Best Diesel SUVs
Hanna Kielar4-minute read
February 15, 2022
A diesel SUV can be a great choice for anyone from a single adult to people with families – anyone with passengers or cargo to haul. A diesel-powered SUV is most beneficial, however, to drivers seeking a vehicle with a high towing capacity and ability to negotiate difficult off-road terrain. The best diesel SUVs are also more fuel-efficient than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline, however. In early 2022, a gallon of diesel fuel cost approximately 40 – 50 cents more per gallon than regular grade gasoline.
We took a look at some of the best SUVs with diesel engines on the road today, looking over critical data from government sources, manufacturer data and reputable publications, such as MotorTrend and Car and Driver. We weighted each popular model for its economy, emissions and average value retention over time.
Reasons To Go With A Diesel Engine
Here are some of the top reasons to go with an SUV with a diesel engine:
- Lower emissions: Diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline models. Because of the purity of their fuel and their cleaner burn, diesel SUVs emit less carbon than gasoline engines.
- Often more fuel-efficient: Diesel fuel sold in the United States is more efficient than gasoline. It contains about 12% more energy per gallon than gasoline, and about 16% more than E85.
- Great tow ratings: Diesel trucks and SUVs have a well-earned reputation for being good at towing. Because diesel engines deliver higher torque, they can usually haul upward of 10% heavier loads.
- Diesel SUVs lose less value: Diesel vehicles cost less to operate, with a lower overall cost of ownership, and they lose their value less quickly than gas SUVs.
- Diesel engines last longer than typical gas engines: Diesel engines don't have to work as hard as gas engines when they're at cruising speeds. This puts less strain on the motor parts and gives the engine a longer average life than equivalent gasoline-powered SUVs.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Source: jetcityimage - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Comfortable off-road trips
Fuel efficiency: 19 mpg city | 26 mph highway
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been in production since 1993, and it's been through a lot of revisions since then. Fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokees have the customary interior comfort and luxury features, such as a gracefully contoured dashboard and 7.1-inch touch screen infotainment center. The diesel V6 engine from model years 2011 – 2020 delivers solid high-end torque and a tough suspension makes for smooth rides over some rough terrain.
Browse Diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees.
Source: jetcityimage - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Towing power
Fuel efficiency: 26 mpg city | 30 mpg highway
The Chevrolet Equinox models of the 2010s have held their value relatively well, making them some of the best diesel SUVs on the used car market. The older V8 engines were fairly powerful diesels in their day, but the post-2021 models have brought in an optional turbo-diesel engine that conquers heavy towing loads with 460 pound-feet of torque and can haul up to 8,600 pounds over level ground.
Browse Diesel Chevrolet Equinoxes.
Source: art_zzz - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Large families
Fuel efficiency: 16 mpg city | 20 mpg highway
The Chevrolet Tahoe may have the same diesel engine as the Equinox, but the greater curb weight of the Tahoe makes the ride feel more stable, especially around bends and off road. The larger body gives the Tahoe all the room you could hope for, with adjustable second-row seating and an extra 10 inches of legroom for third-row passengers in addition to 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space. That's a lot of space for family trips, and the independent rear suspension improves the load floor in back by making it both lower and flatter for easy packing.
Browse Diesel Chevrolet Tahoes.
Best for: Fuel efficiency
Fuel efficiency: 25 mpg city | 30 mpg highway
The GMC Terrain has made some big changes over time. The 2010-2018 first generation was a luxurious midsize crossover SUV that was built for comfort and cargo hauling in city environments. The second generation launched in 2018 and crossed the line into compact SUV territory, lightening the load considerably and achieving a higher fuel economy rating. Model years 2018 and 2019 included an optional diesel engine which offers decent fuel economy at 30 mpg for highway driving.
Browse Diesel GMC Terrains.
Source: Moose - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Sporty driving
Fuel efficiency: 21 mpg city | 26 mpg highway
BMW sport sedans and SUVs have a lot of overlap in design, and both product lines are built for sporty luxury. The X5 is an exciting, lightweight cruiser with great handling for taking the scenic route on winding roads. This diesel SUV comes with a 3.0 L M57 I6 diesel engine but can be upgraded into a turbocharged inline-6 diesel engine which produces impressive power for an optimal sporty feel.
Browse Diesel BMW X5s.
Source: art_zzz - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Luxury features
Fuel efficiency: 20 mpg city | 26 mpg highway
The Jaguar F-Pace has been in its current run since 2017, so it is now widely available on the used car market for diesel SUVs. It comes with both a standard and a premium option for the diesel engine, and combines fun, sporty handling with a lot of standard safety features. The 2017 and later F-Paces feature a number of optional modern driver-assist features, such as lane assist and airbag occupancy sensors, and the 3D surround backup camera comes in handy in tight spaces.
Browse Diesel Jaguar F-Paces.
Land Rover Discovery
Source: Mike Mareen - stock.adobe.com
Best for: Off-road adventure
Fuel efficiency: 19 mpg city | 22 mpg highway
Land Rover was founded as a go-anywhere, do-anything line of off-road SUVs, and the diesel sport utility vehicles the company offers now have lived up to their predecessors' legacy. The Discovery discontinued its diesel options in the U.S. market in the 2020 model year, but don’t let that deter you. There's a wide range of prior-year offerings with the excellent 3.0 intercooled turbo diesel engines that offer impressive torque for your off-road adventures. Plus, the used car price can save you a pretty penny on a great quality car.
Browse Diesel Land Rover Discoveries.
The Bottom Line: Diesel SUVs Are Worth Considering
Diesel SUVs are a great choice for many car shoppers who haven't seriously considered them before. With better tow ratings and off-road prowess, more efficient fuel economy and generally good resale values, diesels have a variety of advantages over gas powered vehicles depending on how they are used and driven. Want to see more SUV options? Have a look at some of the best SUVs available in the used car market.
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