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New diesel SUVs designed for fuel economy

March 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
With gas prices at a record high there are economical reasons to consider diesel. We hear a lot of talk about hybrid SUVs these days, like the full-size Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

But while adding hybrid systems to SUVs is one way to improve their fuel economy, diesel power is another way. We will soon see high-tech diesel engines that are clean and efficient.

"That is a very fuel efficient vehicle. It is a 30 percent better than a gas engine. Now we are talking about no smoke, no noise and no pollution basically. It is a very low emission vehicle," said Frank Klegon, Chrysler engineer.

So while you've no doubt seen lots of Jeep Grand Cherokees on the road over the years, you probably haven't seen one with a diesel engine yet.

For a large family-type vehicle like an SUV or van, a diesel makes a lot of sense. That's why most sport utility vehicles sold in Europe are diesel-powered, like the Grand Cherokee.

But now, with more American buyers concerned about how much they're spending on fuel, SUVs with new clean diesel power are poised to be more popular here too.

"The product has become much more refined and quieter. It is really difficult to tell the difference in a lot of ways between a gasoline and a diesel engine in a lot of applications," said Dr. Tim Leverton, JCB Dieselmax engineer.

These days there is a diesel option in most medium and heavy duty pickup trucks. Pickup buyers like diesels for the torque and the fuel economy. Soon you will see a diesel option in a lot more light-duty pickups, SUVs an minivans.

The Dodge Sprinter passenger van is an enormous people-hauling version of the popular commercial Sprinter. It's way bigger than what most families need, but even with all its size and weight, it can manage 15 to 18 miles per gallon thanks to its standard turbo diesel engine. If it had a gasoline engine, it would probably get about ten.

Hybrid SUVs will certainly be with us in the coming years, but there will also be efficient diesel SUVs too. Technology that may make sport utility vehicles more appealing at the pump.

 

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