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Diesel

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel sedan, General Motors places a long-odds bet that oil-burning passenger vehicles have not met their end of days in the U.S. marketplace.

Except for heavy-duty trucks and long-distance 18-wheelers, Americans have never fully embraced diesels, remembering the days in the latter half of the 20th century when most diesels were smelly, slow and often wouldn’t start in cold weather.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Those negatives have gone away. Modern diesels, especially in luxury cars, behave unobtrusively and most drivers would be hard put to distinguish them from gasoline-engine automobiles.

Yet the old prejudices continue, now augmented by the scandal in which Volkswagen faked emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the U.S.

About half of the passenger vehicles in Europe use cheaper diesel fuel and get about a 30% improvement in mileage over comparable gas burners. They also get high marks for durability. But it is becoming increasingly expensive to scrub the foul emissions. The CEO of Sweden’s Volvo said recently that the company likely would not develop a new-generation diesel engine.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technological advancements of the 2016 Cruze sedan in a functional, sporty package with added cargo space.

Moreover, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have announced that they planned to ban diesel cars and vans from the centers of their cities by 2025 to reduce air pollution.

Cities in the U.S. have an easier clean-air pathway because only about 5.3 million of the 264 million passenger cars and light trucks on the road nation-wide are diesel-powered. In 2016, less than 1% of the total 17.5 million light vehicles sold were diesels.

It was a poor diesel sales year partly because of the Volkswagen scandal, which now has caused the German manufacturer to eschew diesels entirely in the U.S. That opens the way for Chevrolet and a few others to fill the gap for the remaining diesel enthusiasts, who might account for several hundred thousand annual sales.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280-2The Cruze is an ideal candidate for diesel power. It is a sedan (or hatchback) that resides in the compact class, just a few cubic feet shy of the interior space that would get it a midsize classification. Unlike its predecessors, the forgettable Cobalt and Cavalier, it was so carefully designed and engineered that it won one of the “10 Top Picks” in the Consumer Reports 2017 Annual Auto Issue.

Most impressive, according to CR, was that its testers managed 47 mpg in highway driving, though the EPA gave the Cruze a 42-mpg rating. That was with the standard 153-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with 177 lb-ft of torque.

The EPA rated the city/highway/combined mileage of the diesel Cruze tested here at 31/47/37 mpg. It is powered by a 137-hp 1.6-cylinder diesel (also turbocharged) that develops 240 lb-ft of torque.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers 47.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room with the back seats flipped down.

That number is what gives this Cruze a sense of performance in acceleration off the line because the torque, or twisting force, makes itself felt at lower engine revolutions than with the gasoline engine. A new nine-speed automatic transmission efficiently sends the power to the front wheels. (A more engaging six-speed manual gearbox costs $1,600 less).

But it’s no drag racer and it is encumbered somewhat by a mileage enhancing stop-start system, which builds in a bit of hesitation moving away from a stoplight. Unfortunately, it cannot be turned off but can be defeated by simply lifting a foot slightly off the brake pedal.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

There are other minor downsides to the Cruze diesel. Its engine noises are raucous—more so under hard acceleration. Its equipment is similar to the midlevel LT trim, which means it does not have automatic climate control or sun visors that slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side. That omission adds a couple of bucks to the profit margin, but why? Curiously, previous Cruze models did have a sliding sun visor—only on the driver’s side.

Other than that, the tester had a high level of equipment for its base price of $26,270. It included full safety equipment, pushbutton starting, air conditioning, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Options added lane departure and blind-spot warning, a motorized glass sunroof and leather upholstery for a $29,655 sticker.

Given the outstanding fuel economy of the gasoline Cruze, the question is whether buyers will spend the extra $2,795 for the diesel-engine model. But it’s there for those diesel devotees and others who might want one.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel four-door sedan.
  • Engine:6-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 137 hp, 240 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,172 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/47/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,270.
  • Price as tested: $29,655.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280Photos (c) Chevrolet.

2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The most compelling thing about the 2017 Jaguar XE 2.0 diesel is that it’s a Jaguar. That means it has style, emotion, a stiff structure, accurate steering and a hefty price tag.

