2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel | Cruisin’ USA

2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel | Cruisin’ USA

By BOB GRITZINGER, Contributing Editor | @bobgritzinger

For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the long-distance road-trip potential of the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. So when the folks from Made Across America asked if I could drive the car round-trip from Detroit to Washington, D.C., I jumped at the opportunity.

Ready to roll from GM Headquarters in Detroit.

Ready to roll from GM Headquarters in Detroit.

Made Across America

Made Across America brought 70 built in America cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles to our nation’s capital during the Washington Auto Show to demonstrate to policy makers the importance of the auto industry in the U.S. It was an impressive showing— Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, but also BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen, —all parked in front of the U.S. Capitol Building, with my Siren Red 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel in the pole position, right up front.

Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) welcome a historic gathering of vehicles Jan. 21 to Capitol Hill at the culmination of "Made Across America," which kicked off the Washington DC Auto Show. (PRNewsFoto/Washington DC Auto Show)

Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) welcome a historic gathering of vehicles Jan. 21 to Capitol Hill at the culmination of "Made Across America," which kicked off the Washington DC Auto Show. (PRNewsFoto/Washington DC Auto Show)

Cruisin’ to DC in the 2015 Chevy Cruze Diesel

That was the easy part. The 560-mile drive to D.C. was an all-day adventure that began in Detroit stop-and-go traffic, thanks to a white-out Alberta Clipper snowstorm that blew through Michigan just as I was trying to get rolling. The Cruze seemed unfazed by the slick conditions, and soon I was driving on dry toll roads, piling on the miles.

I’ll admit to some trepidation: I expected a sore back, numb buns, cramped legs, wind-and-road-and-engine-noise boxed ears and general weariness from a day in the saddle of a small, basic American sedan. Not on this Cruze cruise. The driver’s seat proved surprisingly supportive, yet supple and comfortable for the entire ride. Noise was minimal even on rougher road surfaces, and the cabin space was ample for my average height, with plenty of legroom to stretch out.

The Cruze’s suspension provided a compliant ride without any hint of mushiness. The steering was steady and true—so true that there wasn’t much room for looking away from the road to check directions on the navigation screen or change audio settings without drifting out of the lane. Thankfully, the Cruze offers a number of voice-activated, hands-free alternatives to interact with the 7-inch navigation/audio screen.

Speaking of entertainment for a long road trip, the Cruze is one of many GM vehicles fitted with 4G LTE via OnStar, making it a rolling wireless hotspot. My iPhone seamlessly integrated with the car to download all 12 episodes of “Serial,” the popular “This American Life” audio real-life murder mystery. Kept me entertained for 1,000 miles (and no, I won’t tell you how it ends).

560 miles and more…on ONE tank

But the biggest deal here was the Cruze’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel powertrain. Though the numbers are growing, diesel options in the U.S. remain severely limited compared to our friends in Europe where half of the cars on the road are diesel-powered. The dearth of U.S. diesels, especially in small cars like the Cruze, was no more evident than when I was refueling from the green-handled diesel spigot at a filling station on my way home, about 60 miles north of Washington, D.C.

“You know you’re putting diesel in that car,” observed the helpful gentleman as he leaned out of his pickup truck window.

“Yep, I know,” I responded, pointing to the tiny non-descript “Diesel” badge on the trunklid. “It’s a Chevy Cruze turbodiesel. Got me all the way from Detroit to D.C. and back out here on one tank of fuel. Almost 700 miles. About 44 miles per gallon.”

“Wow,” he said. “I didn’t know that was a diesel.”

For the record, we recorded 43.2 mpg over 1,168 miles of driving, mostly highway, but including about 200 miles in Detroit and Washington urban traffic. (EPA sticker lists 27 mpg city/46 highway/33 combined). Yes, diesel is pricier than unleaded regular, so the diesel’s higher mpg isn’t as valuable with the current low gas prices. But it’s only a matter of time before that equation equalizes.

The diesel powertrain also adds about $1,400 to the purchase price compared to a similarly trimmed Cruze, so that also needs to be considered. My well-equipped model listed at $29,430.

But whether you’re purring along at 70 mph with the 151-hp engine quietly spinning at just 2,000 rpm, or putting your foot into it and relying on its 280-ft-lbs of torque (thanks to a built-in 10-second overboost feature) to get you up to speed in busy traffic, you’ll love your diesel. And you’ll really love how often you’re not stopping to refuel.

Chevy Cruze Diesel was a long-distance road warrior.

Chevy Cruze Diesel was a long-distance road warrior.

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Bob Gritzinger got his first taste of grease and oil as a kid tearing down small engines and repairing go-karts, mini-bikes, motorcycles and cars in the backyard. That eventually led to his first real job as an auto mechanic while still in high school, but Bob’s career took a sharp turn into journalism when he joined the high school newspaper staff. Read more about Bob here.