General Motors’ diesel-powered midsize pickup trucks are the only midsize pickup trucks available in America with diesel engines. GM’s Chevrolet Cruze is the only compact car on sale in America with a diesel engine. Although the Mazda CX-5 is scheduled to arrive later this year, diesel-powered editions of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain will be the first small utility vehicles with diesel options.
With all the negative diesel press earned largely by the eruption of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in September 2015, is GM’s investment in America’s diesel market a complete and utter waste?
GM obviously thinks not. “I don’t think diesel customers forgot why they liked driving diesels in the last two years,” GM’s vice president for global propulsion systems, Dan Nicholson, tells Automobile. “They didn’t forget about the driving character or the fuel economy.”
Moreover, Nicholson says of the tens of thousands of former Volkswagen TDI owners, “We don’t think those customers went away.”
You want a pickup truck.
You want a small pickup truck.
Unfortunately, such a thing no longer exists, at least not north of the Rio Grande. You’ve migrated your desire to the “midsize” sector, a class in which the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and two General Motors candidates offer a quintet of possibilities.
Yet a major issue crops up when you begin comparison shopping and discover three full-size issues standing in the way: strong incentives on full-size pickups, full-size truck fuel efficiency comparable to midsize trucks, and full-size capability and interior volume far exceeding that of midsize pickups.
No wonder 85 percent of pickup buyers opt for a full-size truck. Still, 2016 was the best year ever for the Toyota Tacoma and the best year since 2001 for the Nissan Frontier. 2017 is on track to be the Honda Ridgeline’s best year since 2007. The Tacoma has a legendary reputation for toughness. The Frontier is the small-truck traditionalist’s pickup of choice. The Ridgeline is unusual in almost every way.
What unique attribute does GM’s duo manifest? This 2017 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab 4×4 has diesel. Diesel fuel in a diesel engine with diesel towing capacity, diesel fuel economy, and a diesel sound owners of decade-old Jetta TDIs will love.
We drove in and around the city in a 2017 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel for 120 miles, then took a 180-mile journey to Prince Edward Island, and have since driven around that island 120 miles.
The result: 30.2 miles per gallon on the U.S. scale, a miserly 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres. It doesn’t hurt that, around these parts at the moment, diesel costs roughly $0.25 USD less per gallon versus regular.
The 2.8-liter four-cylinder under the hood of this GMC Canyon, with a paltry 181 horsepower but a stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm, is one of a handful of diesels General Motors has installed in U.S. market vehicles. The 6.6-liter Duramax V8 in heavy-duty pickup trucks is the one you hear rumble most often. But GM is also inserting the Cruze’s 240-lb-ft 1.6-liter turbodiesel into the third-gen Chevrolet Equinox and second-gen GMC Terrain.
With diesel engine offerings in two pickup truck lines, a compact car, and a pair of small SUVs, can General Motors — not Mazda, not Mercedes-Benz, not Skoda — be the North American diesel-lover’s answer now that Volkswagen committed its unclean diesel transgressions?