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Best Diesel SUVs for 2021

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Some car manufacturers recently discontinued their diesel options, while others rolled out new ones for 2021. Though generally less popular than traditional gasoline engines, diesel engines give large SUVs and pickup trucks a boost in fuel efficiency without sacrificing power or performance. These best diesel SUVs put that power to use hauling people and gear or going off-road (or both). Downsides are that diesel vehicles tend to be more expensive and emit high levels of nitrogen oxide. Electric vehicles may one day supplant them, but for now, there’s no question that diesels are long-lasting engines capable of work and play.

ModelScoreMSRP
Jeep Gladiator4.52$41,265
Chevrolet Suburban4.40$52,695
BMW X5 XDrive35d4.36N/A
Range Rover Sport4.35$79,500
Jeep Wrangler4.35$37,975
Cadillac Escalade4.25$76,195
Chevrolet Equinox4.08N/A

How we chose the best diesel SUVs

We examined all new diesel SUVs released in 2021, placing them side-by-side with previous years’ picks. We ranked a total of 12 new and used vehicles according to how well they performed in expert and consumer reviews from Kelly Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds. That narrowed the field to seven best diesel SUVs — they are listed from highest to lowest based on their composite score.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Willys Sport 4×4

  • 4.52 out of 5
  • $41,265 starting MSRP
  • 24/22/28 MPG

In 2020, Jeep introduced the Jeep Gladiator, the only pickup-meets-SUV in its lineup of rugged utility vehicles. For 2021, the Gladiator adds an optional, 260-horsepower, turbo diesel engine that delivers a smooth ride even when pulling a boat or trailer. The truck’s base Sport trim starts at $33,565, but the diesel engine may not be available on the Sport in all locations. We moved up to the Willys Sport trim for a base price of $35,265. However, the price ratchets up to $41,265 when outfitted with the diesel engine. The diesel-powered Gladiator can tow up to 6,500 pounds when properly equipped. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the strongest off-road SUV in Jeep’s portfolio, the Gladiator features removable doors, a removable top and a fold-down windshield. It’s available in nine trim levels, each with varying levels of technology and safety features. It can seat five people comfortably within its large cabin. Advanced safety features such as rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban LS

  • 4.40 out of 5
  • $52,695 starting MSRP
  • 23/21/27 MPG

Revamped for the 2021 model year, Chevy’s largest SUV gets an optional, 277-horsepower,  turbo diesel engine. The Suburban can seat up to nine people within its spacious cabin. Its recent update also expands its cargo hold by 23 cubic feet — that’s plenty of space for sports equipment, luggage or groceries. The Suburban can tow up to 8,300 pounds when equipped with the Max Trailering Package. Its LS base trim starts at $51,700 with a gas engine and increases to $52,695 when outfitted with the turbo diesel. The Suburban is available in six trim levels that ratchet up the luxuries to leather upholstery, heated seats, blind spot monitoring and front parking sensors. Its Chevrolet Tahoe sibling has a smaller cabin but is easier to navigate around tight corners and narrow streets. When properly equipped, the Tahoe can tow almost 100 pounds more than the Suburban. The Ford Expedition, the Suburban’s closest rival, lacks a diesel engine.

2018 BMW X5 XDrive35d

  • 4.36 out of 5
  • 25/23/29 MPG

BMW stopped offering a diesel engine when it redesigned its midsize BMW X5 SUV for 2019, but it’s still possible to find a used 2018 diesel model on the market. The xDrive35d trim draws 255 horsepower from a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbo diesel for quick acceleration — XDrive is BMW’s name for all-wheel drive. The 2018 X5 is available in six trim levels, culminating with the racetrack-ready BMW X5 M, powered by a beefy twin-turbo V8. When equipped with a turbo diesel, the X5 can tow up to 6,000 pounds. It has a handsome, five-passenger cabin with two rows of supportive seats. While some models may come with a third row, it is typically reserved for children or smaller adults due to limited cabin room. With its wide array of luxury features, a well-equipped X5 can be pricey, even used. All models come with rain-sensing windshield wipers and front and rear parking sensors.

