Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of combustion by compression, would never have anticipated the global distribution of his concept in the 21st century. And despite the occasional hiccup on the diesel’s path to ubiquity (the Volkswagen Group’s emission scandal, historically high surcharges in the U.S. for diesel fuel, and the expensive equipment needed to bring today’s diesels into emission compliance), the diesel’s efficiency can’t be disputed and nor – with its abundant torque – can its capability. For those fans of diesel, choices in the U.S. are regrettably few. In the aftermath of its emissions malfeasance Volkswagen has discontinued sales of its diesel models in the U.S., and is prepared to either repair or buy back those diesels already on U.S. roads. And while BMW, Mercedes and – most recently – Jaguar continue to offer diesels in their road-going lineups, sales are comparatively small relative to what VW was moving. Also, FCA has been beating the diesel drum of late, with installation in its Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500 and the – rumored – redesigned Wrangler. In light truck, GM has introduced diesels to its midsize Colorado (Chevrolet) and Canyon (GMC), and will be reintroducing diesel into its compact Cruze sedan. And while diesels are virtually everywhere in the heavy duty pickup segment, Nissan – in partnership with Cummins – has what appears to be a homerun with its Titan XD, essentially splitting the difference between the accessibility of a ½-ton pickups and the utility of their ¾-ton siblings.

Exterior – Rarely will you see a vehicle’s diesel identity displayed prominently on a grille or trunk lid. The one notable exception in today’s market is the all-new Titan XD from Nissan, where news of its association with Cummins is – on the new truck – front and center. In trucks or SUVs diesel availability is typically seen on the heavy duty variants, while car-based diesel options – given the emissions issue perpetrated by Volkswagen – continue to narrow. In short, if you’re looking to easily identify a diesel, whether it be a car, truck or SUV, you’ll need to look closely.

Interior – Again, there’s little to differentiate a diesel model, other than a telltale indicator within your dashboard, of the diesel installation. However, know that even the most modern, refined diesel powertrains emit more noise – both from under the hood and exhaust – than their gasoline counterparts. With that, manufacturers expend more money and time on noise insulation within the car or truck cockpit.

Powertrains – Available diesel powertrains run the gamut, from turbocharged fours installed – via Chevy’s announced-for-’18 Cruze – in entry-level sedans to the turbocharged four available in Jaguar’s recently introduced XE to 6.7 liters of Ford Super Duty diesel delivering 860 lb-ft of torque. Probably the most representative among diesel-equipped SUVs is the 3.0 liter turbo V6 which Mercedes installs in the GLS. The biggest news among truckmakers is the new Cummins V8, recently spec’d for Nissan’s all-new Titan. Among all categories a diesel will typically deliver roughly 30% more efficiency when compared to its gasoline counterpart, along with a significant bump in available torque.

Safety – There is no discernible differentiation between the passenger protection offered in a diesel-powered car, truck or SUV than its gasoline-powered counterpart, except that in a collision which compromises the fuel tank, diesel is less inclined to explode than gasoline. In Hollywood, dramatic crash scenes are staged using gasoline.

Technology - Today, if a manufacturer opts for an introduction at a major auto show the offering is more typically devoted to newly-introduced technology within the product than the outside sheetmetal or under-the-hood enhancements.  Of course, technology can take many forms, including those intended to improve efficiency, connectivity or entertainment. With its Tech of the Year Award in 2016, Autoblog recognized Apple CarPlay for its user-friendliness and “overall impact on bringing our connected lives into the car.” If you’re an iPhone user, the control of apps is done via a familiar interface on an infotainment screen while adding features that weren’t originally installed at the factory. Android Auto was second in the voting, delivering to the user essentially the same capabilities via Google’s phone OS.

With automotive technology’s trickle down, you can expect in-car WiFi to enjoy greater availability, and its integration into a ‘media hub’ increasingly common.