This week, Chevrolet announced that its new 2017 diesel Cruze will get a jaw-dropping 52 mpg on the highway, making it the car with the best fuel economy among non-hybrid and non-electric models in America. Chevy says that means the car can drive an estimated 702 miles on a highway before it runs out of diesel.
Chevrolet’s 2016 Cruze sells what young people value most: Lots of mpg, free GBs(As an aside: Ars recommends investing in adult diapers or inventing a Dune-style stillsuit to reclaim your—err…water—before you try to drive 700 miles in one go in this car.)
The 1.6L, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine has 137hp (102kW) and 240lb-ft (325Nm) of torque, as you’d expect from a diesel passenger sedan. (For comparison, the gas-powered 2017 Chevy Cruze gets 177lb-ft [240Nm] of torque.)
The 52 mpg highway fuel economy numbers apply to the six-speed manual transmission diesel Cruze, which gets 30 mpg on city streets. The car also comes in a 9-speed automatic transmission version, which returns 47 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in the city with start-stop technology regulating the engine.
In a phone conversation with Ars on Thursday, GM VP of Propulsion Dan Nicholson and Assistant Chief Engineer for Diesel Engines Mike Siegrist talked about why Chevy is pushing diesels now, when the most publicity diesel has had in the last two years has been the result of the Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions scandal. That German automaker has found itself owning billions of dollars in buybacks and fines after its popular “clean diesel” vehicles were discovered to house illegal software that helped the cars get better performance on the road while quietly spewing up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) legally permitted by the EPA.
“GM is committed to emission compliance, including diesels,” Siegrist said. “Customers can trust our brand… and trust what we’re doing is good from a CO2 perspective, and it’s also OK for air quality.”
Diesel vehicles tend to get better fuel economy than gas-powered vehicles, but they also tend to emit more CO2 and NOx per gallon of fuel burned than gasoline-powered cars, according to the Energy Information Agency. Automakers have added various kinds of systems to their diesel engines to try to mitigate the emission of nitrogen oxides, and Siegrist said the diesel Cruze has a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system as part of its emissions control. As exhaust is produced, the car injects DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), an aqueous urea solution, into the exhaust upstream of the catalytic reduction unit. The DEF reacts with the NOx to break it down into nitrogen and water.
That means you’ll have to fill the car up with DEF every 4,000 to 5,000 miles or so, although Siegrist and Nicholson said that should be the only maintenance difference between a diesel Cruze and a gas Cruze, besides the fact that the type of oil you use for a diesel vehicle is different.
Siegrist and Nicholson said GM, Chevy’s parent company, has been using the SCR technology on its cars since 2010.
The two executives also said they were targeting “more tech savvy” customers who drive mostly highway miles, citing populations in the Pacific Northwest and in Southern California.
Automakers that sell cars in the US have been under pressure to increase their fuel economy numbers, given that the Environmental Protection Agency in January finalized rules to force automakers to get an average 51.2 mpg across their fleet by 2025. The 2016 gas-powered Cruze also had competitive fuel economy numbers, with the LT and LS getting 42 mpg on the highway.
The sedan will start at $24,670. Later this year, Chevy said it would introduce a hatchback version of the car for the 2018 model year.
Ars also asked Siegrist and Nicholson about a 2016 lawsuit filed against GM and Chevy by nine diesel Chevy Cruze owners, alleging that the automaker cheated emissions regulations like VW Group did and falsely and deceptively marketed the cars. Earlier this week, the judge in the case dismissed the breach of contract claims from the plaintiffs because they hadn’t produced enough evidence to support their allegations. But the judge let the claims of “deceptive advertising and fraudulent concealment” stand, according to The Detroit News.
Siegrist told Ars that GM is happy that the “preliminary decisions on that were in favor,” and the company is “pleased with the initial rulings.” He added that the company is “confident that their remaining claims will eventually fail as well.”
More Info: arstechnica.com