2021 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Silver

  • 4.35 out of 5
  • $79,500 starting MSRP
  • 24/22/28 MPG

This luxury midsize SUV is built for driving across rough terrain. It has the option of seven different trims, ranging from the $69,500 SE base model to the $130,000 SVR Carbon Edition. The Range Rover Sport’s mid-tier HSE Silver Edition has an optional 254-horsepower, turbo diesel V6 that helps the SUV tow up to 7,716 pounds when outfitted with the towing package. The standard model seats five people, but an optional third row boosts capacity to seven. All models come with Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto®, a Wi-Fi hot spot and Land Rover’s Touch Pro™ Duo infotainment system with two 10-inch touch screens. Standard safety features include front and rear parking sensors, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The Range Rover Velar, the Sport’s closest sibling in the Range Rover lineup, is less expensive but doesn’t boast the same off-roading capability and its optional diesel engine was discontinued in 2020. The brand’s $92,000 flagship Range Rover is larger than the Range Rover Sport and available with the same turbo diesel V6 for a starting price of $98,000.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport

  • 4.35 out of 5
  • $37,975 starting MSRP
  • 25/22/29 MPG

Known for its off-road prowess, the Jeep Wrangler is available with a choice of four engines,  including the same 260-horsepower, V6 diesel found in the Jeep Gladiator. The Wrangler comes in multiple trims in either a two-door or four-door body style. The base Sport trim starts at $28,475 for its two-door design and $31,975  for the four-door version known as “Unlimited.” Adding the optional diesel engine raises the starting price to $37,975. The Wrangler’s cabin is trimmed with durable, water-resistant  materials that are easy to clean. The base model has few standard features, so you’ll need to upgrade to the Sport S model to get features such as Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto® and a 7-inch touch screen. Optional safety equipment includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors. Its higher-end sibling, the Jeep Cherokee, boasts a smoother ride for daily driving and slightly better gas mileage but no diesel engine.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Luxury

  • 4.25 out of 5
  • $76,195 starting MSRP
  • 23/21/27 MPG

Redesigned for 2021, Cadillac’s largest SUV now boasts an optional, 277-horsepower, Duramax turbo diesel engine that can be added to any of its five trim levels. When properly equipped, the Cadillac Escalade can tow up to 8,200 pounds. The Luxury base trim starts at $76,195 for either the gas or diesel engine. This luxury flagship SUV features a spacious cabin with three rows of comfortable seats. Leatherette upholstery, heated front and second-row seats, and wireless smartphone charging are standard. Its expanded cargo hold has plenty of room for sports equipment and luggage. All models come with Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto® and an infotainment system with a 16.9-inch touch screen. The SUV comes with a host of standard safety features, including forward collision warning, front and rear parking sensors and forward emergency braking. The Escalade has more cargo space than the Lincoln Navigator, which does not offer a diesel engine.

2019 Chevrolet Equinox LT

  • 4.08 out of 5
  • 32/28/39 MPG

Chevy’s small crossover SUV discontinued the diesel engine for the 2020 model, but it’s still possible to find 2019 models. You won’t find the diesel on the base LS trim, but it’s available on the next trim up, the LT, which also offers the option of all-wheel drive. Both options will increase the price but you’ll get features like an upgraded information display, sunroof and roof rails. The Equinox has many rivals, but it’s become relatively difficult to find a smaller SUV with a diesel — you won’t find any recent diesel options with the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue or Toyota RAV4, for example.

Ways to finance the best diesel SUVs

If you plan to finance a new or used diesel SUV, invest the time to shop around for auto loans that offer reasonable interest rates and repayment terms. While this might seem like a time-consuming task, knowing your financing options ahead of time can save you money at the dealership. At LendingTree, you can fill out a single form online and receive up to five auto loan offers from lenders, based on your creditworthiness.

 

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