Purchasing a hybrid vehicle can make sense under the right circumstances. If you do a lot of city driving, for example, nothing can beat a hybrid's fuel economy. And hybrids such as Toyota's Prius and Ford's Fusion, Escape and Explorer are downright practical vehicles, even if you put their incredible fuel economy aside. But diesel-powered trucks and SUVs have a lot to offer, too. Consider the following:
- Diesels are as fuel-efficient on the highway as the most frugal hybrid.
- Diesels give you great low-end torque. That means you can effortlessly scoot away from traffic lights and oftentimes don't even need to downshift to pass someone.
- Diesel-powered trucks and SUVs are the superior choice for towing and hauling.
- Diesel-engine vehicles are known for being reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles.
- Diesels use simple, proven technology that has powered commercial vehicles, such as buses and dump trucks, for decades.
Intrigued? Good. Here are our top picks for diesel SUVs and trucks for 2021.
BEST MIDSIZE TRUCK: CHEVY COLORADO
Available only on the Colorado's ZR2 model, a 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel, four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission comes in with an MSRP of around $46,000. Fuel mileage is 19 city and 28 highway, qualifying it as the country's most fuel-efficient midsize pickup. With an impressive towing capacity of nearly 8,000 lbs., Chevy's description of the Colorado as a “midsize truck approaching full-size capability" is spot on. The Duramax diesel engine maxes out at 181 hp and 369 lb/ft of torque, and is B20 biodiesel-approved. Coupled with a refined interior, Colorado's diesel model may be the next-best choice in the absence of any small and midsize diesel sedan options in the U.S.
Runner up: GMC Canyon
With a slightly different look and a little more sophistication — particularly on the Denali model — than its Colorado cousin, the Canyon is also powered by Duramax's 181-horsepower, 2.8L diesel but delivers a slightly more refined ride and style.
BEST FULL-SIZE TRUCK: RAM 1500 ECODIESEL
This is a tough category to pick a clear winner because all the major full-size truck manufacturers have entries here. Two best-in-class awards" for Ram help seal the deal, though. The 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 engine – featuring B20 biodiesel capability – earned Best-In-Class Max Diesel Towing for its huge 12,560 lbs. of pulling power, and Best-In-Class Diesel Torque at 480 lb-ft and 260 horsepower. Even with all that raw power, Ram still delivers 32 mpg highway and 22 mpg city with a quiet, efficient diesel engine.
Diesel-powered vehicle choices in the U.S. don't end there, however, as there are plenty of other full-size, diesel-powered options for '21, including SUVs such as the Ford Expedition, Chevy Suburban and Cadillac Escalade, as well as diesel-engine cargo vans.
Runner up: Ford F-150
America's perennial favorite pickup is also a winner in the diesel category with its Power Stroke, 3-liter, 250-horsepower, turbo V6 capable of towing 12,100 lbs.
BEST FULL-SIZE SUV: CHEVY TAHOE
It's been more than two decades since Chevy offered a diesel engine in a full-size SUV. The 3.0L Duramax inline-six turbo-diesel delivers impressive fuel mileage — with 28 mpg highway and 21 city —on the redesigned-for-2021 Tahoe. Fuel economy gets an added boost from the engine start-stop feature that relies on technology to turn off the engine at stoplights but still gives the driver control over whether to use the feature. The Duramax diesel engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, has a maximum towing capacity of 8,200 lbs., and features enhanced noise abatement.
Runner up: Cadillac Escalade
If you're looking for maximum room and luxury, you can't go any bigger than the Escalade. Its 277-horsepower, turbo, 3-liter, diesel six can tow 8,000 lbs., but it also comes with a big price tag just north of $77,000.
Looking for pulling power, torque and efficiency? A diesel engine could be right for you.
What do you think of these diesel vehicles? Let us know in the comments.