How to Turn an SUV Into a Hybrid-Killer

Look, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but if you’re buying an SUV and aren’t thinking about a diesel engine under the hood, you’re an idiot.

A lot of folks know that the two greatest draws of diesel technology are higher torque (you know, for fun!) and higher fuel economy (you know, for saving money!). But only real car guys know the science behind the perks.

Diesels get more miles per gallon and more power due to two factors. First, the compression ignition combustion process that occurs inside diesel engine cylinders is more efficient than the spark ignition process that occurs in gasoline engine cylinders, so it wastes less energy as the fuel is converted into mechanical motion.

Second, on a per-gallon basis, diesel fuel contains a lot more energy — about 13% more — than plain-Jane petrol. This high energy density helps push the vehicle far more miles down the road than lower-density gasoline. Just take a look at this chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that compares the energy density of a bunch of different transportation fuels. Nothing gives more power than diesel.

And, according to research firm ALG, the average retained value of a gasoline-powered midsize SUV is 5% lower than the average value of a diesel-powered midsize SUV after 36 months. So not only will buying a diesel save you money because you’ll be filling your tank less often, you’ll also make more money down the road if you end up selling it.

I think you can see why you’d be an idiot if you didn’t think about buying an SUV with a diesel engine. I mean, how do better-than-V6 levels of fuel economy married to the capabilities you expect from a sport-utility vehicle sound?

It’s not like you have to wait around, either — you can get all of that now. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with its new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine, gives you all the benefits of an SUV — passenger space, cargo space, and the ability to tow 7,400 pounds — with the fuel efficiency of a midsize sedan with 30 MPG on the highway. According to 2013 Ward's Midsize Sport Utility segmentation, no other car in the segment can get that fuel economy.

So, like I said: if you’re in the market for a new SUV, make a smart choice and slip a diesel in between the rails of the engine bay.

Ray Wert is the former editor-in-chief of Jalopnik and the founder of automotive advertising studio Tiny Toy Car.