When the weather gets hot and family vacation trips are in full swing, fuel companies often ignore the time tested practice of lowering prices in lieu of increased demand. There, I have said it — I believe that they get a little (lot) greedy. I can remember a time when fuel prices actually went down over the holidays because entrepreneurs realized that they would more than make up for it with volume of sales. Then again, in those days you never heard annual reports from fuel companies indicating net profits in the multiple-billions of dollars. As long as you plan to drive from point A to point B, then you have only one way to get even; save fuel. Conserve as much fuel in as many different ways as possible.
One sure way to beat the price at the pump is by driving a diesel powered family car. They get far better fuel mileage than gasoline powered cars, are readily available as late model used, and come in all sizes and price ranges. Here are five examples of the finest diesel powered sedans on the North American market. Check out used car websites like BestRide.com where you will find hundreds of thousands of late-model used vehicles from which to choose.
The Chevy Cruze sells for an average price of around $25k used. You can find stripped versions for twenty-thousand or fully-loaded, super low mileage cars for thirty-thousand, but the average is around twenty-five. It is a front-wheel drive small sedan with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 151 horsepower and 264-pound-feet-of-torque. A six-speed automatic was standard equipment but you can find some with the manual six-speed gearbox, as well. Fuel efficiency ratings for the Cruze diesel are 27 mpg city/46 mpg highway for an average of 33 mpg overall. Power from the diesel engine is acceptable, especially when mated to the manual transmission. It has the capacity to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6-seconds.
It has a sport tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, leather seating surfaces, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, and MyLink touchscreen interface. The diesel Cruze also utilizes enhanced aerodynamic features to conserve fuel. They include low rolling resistance tires, lightweight wheels, a rear spoiler, and a smaller fuel tank (with manual transmission only). Some units also have state of the art safety features like a rear cross traffic alert system, blind spot warning mirrors, a rearview camera, and rear park assist.
The oldest of our entries, the 335d offers a great value if you can find a low mileage car that has been well cared for. One of the leading used car websites, BestRide.com, has thousands listed on their website, awaiting your perusal. This is a rear-wheel drive mid-size sedan that has a stylish exterior, luxurious interior, and plenty of power under the hood. It uses a twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine that makes 265-horsepower and 425-pound-feet-of-torque combined with a six-speed automatic transmission. The estimated EPA fuel efficiency rating is 23 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined and it has the ability to dart from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9-seconds. That ain’t bad at all for a diesel sedan.
The interior features leatherette premium seating surfaces, automatic climate control, a 10-speaker premium audio system with a CD player and auxiliary jack, and power adjustable front seats with memory. Exterior features include a sunroof, heated sideview mirrors, rain sensing windshield wipers, adaptive Xenon headlamps, fog lamps, and 17-inch wheels as standard equipment. The 2011 BMW 335d can be purchased for around $17791, which makes it a powerful bargain in a diesel sedan, too.
The VW Passat comes in for around $35k, for the well equipped SEL, but you can find some for a lot less at BestRide.com. It uses a turbocharged and direct fuel injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine to deliver 140 horsepower and 236-pound-feet-of-torque to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission of a six-speed automated manual transmission, known as a DSG. The EPA has estimated that the Passat can achieve fuel efficiency ratings of 31 mpg city/40 highway and 35 combined (from the manual transmission equipped car) and 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 35 combined (from the DSG equipped car) but consumers typically report that you can add 8 to 10 mpg to that figure. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.9-seconds.
The Passat comes in four trim levels, called the S, Wolfsburg, SE, Sport, and SEL. The S trim lists 16-inch wheels, full power accessories, air conditioning, tilting and telescoping steering column, steering wheel mounted audio controls, split rear seat, cruise control, keyless entry, automatic headlights, and a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, and an auxiliary audio jack as standard equipment.
The popular Wolfsburg Edition adds an alloy wheel upgrade, premium vinyl seating surfaces, power adjustable heated driver seat, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.
Moving up to the SE trim level nets you all of the above, plus a 17-inch alloy wheel upgrade, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear window air vents, a rearview camera, a sliding front arm rest, upgraded instrument panel, heated sideview mirrors and windshield wipers, and an 8-speaker premium audio system with LCD touchscreen interface. The Sport trim level adds a 19-inch wheel upgrade, a rear spoiler, steering wheel mounted shift paddles for the transmission, and exclusive interior and exterior styling accents.
The top-rung SEL trim level adds an upgraded navigation system with a larger LCD touchscreen, keyless ignition/entry, remote operated ignition, an audio system upgrade with personal music storage and traffic updates, partial leather seating surfaces, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The Audi A6 TDI is a diesel powered all-wheel drive mid-size luxury sedan. Wise consumers can save thousands of dollars by purchasing this car as a low-mileage, late-model used car. Some units still have a portion of the factory warranty intact. The price tag is a bit shocking at $53k but when you see all of the features this car packs, you begin to understand. You get a turbocharged direct fuel injected 3.0-liter V6 engine that is good for 240-horsepower and 428-pound-feet-of-torque. Audi claims that the A6 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.5-seconds and fuel efficiency has been rated at 24 city/38 highway and 29 mpg combined. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drivetrain are standard equipment.
The diesel powered A6 is available in two trim levels, the TDI Premium Plus and TDI Prestige.
The Premium Package trim level includes 17-inch wheels, triple-zone climate control, a sunroof, leather seating surfaces, heated sideview mirrors, heated power adjustable front seats, automatic headlights, automatic windshield wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tilting and telescoping steering column, Bluetooth connectivity, MMI electronics interface, a 6.5-inch LCD touchscreen monitor, and 10-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface.
Premium Plus trim adds an 18-inch wheel upgrade, LED running lamps, Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, voice activated navigation system, keyless ignition/entry, a rearview camera, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, an enhanced MMI controller, a frontal collision warning and protection system, and Audi Connect (a web based navigation system with wireless internet access).
The Prestige package yields all of the amenities listed above and adds special exterior styling accents, adaptive headlights, ventilated front seats, a blind spot monitoring system, a rear collision warning system, power adjustable tilting and telescoping steering column, ambient LED cabin lighting, and quad-zone climate control.
2013 Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec
This is a full-size luxury sedan with a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine that generates 240-horsepower and 455-pound-feet-of-torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drivetrain are standard equipment and the S350 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5-seconds. The estimated EPA fuel economy is 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway for an average of 25 mpg.
This elegant sedan comes with adaptive suspension, Bi-Xenon headlights with automatic high beams, 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, LED running lamps, a powered trunk retractor, and a sunroof as standard exterior features. Comfort and convenience items include leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilting and telescoping steering column, power adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, rearview camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power rear sunshade, COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth connectivity, voice operated audio and communication controls, 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with 6-disc CD player/changer and iPod interface, and keyless ignition/entry.
The Rear Seat package adds four-zone climate control, power adjustable heated and ventilated rear seats, dual-screen DVD entertainment package, and two remotes to control the entertainment and audio system.
The S350 Bluetec can be purchased for a cool $70k, or thereabout. While it is a lot of money, it is a lot of car as well.