JagLAMotorShow2015Image18111518-resize-1024x683But because it’s a diesel, even turbocharged, its orientation is toward fuel economy. Acceleration, not so much. Yet it works capably for both chasing around and highway cruising without undue spending at the fuel pumps.

That’s the point of a diesel, of course, and the XE delivers with a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 30/40/34 mpg. You decide for yourself whether that’s enough of a return from a base price of $46,395 and, as tested for this review, $55,485.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111510-resize-1024x1536The monkey wrench in the gears is the current disenchantment with diesel engines, thanks to the scandal in which Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the United States.

If that’s not a concern, and you value the cachet of a British luxury sedan with superb handling, okay drivetrain performance, and exceptional fuel economy over blistering acceleration and autobahn no-limit cruising, the Jaguar XE 20d is worth a test drive.

It scores on styling, with clean lines outside and an unmistakable Jaguar look, as well as inside where there are luxury appointments and supportive comfort on seats covered in quality leather. Though it has seatbelts for five, figure on carrying only four medium to small adults.

Because of a smallish door opening, it takes effort to squeeze into the back seat, where there’s barely enough head and knee room for an average-sized human. Forget about the center-rear position, which is negated by a giant floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111511-resize-1024x652Up front is way better, where power seats deliver a multitude of adjustments and the seatbacks have prominent bolsters to hold the torso in place during cornering.

Not all is well with the XE 2.0d. It has two shortcomings that should never be seen on a car in this price and performance category: a flimsy translucent cloth sunshade that allows too much sunlight through the sunroof and sun visors that do not extend to block sunlight from the side. Also, the tester lacked adaptive cruise control, common now on less expensive machinery.

Instruments and controls are highlighted by the characteristic Jaguar automatic transmission shifter, a yeasty knob that rises like a small cake from the center console. It works intuitively once you get used to it, and features both “drive” and “sport” modes. The latter mode recalibrates the eight-speed automatic transmission to shift at higher rpms.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111512-resize-1024x1536If manual shifting is your choice, paddles are mounted on the steering wheel. However, as with many of these units, the Jaguar version doesn’t trust the driver. If you hold onto a gear too long, the transmission will shift for you. That’s not necessarily bad. You’d hit a rev limiter in any case; otherwise you could trash the engine.

With some turbo lag, the best you can do with the XE 2.0d in the 0-to-60-mph sprint is in the mid-eight seconds, according to independent instrumented tests. Though the engine delivers 180 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque, the Jag’s nearly two-ton weight cannot be overcome.

Interestingly, the Jaguar XE 2.0d compares with the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sport, which at $23,615 costs less than half the money. They are both about the same size, within inches of overall length and a few cubic feet of interior space.

JagXE17MYAWDLocationImage18111508-resize-1024x397The Impreza is 15 feet 2 inches long — three inches shorter than the Jag. Passenger/trunk space is 100/12 cubic feet compared to the XE’s 92/15 cubic feet. But the XE weighs 3,945 pounds; the Impreza checks in at 3,179 — 766 pounds lighter.

That’s likely why the Impreza’s 0-to-60 acceleration time is nearly identical to the XE’s, despite the fact that its 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed gasoline engine is rated at 152 hp, 28 less than the Jag’s. But the Impreza lags in a comparison of fuel economy at 27/36/30 miles to the gallon.

Subaru likes to think of its vehicles as the low-calorie versions of Audi’s all-wheel-drive cars and crossovers. Every Subaru model comes with all-wheel drive standard. Likely it also could now compare its Impreza Sport with the Jaguar XE diesel.

But there are intangibles. The Jaguar XE 20d exudes that indefinable heft and feel common to quality luxury/sports sedans. You pay for it, but for some people that’s the clincher.

JAGUARXEGRAHAMBELL01-resize-1024x684Specifications:

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 180 hp, 318 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 92/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,945 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,395.
  • Price as tested: $55,485.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

jagxemostbeautifulcarawardimage28011501Photos (c) Jaguar.

2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins V8 Turbo Diesel PRO-4X 4WD

by Tod Mesirow

The word “truck” has entered the pantheon of iconic words, supercharged and turbocharged, it calls to mind instant images of Americana – cowboys, country songs, family farms, a dog next to the driver on the bench seat. Elevated to their well-earned status both by the actual utility of such a vehicle, along with untold billions of impressions from the multitude of commercials as well as their presence as characters in films ranging from “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray driving a 1972 Chevy C10 – “don’t drive angry” he says to Phil the gopher – to Patrick Swayze’s 1978 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne in “Red Dawn”- and the 1985 Toyota SR5 from “Back to the Future.”

