How Far Can You Drive on a Tank of Diesel?


For the most part, diesel engines achieve superior fuel efficiency compared to their internal combustion gasoline counterparts.

When fitted with a sizable fuel tank, they can offer bladder-busting range. This makes diesel vehicles great for long road trips with minimal stops.

But just how far can you really stretch a single tank of diesel? Well, that is a bit of a loaded question. Semi-trucks can carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel and travel thousands of miles between fill-ups. But what about passenger vehicles, especially those in the more affordable price range?

SEE ALSO: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Review

To find out, I’ve grabbed a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Refreshed this year inside and out, the big news for the Jetta is a redesigned 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine. Making 150 HP and 236 lb-ft. of torque, at first glance it may not seem like much has changed with this engine, but most of the internals are new. The largest noticeable improvement is fuel economy which is now rated at 45 MPG on the highway when equipped with the dual-clutch automatic transmission.

That’s up three MPG compared to last year’s TDI which, combined with a 14.5 gallon fuel tank, should net a 652.5 mile range. So why even test this out when the range easily be calculated using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures? Because those are optimal condition results. What happens if I test this out in the real world, where it isn’t always 75 degrees and sunny (unless you live in California of course).

SEE ALSO: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel vs. 2013 VW Jetta TDI

For this test, it’s the dead of winter in Ontario, Canada. The temperature during my evaluation today will be a chilly 1F to start, going up to 14F, then back down to 1F by the end of my 11-13 hour drive. The all-season tires that come equipped on the Jetta TDI have also been swapped out for less efficient Continental ContiWinterContact winter rubber.

This should all add up to reduced range, but just how much? Well, my plan is to leave this morning with a full tank of fuel and spend the day on freeways, highways and secondary country roads. Keeping with the real-world testing theme, I will drive roughly 5 MPH above the speed limit most of the time. My goal is to still achieve a total range of 650 miles, which is just over 1,000 km for the metric readers out there. Will I achieve it? Following along with my travels on twitter (#TDIDrive) as well as checking back here often throughout the day.

It was a long day of driving. I spent 12 hours and 11 minutes behind the wheel of the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, traveling 658 miles. During that time I averaged 48 MPG which is highly impressive. Remember, this test was done in the dead of winter with temperatures ranging from -6F to 19F. On top of that, the Jetta I drove was equipped with winter tires.

I did not drive the Jetta in any special way. I drove it like consumers would, staying with the flow of traffic and using cruise control quite often. The fact I still exceeded the EPA numbers and hit my own personal goal with all these factors working against me is a testament to Volkswagen’s development and knowledge of small, passenger car diesels.

Fast Facts:

  • Engine: 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 150 HP, 236 lb-ft.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Fuel Economy (US): 31 MPG city, 45 MPG highway
  • Fuel Economy (CDN): 7.5 L/100 km city, 5.3 L/100 km highway
  • Price (US): Begins at $23,560 after destination charges for TDI S, $30,020 as tested for TDI SEL.
  • Price (CDN): Begins at $26,685 after destination charges for Treadline+ TDI, $33,580 as tested for Highline TDI as tested.

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