BOWTIE OIL BURNER
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Thu, Oct 17, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Doug Stokes The only way that you’ll know that this one is the first diesel-powered domestic passenger car from GM in well over two decades is the tiny green badge on the left rear of the trunk lid that (rather modestly) proclaims: “2.0 TD”. This is the Cruze Turbo Diesel, built by Chevrolet in Lordstown, Ohio; considered a compact car, boasting a segment-busting EPA-estimated 46 mpg (highway), and as easily-settled-into as any new car we’ve examined in a good number of years. As many car reviewers have before us, when we drove the gasoline-powered Cruze some time ago we liked it a lot. And a week ago we were handed the key to the diesel-powered version. The last time that GM put a diesel engine under the hood of a passenger car was in 1985 during the Reagan administration. Those engines were converted gasoline units. They were ill-conceived, unreliable, and so utterly awful that they set the cause of diesel power back a decade and gave GM a black eye that festered for years. The Cruze is their comeback car for diesel, and they need it to be right.
Officially a “compact”-size car, the Cruze’s back seat area and trunk space don’t seem to be too terribly constricted by the designation. There’s good room for two full-sizers in back, and a trunk that will handle the kind of long trips that a car with this sort of driving range seems to suggest every time that it gets on an interstate (even if it’s only to go a couple of off-ramps down the road). The price sheet that accompanied our Cruze was full-to-overflowing with standard equipment and ended with a single option, an engine heater (our Eastern kin calls them “block heaters” and uses them in both gasoline and diesel-fueled cars and trucks). The device rung up for an even hundred bucks and, for people of the cold country, or our readers who partake of snowsports, the ability to pre-heat an engine is often more than just a nice idea. (You’ll know if you need one.) We’ll get back to the final number on the Mulroney later. Let’s talk compression-ignition engines for a couple of minutes here, after all that’s what this car is all about. Diesel, you know, has no spark plugs, great range, and torque—bushel-fulls of beautiful, broad-shouldered, bountiful, torque. We’re talking 258 pound-feet of the stuff that makes this fuel-efficient penny-pincher so darn much fun to drive. Horsepower? Oh, that’s rated at 140. But rev this one (through its precisely-stepped 6-speed automatic transmission) up past 2,000 RPM and get nicely shoved back into the seat. You are now experiencing the marvel of the big, fat diesel torque curve. That is to say (and champion) mid-range performance, and that, for my money, is where this car earns its keep. Merging, making that (slightly) late lane change, getting past that swaying, overstuffed pickup with the precarious bunch of junk jiggling around and getting ready to find your windshield, or just rolling the far right pedal on for that visceral kick in the butt … The upshot is great street performance from a direct-injection 2-liter diesel engine. You’ll need to try this for yourself.
One more thing, there is the ever-so-slight diesel sound to the engine (almost exclusively heard from the outside of the car). I believe that Chevrolet could have hidden that sound entirely (you actually have to listen pretty hard or be notified of what you’re listening for) but chose to allow just the barest clacking note to be heard here. It’s a great status sound in a pickup (and GM makes some damn good diesel pickups), I think that the product people wanted the sound and the performance.* The Cruze we drove came fully-equipped and that meant that it had GM’s great OnStar service on board for the first 6 months of ownership. Hands free OnStar will do everything from finding you’re a phone number (and dialing it for you) to suggesting a restaurant, to instantly summon aid in the event of an accident, whether you can or not. I always make at least one OnStar call during a review drive with cars so equipped—even if I don’t really need any of the wealth of personal services that the system affords at the time. Every call I’ve ever made (and OnStar is approaching 20 years of service now) had been fielded by someone who not only sounds alert, but IS alert, has a full service attitude, smiles (when the occasion is light as my calls generally are), and is downright friendly. Going one step further everyone at OnStar that I’ve ever talked to honestly sounded to me like someone who I could count on in an emergency. It’s a good service to have. The Cruze body shape has been around for a couple of years now and is one of those cars that doesn’t startle or astonish, but fits in nicely. This is “squared away” but not square. There are no bad lines or looks in the sheet metal here. Personally, for my money, this one could be another color than the Red Hot (and that’s the real name of the paint here) maybe bright white with a black top, slightly lowered, and a set of aggressive tires on wider wheels (hey, I’m just sayin’—that, and about a week in the R&D shop at Gale Banks’ diesel skunkworks over in Azusa).
