Saving the planet with diesel: Top diesel powered cars of 2012

In Europe, diesel fuel has a lower tax rate than gasoline, which is why oil-burners are so popular on that side of the pond. In this country, the fuel tax situation is the exact opposite, making gasoline the fuel of choice for most people. Our emissions regulations are also more stringent than they are in Europe, making diesel engines an unprofitable investment for most automakers. Tax issues aside, diesel engines are still a fantastic way to protect both the environment and your wallet.

Now you’re probably thinking; “how the heck is diesel good for the environment?” Sure, they get great fuel mileage, but don’t they belch out pollutants by the ton?

A couple of decades ago, that would’ve been true. But thanks to ultra-low sulfur diesel, and advanced emission control systems, many diesel powered cars now emit fewer pollutants than a comparable gas powered buggy. Case in point; a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI emits just 4.96 annual tons of greenhouse gasses, versus 5.10 annual tons from a gas-fired 2012 Toyota Corolla.

Another benefit of a diesel engine is longevity. Diesel fuel actually has lubrication properties, and the internal components of a diesel motor are designed to be much stronger than a normal gasoline motor. This allows you to get many, many trouble-free miles from a diesel. And it helps to increase the resale value over a similarly equipped gas-powered car.

As of 2012, there aren’t many oil-burning choices on the American market. Domestic carmakers only put diesels in their full size pickups, however that will likely change over the next few years. Until it does, let’s have a look at three of the best diesel powered cars for 2012…

2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

The Volkswagen Group is one of the largest automakers on earth. Their portfolio stretches from the humble Skoda to the almighty Bentley. There are many car brands that live under VW’s vast roof, so to maximize profitability, many brands will share a single engine. Case in point; their brilliant 2.0 liter TDI.

This torque-y little mill produces 140-hp, with 236 ft-lb of twist. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to propel the 2012 VW Jetta TDI down the road with considerable authority. And you can get this same engine (which gets 30 city / 42 hwy) in the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI, and the 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI.

2012 Audi A3 TDI

2012 Audi A3Another place that you’ll find that 2-liter turbo diesel is under the hood of the 2012 Audi A3 TDI. It shares its chassis with the 2012 VW Jetta & 2012 VW Golf. So naturally, the little VW TDI fits right in.

As a luxury wagon/tourer, the 2012 Audi A3 TDI offers a beautiful cabin, along with lots of useful cargo room. It also gets the same MPG as VW’s version; 30/42. But sadly, you can’t get Audi’s famous Quattro AWD on the 2012 Audi A3 TDI.

2012 Mercedes E350 BlueTEC

2012 Mercedes E350The Mercedes E-Class and diesel engines go together like ice cream & hot fudge. Stuttgart has been shoehorning diesel engines into their cars since the 1930’s. And their latest effort, the 2012 Mercedes E350 BlueTEC, is one of most luxurious diesel powered cars on the market today.

Power comes from a surprisingly smooth 3.0 liter V6 TDI, mated to a 7-speed autobox. Horsepower is rated at 210, but the turbo-fed torque is rated at a staggering 400 lb-ft. The 2012 Mercedes E350 BlueTEC is powerful, luxurious, and it gets 22 city / 33 hwy. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.