 percent better fuel efficiency. Further, today’s new noise- and vibration-damping technologies have also made diesel engines quieter and smoother than in the past. These cars represent the best of the breed.
Audi A3 2.0 TDI
Audi’s all-new A3 TDI uses a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder producing 236 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is offered as standard equipment. Fuel economy is rated at 31 mpg in the city, 43 on the highway and 36 combined. Because Audi offers the diesel engine across the entire trim range of the new Audi A3, available features include keyless entry and ignition, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and automated parking. Pricing starts at $32,600.
Audi A6 3.0 TDI
Considered one of the more handsome sedans on the road, Audi’s A6 is also nicely appointed and a technological marvel. Its standard features include xenon headlights, LED running lights, front and rear parking sensor arrays, auto-dimming exterior rearview mirrors, keyless entry and start, voice-activated navigation, a rearview camera system, and Audi’s MMI controller. The model also includes Audi Connect, which is comprised of an enhanced Web-based navigation solution, information acquisition, and WiFi. Power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 29 combined. Pricing starts at $58,700.
Audi A7 3.0 TDI
Audi’s A7 takes all of the goodness of the Audi A6 and wraps it in a more seductively styled body. The standard features list includes voice-activated navigation, a rearview camera system, and a ten-speaker audio system supporting HD radio, a CD player, satellite radio, and an iPod interface. Audi’s enhanced MMI controller is also included—alongside Bluetooth audio and telephony. Audi Connect offers an enhanced Web-based navigation solution, information acquisition, and WiFi. A turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 capable of 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 29 combined. Pricing starts at $68,300.
Audi A8L 3.0 TDI
Audi’s aluminum A8 L 3.0 TDI offers the amenities of a flagship luxury sedan with diesel power. Standard features include adaptive air suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-operated trunk lid, soft-closing doors, keyless entry and start, navigation, a rearview camera monitoring system, Bluetooth audio and telephony, along with Audi's MMI electronics interface with voice control. The 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine is rated at 240 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque. The EPA says to expect 24 mpg in the city, 36 on the highway, and 28 combined from the all-wheel drive powertrain, which includes an eight-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $85,100.
Offered in sedan and wagon configurations, BMW’s 3 Series diesels use a 180-horsepower 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 280 ft-lbs of torque. Paired exclusively with BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission, the engine can also be had in both rear- and all-wheel drive powertrain configurations. Rear-drive 328d sedans are rated at 32 mpg in the city, 45 on the highway, and 37 combined, while the 328d xDrive sedan and Sport Wagon are both rated at 31 in the city, 43 on the highway, and 35 combined. Standard features include automatic headlights, foglights, automatic windshield wipers, cruise control, and a dual-zone automatic climate control system. Sedans start at $39,000; Sports Wagons start at $43,450.
BMW 535d features a twin-turbocharged, 255-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder with 413 ft-lbs of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission—plus a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 30 combined with rear drive, and 26/37 and 30 with all-wheel drive. Standard are BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control, smart bi-xenon headlights, automatic windshield wipers, keyless entry and start; and a dual-zone automatic climate control system. Tech includes BMW Assist telematics, iDrive with smartphone app integration, navigation, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming connectivity; and a 10-speaker audio system Rear drive pricing starts at $57,100, all-wheel drive pricing starts at $59,400.
BMW’s 740 Ld also flaunts a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six, which makes 255 horsepower and 423 ft-lbs of torque at 1500 rpm. The all-wheel drive powertrain employs an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway, and 26 combined. Standard features include an adaptive suspension system with rear self-leveling, a sunroof, front and rear parking sensor arrays; and a rearview camera monitoring system—along with keyless entry and start. The BMW Assist telematics suite includes smartphone integration. There’s also a four-zone automatic climate control system, and heated power-adjustable leather front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and memory functions. Pricing starts at $82,500.
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Chevrolet’s Cruze Diesel features a 151-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 264 ft-lbs of torque. Chevrolet’s six-speed automatic transmission completes the front-drive powertrain. Fuel economy is 27 mpg in the city, 46 on the highway, and 34 combined. Standard equipment includes a rearview camera and the Chevrolet MyLink interface, which bundles a seven-inch touchscreen display and Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming connectivity with voice control and smartphone integration. Further, the model features OnStar, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column with audio controls on the steering wheel, air-conditioning, and a full complement of power accessories. A rearview camera is also included. Pricing starts at $26,485.
Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC
Diesel power for the Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC comes from a 195-horsepower 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, delivering 369 ft-lbs of torque to either the rear- or all four wheels (4MATIC) courtesy of a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is quoted at 28 mpg in the city (27 w/4MATIC) 45 on the highway (42 w/4MATIC) and 35 combined (33 w/4MATIC). Luxuriously equipped, the model offers a choice of three wood trims, as well as 14-way power adjustable front seats with memory functions for the driver and front passenger. The seats are covered with MB-Tex synthetic upholstery on the base model. Standard features include the Mercedes-Benz COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system supporting a six-disc CD changer and an iPod/USB audio input interface. Pricing starts at $51,800.
Volkswagen TDI Beetle/Golf/Jetta/ Jetta SportWagen/Passat
Volkswagen’s TDI models ue a 150-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 236 ft-lbs of torque. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual-, or a six-speed automated manual gearbox to feed the front wheels. Fuel economy varies by model. Standard equipment typically includes air-conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and VW's Car-Net telematics system—along with keyless entry and start and a touchscreen interface. Beetle Convertible TDI is the only diesel-powered convertible offered in the U.S. Beetle pricing starts at $24,795, Golf starts at $21,995, Jetta starts at $21,640, Jetta SportsWagen starts at $26,565, and Passat starts at $26,825.