I’ve never owned a truck.  Driven one from time to time, but just for the special circumstances. Which made having a 2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins V8 Turbo Diesel PRO-4x 4WD four door beast of a full-sized truck for a few days sound like a great idea. Base price for this model is $52,230.00. Several PRO-4X packages brings the ass-tested price to $60,250.00. EPA fuel economy ratings are not required for this vehicle; I hovered around an average 12 MPG combining city and highway driving over a three-day period.

The first thing I noticed about the Titan was that it was yellow. Or more accurately YELLOW. Which is a good thing, because it makes it easy for people to see it coming.  And the Premium Paint additional fee is only $395. The second thing that’s clear is that it’s BIG. The bottom of the door windows is as high as the top of a regular passenger car. It’s taller than I am. A full 6’6” tall. Taller than a Ford F150, by more than an inch. But big is part of the appeal. Not unlike a horse – remember we’re channeling cowboys when we step UP in to our trucks, like cowboys climb up on to their horses — or cowgirls of course. Meanin’ no disrespect, ma’am. And it’s long – 243 inches long, 12+ inches longer than the one Ford model, seven inches shorter than the longest Ford truck. What this says to me is that Nissan thinks size matters. Which when it comes to trucks, especially if they’re to be used for their original purpose, hauling stuff around, it actually does matter.

There is a swing-out step at the rear of the truck on the driver’s side that makes climbing up in to the truck bed easier. Along each side of the bed are locking compartments for storage. A sliding window allows access to the cab from the bed, or the other way around.

Climbing up and in, the first thing that happens is that you forget you’re in a truck. It has the look and feel of a nice SUV. Touch screen, full instrumentation on the panel with switchable data available to the driver, cup holders everywhere, and a really nice sound system – one of the extra packages. Turning on the truck, the engine roars to life, and like modern diesels, there’s no apparent rattle. Instead, the powerful turbo V8 sounds like a truck owner would want it to sound – powerful.  But the noise level was also reminiscent of an SUV, and not a truck. My wife’s Prius is noisier inside, actually.

Pulling away from the parking spot, the camera is available, with the simulated overhead view, which for once seemed really handy – figuring out where the front of the truck is, and the back of the truck is, helps immensely, even with all the beeps and boops of automatic systems warning about proximity. Actually seeing where one is provides for a bit of relieved stress about dinging the truck – or any other nearby smaller vehicle – which means almost everything else out there.

On the road, the ride is assured and smooth. No crazy zero to 60 speeds, but plenty of get-up-and-go. The Titan is set up for towing things, of course, and I can’t imagine anything short of Paul Allen’s 600’ plus ship being much of an issue. Visibility is great – especially sitting up so high. There’s a super steep street in Los Angeles, Baxter St., with a 32% grade, that makes top ten lists of steepest streets in America.  It’s the perfect test bed for the Titan, this model weighing in at 6,526 pounds. I turn the knob to low 4×4 and immediately I have power to all four wheels. Steep? We don’t need to worry about steep anymore. And heading down the other side of Baxter – which is just as steep – provides an opportunity to test the Hill Descent Control, designed to keep the beast from getting away from the driver. Though I know it’s engineering and science, these systems still feel a bit like magic.

It’s suggested that I use the truck as a truck and fill the bed with something like 2x4s or other building material, but instead I take a bunch of people for ice cream. The back seats are spacious, and include SUV comfort touches like individual temperature controls and cup holders of course. Three full grown adults fit easily in back.

When it’s time to return the truck to Nissan I am sorry to see it go. Riding high in a massively powerful and substantive vehicle – an icon – it’s easy to Walter Mitty my way through all sorts of scenarios that I didn’t come close to realizing. Some vehicles are pure utilitarian in nature – which is how the truck was and remained for many decades. Now however, in the modern age, the truck has entered the realm of emotional items, with its iconic status. These days a truck is almost always never just a truck. The 2017 Nissan Titan XD is certainly much more than just a truck.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow.

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