It was a sweltering June day, and I was stuck in my grade seven class. The windows were open, and every time I leaned sideways to catch a cool breeze against my cheek, my legs would stick to the plastic chair. There was a whiff of diesel smoke as the Queensway 80 bus growled to a stop just below the window, its engine rumbling while passengers got on and off. Like clockwork, that diesel bus came every 20 minutes.
It was the end of the school year, and an uncertain future lay ahead. My family was moving to a sleepy suburb outside of Toronto, and I didn’t want to go. Just the thought of leaving all my friends tightened my throat, and made my stomach ache. The future was so uncertain, so frightening. But on that day, as the diesel odour rose to the window every 20 minutes, I realized that the world would not end. Like the Queensway 80, it would plod on. It comforted me to realize that even though I would not be there, the bus would always stop. And then calmly continue on its route.
As a grown-up, I developed mixed feelings for the diesel bus, especially when stuck behind one in traffic. Diesel is hugely popular in Europe, yet in North America, not so much. Maybe that’s why usually only European automakers offer diesel. But now, General Motors has the Chevy Cruze, a handsome compact sedan, available in diesel. I had been tempted to try a Volkswagen diesel but really – it’s like Prince walking on stage at the Grammies. He gets a standing ovation for just showing up. It’s the same when Volkswagen does diesel – what’s to prove?
So I couldn’t resist. And my 2015 Chevy Cruze diesel glistened under a cold February sky, in a sombre blue metallic hue that would blend in with a fleet of stealth cop cars. It was a solid, civilized vehicle with slightly squared contours, that glowered just enough to assure me it meant business. The only outward indication that it was diesel was a small green plaque on the back that simply said “2.0 TD.” Diesel cars need a turbo to punch up that engine!
Inside, the Cruze was turned out in soft, pudgy black leather like no one’s business. I slid the six-way power driver’s seat into perfect position, and with seat warmers on high, I was ready to tackle the cold, dark Canadian winter road. As I popped the start button, the dashboard lit up, with the glow plug lights front and centre. Diesel engines don’t use spark plugs, so the glow plugs heat up the combustion chambers to get the show on the road. Can’t you just imagine it? The name “glow plug” conjures up visions of tiny Disney-esque fairies flitting around the engine block, breathing little spurts of warm air to crank the pistons.
The diesel engine sprang to life with a characteristic thrumming – even though the cabin was well insulated, the distinctly diesel rattling growl came through loud and clear. It made me think of oarsmen on a racing scull, skillfully pulling in precision, cutting through the water. And so we surged forward, onto the Don Valley Parkway. It was Valentine’s Day, and don’t you know every girl’s first love is a good outlet mall, and those only exist in Toronto’s sleepy suburbs. Yes, just like the one I’d moved to all those years ago – and fled back to the city as soon as I could. But here, on a typical commuter roadway, the Cruze made itself at home, competently occupying the left lane, and perfectly content at speeds of – um, well, highway speed!
Arriving at Vaughan Mills shopping centre, my heart skipped a beat. Outlets for Danier, Calvin Klein, Holt Renfrew, J. Crew and also – Doc Maartens. Signs like “50 percent off” tempted me into store after store – how could I say no to such bargains? But I did. I resisted the siren song of cut-rate fashionista combat boots, and settled for a hearty lunch of brisket sandwich at the Pickle Barrel restaurant.
Finally, it was time to leave, and I hopped into the Cruze. Winding our way home was a pleasure, especially since I was bone-weary from resisting all those bargains. I snuggled into the supple leather seat, and pushed into downtown Toronto. Coming off the highway, I was momentarily trapped behind the 72A Pape bus. At the traffic light, I gunned the engine and leaped ahead of the bus, and smiled to myself. The smile turned into a grin when I parked and saw the mileage – 4.5 litres/100 k was my best score, with an average of 9.9. litres/100 k. In gallons, my best was a mind-bending 52 mpg, with an average of 23.7 mpg. That’s why people love diesel!
And while you’re not going to whup anyone’s ass at the drag races, you are going to get way better mileage.
Which, in the end, is a more toothsome victory.