Test drive

A routine weekend commute from Cortland to New York state has General Motors fabrication plant electrician Mark Dearborn waiting eagerly for an opportunity to purchase his own new Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel.

Dearborn was among hundreds of GM complex workers who took advantage of an opportunity to drive the new Lordstown-built vehicle this week, even before it hits local showrooms. Dearborn was so impressed with the vehicle, in fact, he drove it twice this week.

“I own a 2011 Cruze right now, and I am going to be trading it in for one of these,” Dearborn said as he sat behind the wheel of a 2014 Cruze Diesel outside the fabrication plant Thursday afternoon. Other workers gathered around the small car waiting for their turn.

“I drove this about a week ago, and I absolutely love it,” Dearborn said.

He said he won’t be discouraged by diesel fuel prices, particularly this week, for example, when diesel fuel has been only about a dime or 15 cents higher than regular unleaded locally.

Members of the media who also took the car for a spin around the village Thursday determined that GM had kept its promises of a quiet, smooth and exhaust-free ride. From inside the vehicle, it was impossible to hear the low rumble of the diesel engine or to smell the fuel exhaust.

The car’s quick acceleration has been compared by some as reminiscent of a classic muscle car, despite the fact that it’s a four-cylinder small car. Cruze Diesel’s turbocharged 2.0L engine produces 151 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque.

Chris DePolo, GM’s lead development engineer for compact cars, who traveled to Lordstown from GM’s Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan, popped the hood to point out some of the noise abatement materials surrounding the engine.

“The acoustic treatment isolates the engine from the passenger compartment,” DePolo explained. “This is just one part of it that you can see.”

Other items unique to the Cruze Diesel include an acoustical foam cover on the engine, a more aerodynamic front grill and lower resistance tires that also come standard on the Cruze Eco.

“It’s all in the name of fuel economy,” DePolo said.

Apparently, the attention to detail worked. The Cruze Diesel’s fuel economy is rated at 46 mpg, the highest of any non-hybrid U.S. passenger vehicle.

In the trunk, diesel emission fluid, referred to by DePolo as “DEF,” helps keep the fuel’s exhaust clean. The DEF tank sits in the space that would have held a spare tire. Rather than the spare, standard equipment is a tire inflator.

Dearborn and other new local fans of the diesel small car won’t get a chance to own a Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel until late summer or early Fall. Although the car has hit showrooms in select cities, many on the West Coast, they won’t be marketed nationwide until later this year.

In the meantime, the Lordstown complex continues to ramp up its production, preparing for the nationwide release of the car built here with an engine made in Germany.

The vehicle will sticker at $25,695, which includes destination charges and a two-year maintenance plan.