GM Prepares U.S. Market for its Diesels, Chevy Cruze to Debut First

By Paul Riegler on 7 May 2012
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Come this fall, General Motors will become the first U.S. automaker to offer a clean diesel for sale here and the first U.S. automaker to offer any diesel passenger car in over two decades.

The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze won’t be Chevrolet’s first diesel-powered passenger sedan in the U.S. but the automaker is clearly hoping you’ll forget about its previous diesel offerings.

While Chevrolet hasn’t released many details on the 2013 Cruze, the automaker has said it will be similar in many respects to the diesel-powered Cruzes it sells in Europe and Australia.  Those models have a turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter engine that develops 161 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, a figure that is roughly double what the current petrol-powered Cruze has in the U.S.

Based on available data from other markets, the diesel gets roughly 25% better fuel economy than the gasser.  In Australia, for combined city/highway driving, the diesel Cruze is rated at 42 mpg (5.6 l/100 km) while the 1.4-liter petrol variant was rated at 33.6 mpg (7.0 l/100 km), both with manual transmission.  In highway driving, the Cruze is rated at 53.5 mpg (4.4 l/100 km); the 2012 U.S. Cruze (petrol) gets 42 mpg on the EPA highway test cycle. The ratings are similar in European markets.

Back in the 1980s, Chevrolet offered a wide variety of diesel-powered automobiles (as did other GM divisions including Oldsmobile).  Models included the Chevette, the Caprice, the Impala, and the Monte Carlo.  Engine choices included a 260 cubic-inch CID V-6 and an Oldsmobile-developed 350 cubic-inch V-8.

The Oldsmobile engine in particular suffered from a variety of design problems including head design and head bolts, which were apparently not engineered to withstand the higher cylinder pressures and temperatures generated by diesel engines.  In addition, diesel fuel was of relatively poor quality back in the 1980s and this, combined with the design flaws, led to numerous engine failures.

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