Another alternative to hybrids is clean diesel cars. No longer smelly and belching black fumes, today’s diesel cars are 50-state certified to the cleaner emissions standards. With new models expected to arrive in the next couple of years, there are still some attractive used diesel cars available for the serious shopper intent on a good deal.

  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI (2009) – German automaker Volkswagen debuted the diesel-powered Jetta TDI in VW_Jetta_V_TDI_Cup_ftl_SIAM20082009, after a few years hiatus caused by the U.S. government’s imposition of tougher emissions regulations. The Jetta TDI, available in sedan and SportWagen, with its 140-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, delivers an impressive 34 miles per gallon combined (city and highway) on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) testing cycle. Edmunds calls Jetta TDI “an interesting alternative to hybrids,” with its “broad-shouldered diesel power plant” and says “any Jetta is a serviceable substitute for those who want a premium German sedan but don’t have the bankroll to bring one home.” U.S. News & World Report ranks the Jetta TDI SportWagen as #2 in Affordable Compact Wagons, saying it “offers a lot of hauling space combined with fuel efficiency.”
  • BMW 3 Series 335d (2009) – With its 265-hp 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder turbodiesel and 6-speed automatic transmission, the 2009 BMW 3 Series 335d sedan, according to an Edmunds review, features “awesome acceleration, excellent fuel economy and range, outstanding ride/handling and balance, high quality interior materials.” Cons include tight back seat, a little short on storage bins and cubbies, “finicky climate controls.” U.S. News & World Report calls the 3 Series driving dynamics “almost unparalleled,” and its powerful engines include “a strong twin-turbo diesel that offers tremendous off-the-line torque with good fuel economy.”
  • Mercedes-Benz R320 Bluetec (2009) – For the well-heeled bunch who don’t want to sacrifice style and luxury for a little fuel frugality, there’s the 210-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 Mercedes-Benz R320 Bluetec. It’s a turbodiesel engineered specifically to meet 50-state emissions certification and is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Edmunds says R320 has a “sumptuous interior, unflappable high-speed composure, respectable handling, room for six full-size adults [and] Bluetec diesel provides adequate performance and good fuel economy.” Cons include “really expensive,” and “unusual styling.” U.S. News & World Report says, “If you can stomach its high price tag, the R Class shines for its spacious and luxurious interior, innovative styling and exceptional performance…It even boasts a fuel-efficient diesel engine option.”

Other best used diesel cars to put on the consideration list include two SUVs from Mercedes-Benz, the GL320 and ML320, and the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI with 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. On the horizon are reportedly new diesel models from Acura, the Audi A3 TFSI, Nissan Maxima and Subaru Legacy, among others.

By Suzanne Kane

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