The efficiency, reliability and power advantages that diesel engines offer over their spark-driven combustion cousins would seemingly make them a no-brainer for off-road vehicles. However, due to the average consumer’s resistance to embrace diesel-powered vehicles in the United States, most manufacturers have been loath to offer them consistently in anything but heavy duty work trucks. Two new mainstream diesel-powered sport utility vehicles on the market may change that perception, however, and make the job of a diesel technician a little more interesting.
Both Jeep and Volkswagen took the plunge in recent models, with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel and the 2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI. For buyers interested in an off-road ready SUV with the advantages of diesel power, the natural question is which model to embrace before the option disappears again?
In many ways, the two vehicles are very similar. Both will seat five passengers comfortably, with price tags around $55,000 to start. Both are powered by 3.0L V6 diesel engines, and get about 26 miles per gallon highway. Both tie diesel power to an eight-speed transmission. The Jeep comes out a little ahead when it comes to raw power, producing 420 lb.-ft. of torque to the Touareg’s 416 lb.-ft.
Under the hood, both vehicles are pretty comparable. However, once you get behind the wheel of each, the differences become readily apparent. The Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel’s ride is much more comfortable, aided by the inclusion of air shocks. The Touareg does have a sharper turn radius, but Jeep’s just feels better. One look at the console and it is clear which vehicle is truly built for off-road duty. The Grand Cherokee has multiple four-wheel drive modes, from “Sand” and “Mud” to “Rock,” which allows the Jeep to truly go anywhere. Volkswagen has only one off-road mode.
Either vehicle marks a departure from the normal vehicle that features a diesel engine – and that is a good thing. As consumers continue to look for vehicles that operate more efficiently yet still has the horsepower they crave, more manufacturers may start to release diesel-powered vehicles. For anyone considering diesel technician as a career, that bodes only good news for future job prospects. If diesel engines start to grab a higher market share, those who have received diesel technician training will find their services in high demand.