The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze diesel entered a very exclusive club when the EPA officially certified it with a 52 MPG highway fuel economy rating. We can imagine not only are Chevrolet engineers ecstatic, but the marketing department has fresh, potent ammunition to fire off at consumers looking for an efficient non-hybrid vehicle.
The tall figure was no easy task, though, according to Automotive News. Engineers carefully looked at multiple areas to fulfill pressure from upper management to enter the 50 MPG and over club.
“There is no one silver bullet,” says Craig Weddle, Cruze chief engineer. “There were a lot of little things we had to do to make it all add up.”
A whole team was assembled to create the Cruze diesel as a separate program, which included aerodynamicists, electricians, powertrain engineers, lightweighting specialists and others. The Cruze diesel even has a chief energy engineer in Eric VanDommelen, whose goal was to ensure every ounce of power was produced as efficiently as possible.
Three areas contributed to the magic 52 number: weight reduction, aerodynamics and powertrain. It helps that the second generation Chevrolet Cruze is already 250 pounds lighter than the first generation and it provided a healthy starting point. Mass was added where needed to retain a stiff structure but thinned out elsewhere.
33 pounds was shed from the engine alone with the introduction of the aluminum block 1.6-liter CDTi engine; the outgoing 2.0-liter turbo diesel arrived with a heavier cast-iron block.
Also providing help with the efficient powertrain is the six-speed manual gearbox, which uses less energy to power the wheels compared to the nine-speed automatic. It weighs less, too.
Technology was pulled straight from hybrid vehicles to help boost aerodynamics and keep the Cruze as chiseled and as slippery as possible, including a smooth underbody, low-drag brakes and active grille shutters. This all helps to lower the drag coefficient from 0.30, to 0.28, allowing for less energy to push the vehicle through the air.
Despite pressure from management, engineers weren’t entirely sure they would clip the 50 mark until very late in the development cycle of the Cruze diesel. Now, with a 52 MPG rating, GM is more confident than ever it can win over those consumers feeling beaten by Volkswagen’s Dieselgate.