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First Drive - 2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbodiesel

America’s First ‘Clean Diesel’ Domestic Sedan

Text By , Photography by , Courtesy of General Motors

It’s happening. More diesel cars are coming to the U.S. market—and the timing couldn’t be better. According to a recent National Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS) study, 31 percent of consumers currently driving gas-powered cars will consider making the switch to diesel in the next two years. The most common reason for going diesel: better fuel economy. This is why we believe Chevy picked the perfect time to launch the all-new Chevrolet Cruze diesel.

Said to be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle in North America, the Cruze is capable of achieving 46 mpg on the highway and can go more than 700 miles on a single, 15.6-gallon tank of fuel. Predictably, Chevy has targeted the industry-standard Volkswagen Jetta TDI and even bested its highway fuel economy by 4 mpg (according to EPA estimates). Modeling many of the Cruze’s attributes after America’s best-selling diesel-powered compact sedan was a logical move on Chevy’s part, as it only makes sense to go after the most successful car in the option-limited U.S. diesel segment.

Chevy has targeted the industry-standard Volkswagen Jetta TDI and even bested its highway fuel economy by 4 mpg...

European Roots
Some will be surprised to learn that the 2.0L Ecotec turbodiesel being used in the Cruze isn’t exactly brand-new; it comes to us from across the pond, actually. The basic architecture behind the fuel-sipping mill was first introduced back in 1997 for the European market and could most recently be found powering the Opel Astra and Insignia, as well as the Euro-spec Chevy Malibu. Designed in Turin, Italy, it gets assembled in Kaiserslautern, Germany. And thanks to GM’s engineering team in Pontiac, Michigan, engines destined for sale in the States receive the appropriate emissions equipment. The Cruze’s diesel engine is known within GM as the Family B engine. We suspect this engine was chosen for the U.S. Cruze due to it being the easiest engine in GM’s existing arsenal to up-fit with EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions-compliant components. GM’s inline-four, dual overhead cam 2.0L engine features a gray cast-iron block mated to an aluminum, 16-valve cylinder head. A bore and stroke of 3.26 inches (83mm) x 3.54 inches (90.04mm) makes for a diesel that feels right at home at higher engine speeds. Compression checks in at 16.5:1. As for power, the Cruze lays claim to a class-leading 151 hp at 4,000 rpm, and 264 lb-ft of torque at 2,600 rpm, with 250 lb-ft being sustainable from 1,750 to 3,000 rpm. In addition, a condition GM calls “overboost” can increase torque output to 280 lb-ft briefly, should the driver require it. This on-demand feature is controlled via your right foot, where additional fuel and boost can be used for a period of about 10 seconds.

The lifeblood of the 2.0L’s common-rail, direct-injection fuel system begins with a Bosch CP1H high-pressure pump feeding diesel to the rail, and ultimately four piezoelectric injectors. Thanks to the precise firing capability of the piezo injectors, multiple injection events occur during each combustion cycle (pilot, main, and post events). This keeps engine noise down while maximizing horsepower and torque, as well as meeting emissions standards.

Optimizing driveability (and also helping the Cruze meet emissions) is a pneumatically actuated, variable nozzle turbine (VNT) turbo from Garrett. The small charger sits on the exhaust side of the engine and just behind the Cruze’s front grille. An air-to-air intercooler is utilized to cool the compressed air’s temperature before entering the engine.

The Clean Behind “Clean Diesel”
We all know that putting the word “clean” next to diesel these days usually means several different emissions devices are being employed. The Cruze diesel is no exception. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), selective catalytic reduction (SCR), and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) are indeed all found on the four-door sedan. But if GM engineers know one thing, it’s how to design reliable emissions systems. For instance, the Cruze’s EGR circuit takes a cue from the 6.6L LML Duramax, where an EGR cooler bypass exists to reduce high-mileage soot deposits within the system. The Cruze’s SCR system includes a relatively large 4.675-gallon (17.7-liter) diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank, which means top-offs are rare, while electrically heated lines keep everything fully functional in temperatures as low as -40 degrees.

Unlike the LML Duramax, however, no downstream hydrocarbon injection (HCI) exists (where an extra injector would introduce fuel into the exhaust aftertreatment system). This means additional fuel needed during regeneration cycles is injected in-cylinder, on the exhaust stroke.

