It’s been a while since an American automaker produced a diesel engine for stateside consumption. General Motors hopes the American public is ready for some oil-burning efficiency though, as Chevrolet unveiled a diesel-powered variant of its Cruze sedan at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. While it hasn’t been on sale in the states before, Chevrolet is no stranger to diesel cars, as almost 40 percent of all Cruze sedans sold in Europe are diesel. Now, finally, the North American market gets its chance to prove that we enjoy diesel vehicles, too. Before the Golden Bowtie pulled the sheet of its North American-ready Cruze diesel in Chicago, we stopped and talked with Mike Siegrist, assistant chief engineer for the vehicle.
Automotive.com: This engine has already on sale in Europe. What, in your mind, was the biggest thing you had to overcome while prepping the Cruze diesel for the North American market?
Mike Siegrist: The engine that we started with really resides in Torino, Italy. That’s our center for expertise for diesel engines within General Motors so we started with a very proven, premium product that’s currently put in high-production volumes into Astra, Insignia, and Zafira as Opel products, and then modified it to meet the requirements that the Cruze needed here in America. This was a really close collaboration from an engineering perspective, between the engineers in Torino, Russelsheim, and here in southeast Michigan. So, all the specific parts, the design and release of the parts required for the Cruze diesel were done here in Michigan as well as validation, dynamometer development, and then the collaboration and development for the [Cruze diesel] on the road.
Specifically, what changes did we make to the engine that came out of Europe to put it in the Cruze, there were really four areas that we focused on. Number one are the exhaust emissions. The regulations here are much more stringent than they are in Europe. Diagnostics, again, the regulations are much more difficult to meet. Environmental conditions, it’s much colder and much hotter here than it is in Europe so it has to meet all of those conditions. Then it’s capability to operate at altitude. Paved roads in Colorado, Mt. Evans, go up to 14,000 feet and the vehicle has to perform well at all altitudes.
MS: I think that [GM] decided that this was the best spot to reintroduce the diesel into the market. This ends up being a very high-performance premium product and is already successful in the Cruze, so its got great performance and is also very fuel efficient.
A.com: What are some other highlights to this engine that people may not already know about? This engine is already rated at 42 mpg on the highway, correct?
MS: Yes, our current estimates, we’re not complete with all of our testing but our estimate currently is 42 mpg highway, and you have to remember this is a product with great performance. I always like to tell everybody that my most memorable moment is when you’re getting onto a highway. On acceleration, a lot of vehicles that tout fuel economy and fuel efficiency immediately downshift, and this car, you just squeeze the throttle. It’s got so much torque it just boots the vehicle up to the desired speed almost effortlessly.
A.com: Besides the engine itself, are there any noticeable styling differences between the Cruze and Cruze diesel?
MS: There are some things that have changed, in fact, from a vehicle standpoint they incorporated many of the features that are on the [Cruze] Eco model from an aerodynamic standpoint. This is a highly equipped vehicle in the Cruze lineup to go with the premium [diesel] engine.
A.com: You were mentioning on aerodynamics, like the Dodge Dart Aero and its active grille shutters, does the Cruze diesel have any specific help to bolster aerodynamics?
MS: I’m sorry Trevor, I’m just not aware. The things I’m thinking of, it does have the shutters, for instance, in the front to improve aerodynamics and some other little details. Again, it’s a premium product, very powerful, but great fuel efficiency.
A.com: Any estimates on how well the diesel will do overall in the Cruze lineup here in the states?
MS: It’s a high penetration in Europe and we have internal predictions on what the sales will be but, I’m sorry, I cannot disclose that at this time.
What say you? Do you think the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel has what it takes to become a big player in the North American market? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.