As diesel engines, with their broad, usable torque curves and excellent fuel efficiency, make their way into more and more vehicles in the U.S. once again, luxury SUVs make a natural choice. In these big, sometimes unwieldy vehicles, torque is king, and fuel efficiency is a constant struggle. Today’s turbodiesel-powered SUVs have proliferated from nearly every luxury automaker, but not all are created equal. Here’s our top five favorite choices for SUVs you can buy right now with diesel power, all of which far outpace their gasoline counterparts when it comes to the all-important mpg. Moreover, all the Diesel SUVs below are built on tried & true platforms that have been refined extensively, and any will serve you and your family well.
The much-heralded BMW X5 has been given a thorough redesign for the 2014 model year, including the strangely named xDrive35d model. With BMW’s powerful TwinPower 3.0-liter diesel given an update, power now comes on strong and fast with 255 horses and 413 lb-ft. of torque hooked up to xDrive AWD for good all-weather, go-anywhere capability while still returning 18 city and 27 highway mpg. The car housing this potent powerplant is much more enticing than before, with a light-on-its-feet feeling coming from new more-compact dimensions.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 18 city/27 highway.
While Audi’s larger three-row Q7 has been available with TDI power for some time, 2014 brings big diesel power to the smaller, fleeter, five-seat Q5 TDI. And power there is: the 3.0-liter turbodiesel makes 240 horsepower and 428 lb-ft. of torque while bringing an excellent 24 city and 31 highway mpg. In independent Green Car Reports testing, the Q5 TDI actually fared even better, returning an astounding 35.1 combined mpg. But the Quattro AWD-equipped Q5 is more than just a fuel miser. It’s quick, remarkably well-equipped and stylish, and well-built inside and out.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 24 city/31 highway.
Mercedes-Benz boasts that its newest diesel powerplant, the 2.1-liter turbodiesel found in the GLK250 BlueTec, is the most-powerful four-cylinder diesel in the world. With 200 horses and a healthy 369 lb-ft. of torque plus 24 city and 33 highway mpg, it’s easy to see why a V6 was not needed for a compact crossover like the GLK-Class. This engine, paired with standard 4Matic AWD, is perfectly suited to the angular and stylish Benz compact luxury crossover, which comes with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and collision mitigation pre-braking among other high-tech features.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 24 city/33 highway.
The full-size, three-row GL-Class Mercedes-Benz luxury SUV has been called the best luxury SUV ever created, and at 10 inches longer than the new BMW X5, would be a bit overmatched for four-cylinder power. For this application, Mercedes turns to its tried-and-true 3.0-liter V6 diesel with a healthy 240 horsepower and mammoth 455 lb-ft. of torque. That still translates to 19 city and 26 highway mpg, far outpacing the fuel-gulping GL450 and GL550 variants. This sublimely luxurious SUV is strapped with just enough power with the diesel, and the extra efficiency is just icing on the cake.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 19 city/26 highway.
Though BMW and Land Rover boast of the extraordinary handling of their large luxury SUVs, only the Porsche Cayenne gives you true sports car traits behind the wheel. Initially thought of as outrageous on its own (“A Porsche SUV? What?”), the fast-selling Cayenne is now available with turbodiesel power, too. You’ll find 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque and a 7.2-second 0-60-mph time, plus 19 city and 29 highway mpg. You’ll also find a beast of a driving machine so well-sprung and strong-handling it’s almost enough to make you forget the Porsche 911 you just can’t quite justify buying.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 20 city/29 highway.