Fast take
We like: Responsiveness, engine based off a proven design, another diesel option coming to the North American car market.
We’d change: Timing belts don’t belong on diesel engines. A timing chain could easily add another 100,000 miles to the change interval.
We Say: Added competition in the U.S. diesel passenger car market should drive all parties to build better diesel vehicles, with the consumer being the key beneficiary.

Auto Only
Backing up the potent 2.0L is an Aisin AF40 six-speed automatic transmission. Sorry gear jammers, this is the only transmission available. We would like to see a manual gearbox option, but if Chevy is banking on first-time diesel buyers (and we suspect they are), the automatic makes a lot more business sense. Solenoid- controlled torque converter lockup varies from gear to gear, and according to the driving situation. Gear ratios for the Aisin are: 4.15 (First), 2.37 (Second), 1.56 (Third), 1.16 (Fourth), 0.86 (Fifth), and 0.69 (Sixth).

Noise Control and Aerodynamics
Chevy’s engineers went to great lengths to keep noise out of the Cruze’s cabin and absorb it when they couldn’t. Sound- deadening treatments, such as acoustic-laminated glass, triple door seals, and added insulation, greatly limit the intrusiveness of the diesel’s clatter at idle. Upon acceleration, it takes a trained ear to even notice the compression-ignition engine under the hood. And even though the Garrett turbocharger creates plenty of boost under heavy throttle, you’ll have no luck hearing it. To aid fuel economy, the Cruze received a host of aero-friendly treatments by way of the same grille opening used on the Cruze Eco, special underbody panels, and new engine compartment baffling.

Driving Impressions
Confident in its product, Chevy invited us to testdrive the ’14 Cruze in Detroit, where we were allowed to compare it directly to the Jetta—in back-to-back driving scenarios. Once we were behind the wheel of the Cruze, it felt similar to the popular VW, albeit with noticeably more oomph, a quieter cabin, and more interior options. Speaking of the interior, the only trim option available for the Cruze is Chevy’s 2LT package, which is the second highest trim level in the Cruze line. The combination of leather-trimmed, heated seats; rearview camera; 7-inch touch screen; and GM’s MyLink audio system gives the compact sedan an upscale passenger environment.

In terms of power, the Cruze was much touchier down low, whereas the Jetta felt somewhat sluggish in comparison. While the six-speed automatic seemed a bit downshift happy, it’s to be expected with today’s extremely intelligent transmissions. It’s also conceivable that GM doesn’t want customers lugging out the higher gears with the torque converter locked—and a considerable amount of torque on tap. Once in Sixth gear, however, the Cruze pulls surprisingly well up to 90 mph, and does so very quietly.

With its quiet interior, smooth power curve, and an edge in the highway fuel economy department, we’d say the Cruze is kind of like an improved version of the Jetta. Of course, it would be hard to arrive on the scene that’s been dominated by VW for years and change the game completely. While the Cruze seems like a home run for Chevy, it still has some big shoes to fill. Only time will tell whether or not it will be as reliable as the tried-and-true Volkswagens. Still, with a better warranty (5 year/100,000-mile vs. 5 year/60,000-mile) and cheaper price tag ($25,695 vs. $26,325), Chevy should have no problem attracting new diesel owners, folks already familiar with modern-day oil burners, or even getting a few VW loyalists to jump ship. Making diesel cars affordable as well as justifiable for consumers has been tough to do in the past, but Chevy seems to have done it here. Another player in town means one more car manufacturer injecting diesel into the mainstream—and that’s what we’re looking forward to most.

Fast Specs
Vehicle Model: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Base Price: $24,885
Price as Tested: $25,695
Engine Type: 2.0L I-4
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Turbocharged, intercooled
Mfg. hp at rpm: 151 hp at 4,000 rpm
Mfg. torque at rpm: 264 lb-ft at 2,600 rpm (280 lb-ft in overboost)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Axle ratio: 3.20:1
Suspension (front/rear): Independent, MacPherson strut-type with side-loaded strut modules, specifically tuned coil springs, direct-acting stabilizer bar, hydraulic bushings/specifically adapted compound crank torsion beam, Z-link
Steering: Rack-mounted electric power steering
Brakes: Power four-wheel antilock disc with electronic stability control (ESC)
Wheels/Tires: 17-inch painted aluminum/215/55R17 Goodyear Assurance
Curb Weight: 3,475 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 15.6 gallons
DEF Capacity: 4.675 gallons
EPA city/highway mileage estimates: 27/46 mpg

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