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Fuel for Thought

Meet today's new and improved diesels.

While auto manufacturers are scrambling to deliver hybrid vehicles to dealerships, diesel-fueled cars and trucks have been available for years, with more on the way. Advantages of diesel include an average of 15 percent to 22 percent better fuel economy and greater towing power than most gas-powered vehicles. Plus, today's diesels are quieter and cleaner-burning.

Leading the charge are German auto manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, which pioneered diesels and plans to launch several diesel-powered cars between now and 2008, including the 2006 E320 CDI Sedan. Audi's not far behind, while Dodge, Ford and GM power some of their heavy-duty pickups and vans with diesel engines.

Some manufacturers add a turbo to diesel engines for stronger acceleration. Because they're more durable than gasoline engines, some manufacturers extend diesel warranties. Chrysler, for example, extends its warranty to five years or 100,000 miles on all diesel engines in the Dodge Ram, Sprinter and Jeep Liberty lineup.

Among diesel-engine vehicles currently on the market are the Liberty CRD; Ford's Excursion SUV, F-250 and F-350 pickups, and the E-Series Cutaway box van; Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans and wagons; and Dodge's Sprinter van and Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks.

All Volkswagen's four-door sedans, wagons and hatchbacks in the Golf, Jetta and Jetta Wagon diesel models are in the top 10 EPA fuel economy leaders. VW's Touareg SUV boasts a diesel engine. GM's Express and GMC's Savana full-size vans offer the powerful 6600 Duramax turbo-diesel engine in both the cargo and passenger versions, and can tow 10,000 pounds.

With biodiesel fuel being developed more cheaply and diesels earning better resale values, these vehicles may be smart business buys.

Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 26 years.

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This article was originally published in the November 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fuel for Thought.

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