CORNWALL, N.Y. — Most compact sedans with small four-cylinder engines stumble up Mine Hill Road here, which rises nearly 1,500 feet above sea level.
It matters not the manufacturer. Small cars that might have zoomed along the nearby Palisades Interstate Parkway or adjacent Interstate 87 suddenly turn timid when beginning the climb up winding, twisting Mine Hill Road.
They cough, stutter and stumble, a motorized whining that becomes especially evident if they are carrying cargo weighing 200 pounds or more.
Which is why we were pleasantly surprised by the eager behavior of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel sedan, General Motors’ first try at selling a diesel-equipped passenger car in the United States since its dismal failure in a similar endeavor in the 1980s.
We were surprised. We should not have been. Under GM’s European Opel badge, we’ve driven GM diesels all over France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. These were real, turbocharged diesel cars — unlike the gasoline-turned-diesel conversions that GM tried to sell in the United States in the 1980s.
Our only frustration in Europe was our puzzlement over why GM did not, would not offer the same high quality diesel engines in the United States. The company offered myriad excuses — costs; alleged U.S. antipathy toward all things diesel; and clean-air regulations, especially those in the Republic of California.
The U.S. introduction this summer of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel ends that excuse making. It is a beautiful little car — one that offers gutsy performance and real-world fuel economy, based on our actual experience, of 44 miles per gallon on the highway.
We were amazed, and then stunned by the front-wheel-drive Cruze Turbo Diesel’s flawless performance up Mine Hill Road. We kept waiting for a stutter, cough, stumble or, at least, some kind of motorized groan. But the Cruze Turbo Diesel was the little engine that could — offering not even a trace of strain up Mine Hill Road.
We loaded it with books — hauled from our eldest daughter’s apartment in New York, about 400 pounds worth of books — and made the trip up Mine Hill Road, again. Still, there were no complaints — absolutely none from the Cruze Turbo Diesel.
Credit the car’s 2-liter, inline four-cylinder, turbocharged (forced air) diesel engine — designed by GM suppliers in Italy, built by GM affiliates in Germany and installed by United Auto Workers union members in Lordstown, Ohio. It is a global collaboration that has rendered a truly worthy competitor against the German diesel sales leader, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
Can the Cruze Turbo Diesel make it in that tough competition? We think so. Exterior styling is eye-catching. The interior is well designed and fitted with quality materials. The car is equipped with one of the best emergency communications, information and entertainment systems in the business. And, geez! It scrambles up Mine Hill Road under load without needing a second wind.
Thanks, GM, for finally bringing a genuine “50-state” diesel to the United States. The term “50-state” means it meets or exceeds the nation’s toughest emissions requirements, including those promulgated by the Republic of California.
It’s about time, GM.