Good mileage, tax credit for clean-diesel

LOS ANGELES This new Volkswagen could be considered an alternative fuel car -- the alternative fuel being diesel.

So why diesel instead of gasoline?

"The vehicles are very quiet, you get great acceleration, and you get awesome fuel economy, but you do need to try it and dispel some of the old myths. This is not your grandfather's diesel," said James Gill, Volkswagen of America.

Volkswagen's new Jetta TDI is one of the new "clean diesels" -- it passes not only the tough EPA emissions standards, but the ones in California as well.

"We've been working for several years, particularly with the diesel fuel-injection, and on new electronics in the vehicles, we were able to have it compliant," said Gill. `

Diesels are known for their superior fuel economy over gasoline, as well as lower carbon-dioxide output. The downside is that the price of diesel fuel has jumped in recent years, though it's expected to go down as refineries adjust their capacity.

Yes, diesel fuel is about 12 to 15 percent more expensive than gasoline right now, but you'll get 30 to 40 percent better mileage. And now there's another financial incentive to consider a diesel.

The federal government considers clean diesels to be alternative powertrain vehicles.

So even though the new Jetta TDI costs $2,000 more than the gas version, a $1,300 tax credit offsets a lot of the added cost.

Mercedes-Benz's new clean-diesel SUVs also qualify for the tax credits, from $900 on the ML SUV, to $1,800 on the bigger GL.

And the GL may be the best bargain of all, relatively speaking. The GL 320 320 Bluetec actually costs less than the gasoline model, even before the tax credit.

Diesels have been popular in Europe for years, and will probably become more so here as well.

We likely won't see this BMW here -- the Europe-only BMW 7-series diesel. It can out-accelerate its gasoline counterpart while getting up to 32 miles per gallon on the highway.

BMW is planning on selling some models here with diesel power, as are other brands, like Honda.

Diesels are definitely making a strong comeback, cleaner and better than before.


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