Did I say “fully-equipped” somewhere above? Yeah. Well, the build sheet on this one was just about running over with good stuff and that put the price right at 25K. ($24,985 FOB at the aforementioned Lordstown and an $810 destination charge). For your quarter-hundred you’ll get: Bluetooth, Remote Starter, Theft Deterrent System, Remote Keyless Entry, Color-Touch Radio/CD/MP3 Player, (very cool-looking) 17” Alloy Wheels, 6-Way Power Driver’s Seat (heated, leather appointed), Air Conditioning, Four Wheel (anti-lock of course) Disc Brakes, Solar Glass all around, Chevy MyLink for the “my” generation (that’s the one just after the “ME” generation) and a whole lot more. There’s a 5 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as well as Stabilitrak (GM’s stability control system). If the above sounded a bit like a racing driver reading all his sponsor’s names off his chest and sleeves in victory lane, that’s because it was. There’s a ton of content in the Cruze Diesel and the car (and you) deserve all of it (except, maybe those daylight running lights, which I’m begrudgingly getting use to). While we’re looking at that window sticker take a look at what your Uncle out in the District of Columbia figures that you can expect for fuel mileage: 27 city and (wait for it …) 46 highway. Our week with this one had no long trips in it (dammit!) and we still beat that 27 mpg number by at least 4. During our review the “gas gauge” needle seemingly was either stuck or just painted-on … I’ve seen glaciers that moved faster. The Cruze has what I consider Euro-style seats. Almost stiff at first, the operative word is supportive. We really should have scheduled a nice trip to Seattle for a cup for our week with this one, but every drive, even the short trips that we took were comfortable. These are alert seats.
In the last few years, Detroit has taken solid feel and fit very much to heart, and the Cruze is exemplary of the trend. At one time, not so very long ago, most domestic compact cars were sold with a, “Well, what do you want for $XXX?” attitude. Higher build quality imports sawed that deal off and the Cruze (and a number of other domestic machines) prove that any country can build tight machines if they put their minds (and backs to it). Okay, so here you are: you’ve wanted a cool, Euro-style, eco-clean, turbo-diesel car for a long time, but you’ve been hit over the head a lot of late by Mike Nichols’ wife on the ABC Evening News about “buying American” … Okay, here’s your ticket. This is NO smoke, NO glow-plug pre-start warm-up (at least in the land of LACar.com*) NO smell … nothing but a little green logo on the trunk, mid-range like a Titan rocket, driving distance between fillups that will have you forgetting which side the fuel door is on, and the need for two or three personal rest stops before the first refuel pause for the cause. And for those who’ve heard about the heavy extra money that a diesel engine sometimes adds to the final bill: stand by for some very nice news. A comparably-equipped (gasoline-fired) Cruze will run you almost exactly the same number of dollars as this one … There’s almost no appreciable premium for the option. This was a bold move for GM, they already build some of the best light diesel trucks in creativity, but coming to market with a great diesel compact like this really helps me think that they are back and serious about building good cars again. Kudos! -DS
*And earlier this week, at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Motor Press Guild, my supposition about the sound was confirmed at the highest level. I mentioned that I had just review-driven this car to General Motors Senior Vice President, Global Quality and Customer Experience Alicia Boler-Davis who was our guest speaker. I went on to indicate that I was going to write that I thought the GM people in charge wanted this one to emit at least a bit of diesel noise. Guess what? Ms. Boler-Davis told me that, let’s just call her a top guy (and I mean really top guy), said that there’s a certain cachet associated with diesel ownership and just a touch of the diesel sound would be just fine for this one. (It is.) For more information about Chevrolet products, go to chevrolet.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel Price: $24,985 EPA mileage estimates (miles per gallon): 27 city/46 highway Engine type: 2.0 liter turbo-diesel four-in-line Horsepower: 140 at 4000 rpm Torque: 258 pound-feet at 2000 rpm
Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Transmission: 6-speed automatic Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar, torsion beam rear suspension with stabilizer bar, Stabilitrack stability control system and traction control Brakes: Four-wheel antilock brakes, front disc/rear drum Wheels and tires: 17-inch alloy; all-season tires Dimensions Length: 181 inches Width: 70.7 inches Height: 58.1 inches Curb weight: 3102 pounds