It wasn't so long ago on paper -- a mere five years -- that we were salivating at the potential diesels that were coming to market in North America. Yet in car (or truck) years, five years is like a lifetime. Five years is close to the full product cycle of a truck, and a pickup generation is about seven years. In the stretch of time from when we were hearing rumors that the Big Three had smaller diesels ready to go into half-tons in 2008, to today, when we finally see evidence of it happening, had the bottom not fallen out of the economy, we'd be nearly ready for the next generation of diesel half-tons. Instead, we're just getting ready for the first ones. Diesels are finally coming for the first time in a quarter century. We are so excited about the prospects for diesel in the upcoming months that we've dedicated much of the July/August issue of Truck Trend to the subject.
Companies including Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have been consistently supportive of diesel technology. One of the newest diesel SUVs to enter the fray is Jeep, with its new diesel Grand Cherokee for 2014. This isn't the first time a diesel has been available in a Jeep, but it's one of the most significant ones: It's 50-state legal, and making it emissions-compliant here paves the way for it to be used in other vehicles in the Chrysler family. It also means the Grand Cherokee is even more ready to take on competition from the likes of BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, and VW. We have a comparison in the July/August 2013 issue pitting the diesel Grand Cherokee against the diesel-powered Touareg, Cayenne, and ML350. Even though a few years ago a $56,000 Jeep would've seemed ridiculous, in this comparison, that price and the vehicle fit right in.
Volkswagen, showing where it stands on advancing diesel technology, brought a three-row sport/utility concept called the CrossBlue, powered by a diesel/electric hybrid powertrain. This could be a peek into what VW wants to produce to compete with vehicles such as the Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, and Ford Explorer. We are fairly sure a vehicle similar to this concept is coming to market. We really hope the diesel/electric hybrid does as well, as this would provide the best of both worlds for fuel economy: electric power around town, and the excellent highway fuel efficiency of a diesel. Unfortunately, this would also be the most expensive of both worlds, as these are the most expensive powertrains separately -- and putting them together wouldn't reduce the cost.
But the SUV world isn't the only place where diesel news is happening. Ram is bringing a version of Fiat's full-size van to the U.S., and the next generation of Ford's Transit is coming here as well. Each van will offer a diesel engine, each the second introduction of a diesel brand sold here.
The Ram ProMaster's four-cylinder 3.0-liter will be the second in the EcoDiesel line (oddly, both engines have the same displacement), and the Transit's 3.2-liter I-5 will be the second engine dubbed Power Stroke. We show you what the ProMaster has to offer for van drivers and, in a separate story, take a deeper look into the Transit's 3.2-liter Power Stroke. Both of those vans are aimed squarely at taking business from Mercedes-Benz's Sprinter, but Mercedes isn't shying away from the fight: It's introducing a refreshed Sprinter for 2014. With that launch, the Sprinter will still be the only van on the market sold with a diesel-only powertrain -- but now there will be two diesels available.
Diesel power is also finally coming to the half-ton truck world. A few years ago, we were sure Mahindra would be the first non-heavy-duty diesel pickup truck to be sold in the U.S. since the 1980s, but it turns out that honor is going to Ram when its 1500 gets a diesel option later this year. The company hasn't released much information on the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in the Ram, but we've put together a story based on our best estimates of what the Grand Cherokee's turbodiesel could do for the Ram. In another story, we interview the other manufacturers about how they plan to respond to the diesel Ram.
While we could've been driving diesel half-tons, we love that automakers are making up for lost time. Even passenger cars -- other than from Mercedes and VW -- are coming. There's the Mazda6 sedan, which has a Skyactiv diesel that's most likely coming to the CX-5, and Chevrolet is going to sell a Cruze diesel. We like where this trend is going, and hope to see diesels become as commonplace in light-duty vehicles here as they are in Europe.