2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: Baseball Journey

Ian Merritt

I don't usually go in for follow-ups and sequels. Blues Brothers 2000? Sacrilege. The Star Wars prequels? I stopped after Episode One. The Datsuns' Outta Sight, Outta Mind? Nowhere as invigorating as the band's debut album. That said, when I was given a chance to relive a weekend spent out on the road, visiting baseball stadiums, salivating over freshly baked apple pies, and downing a hot dog (or several), I was willing to make an exception.

A brief recap: two years ago, I was facing a three-day Memorial Day weekend with no real plans or commitments. I also found a bright red 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible sitting in Automobile Magazine's parking garage. A light bulb went off in my head. If this is America's weekend, why not spend it enjoying baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet? After all, those elements were what Campbell-Ewald suggested made America great during a famed ad campaign launched in 1974.

Decades later, Chevy still regularly references that very ad, most recently as part of its "Chevy Runs Deep" campaign, which again tried to stir up nostalgic memories of vintage Chevrolets. If Chevy can revisit that idea, we can too -- but with a twist. Although we would have loved to crisscross the Midwest in the new Corvette Stingray, a muscle-bound 2014 SS, or the redesigned Silverado, one new addition to Chevrolet's lineup seemed ideal for our trip: the 2014 Cruze Diesel.

As we've previously reported, the Cruze Diesel is virtually identical to the Cruze 2LT with the exception of what's nestled between the front fenders. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel I-4 designed and supplied by GM of Europe. Its 151 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque aren't big news, but its fuel economy figures are. The EPA rates the car at 27 mpg in the city, 46 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined, besting every other Cruze variant sold here. Just because we're aiming to be gluttonous doesn't mean our road trip vehicle has to be.

DAY 1 -- JUNE 7, FRIDAY: DETROIT

Once again, our journey starts in the Motor City when I pick up the Cruze Diesel from our offices in Ann Arbor. There's little to indicate it's a diesel; its lone badge modestly bills the car as a "2.0 TD," not a diesel. Crank it over, however, and the diesel identity is immediately apparent. The engine clatters away nosily even at idle, although the din is far less apparent inside the cabin. I venture across town to pick up photographer Ian Merritt, who just rode in from Chicago on Amtrak's Blue Water. I toss his luggage and camera case into the Cruze's trunk, something that would have been much more difficult with the Camaro's constricted aperture. I didn't know if a guy who regularly shoots exotic and luxury cars would be excited by a weekend filled with sports, junk food, and driving a compact car, but my doubts are quickly eliminated -- minutes into our trek, he's already coined a bespoke Twitter tag for our trip (#ballparkspietubularmeat ) and is eagerly talking up our food stops. No surprise, really, given the fare on Amtrak's overpriced café car.

The Tigers' home game against the Cleveland Indians isn't until 7 pm, but we waste little time heading for downtown Detroit in search of a proper lunch stop. One regret I hold from my last trip is that I never managed to squeeze into Lafayette Coney Island. I mean that literally -- even hours after a Tigers game, the tiny restaurant was packed with baseball fans looking for a meal after the final inning. I ended up next door at the larger American Coney Island, which offered immediate seating and no wait -- but I wondered what I missed.

Crowds aren't a problem at Lafayette this time around, as we slide into a booth around 2 pm, well after the lunch crowd. We order up a pair of Coneys and a plate of chili cheese fries; our waiter quickly shouts the order to the kitchen staff located just over my shoulder. The food arrives almost instantly, and we quickly find ourselves in Coney heaven. Interestingly, Lafayette's dogs are no longer drastically different from American's, but its chili is a little more flavorful than next door. We're both blown away by the chili cheese fries: the potatoes are perfectly crisp, and the shredded cheddar on top is beautifully melted. We wholeheartedly approve; our arteries, however, aren't as amused.

From there, we head south to find dessert. We've heard rumblings of a good pie place just north of the Michigan border -- Kate's Kitchen in Flat Rock -- but we cross over into Ohio. Sacrilege, maybe, but Schmucker's Restaurant in Toledo (a city that was once briefly considered Michigan territory) is worth it. I stumbled upon this little diner last year, and haven't forgotten it. How could I? The place offers a full menu, but with more than twelve types of pie baked fresh daily and proudly placed in a display case at the front of the restaurant, it's hard not to skip straight to dessert. I stare at the vanilla ice cream vapors rising off my warmed slice of Dutch apple while Merritt nearly faints from the sugar rush provided by his mountainous piece of chocolate peanut butter pie.

How we escaped slipping into diabetic comas is beyond us, but we make the hour-long drive north to Detroit in time to ease into our seats at Comerica Park. Our upper club seats hardly feel like nosebleeds; in fact, our position over home plate affords both a good view of the game and of the Detroit cityscape. Tigers pitching ace Justin Verlander has a solid start, while Victor Martinez, Brayan Pena, and Ramon Santiago cross home plate in the second inning. Avasail Garcia and Andy Dirks score in the fourth. The Indians gain momentum in the fifth inning, driving in three runs. The Tigers enter the eighth inning up four runs, but controversial closing pitcher Jose Valverde -- who was released by the team after a subpar 2012 season but brought back earlier this season in a desperate attempt to find a decent closer -- doesn't find those margins wide enough for comfort. Cleveland squeaks in two runs in the top of the ninth before Indians first baseman Nick Swisher grounds out to end the game. Tigers win, 7-5.

We leave quickly afterwards, and hit the road towards our layover in Kalamazoo. Valverde, on the other hand, is sent down to the Tiger's minor league team -- in Toledo, ironically -- two weeks later.

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mjubie
great specs, but sure is ugly.  I hope Omegatalon is right and they put that diesel in the more attractive Buicks.
Troy35
I think its great that we finally have a domestic choice for a diesel powered compact. If my soul purpose is to purchase a vehicle for low maintenance and high MPG I could care less if it has a 5th door or manual transmission.  You tell me which would be cheaper when it comes to paying for maintenance. VW labor rates are cheap.....said no one ever! Tell me which would be easier to find a  service shop that would work on it. I see this as GM testing the waters before they jump in the pool. 
OMEGATALON
This is General Motors making a good car better as we'll probably see a Cruze Wagon that is sold in Europe in another year and this 2.0L turbo-diesel will probably be used in other cars like the Buick Verano and Encore as hopefully, we'll see a 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 and/or a 4.0-4.5L turbo-diesel V8 in a couple of years.
red rotors
Problems with the car and article.Never mentioned - Cruze needs urea additive, Jetta/Golf does not. I'd buy a Passat if I wanted a sedan that needed urea.Cruze, available in loaded trim level only, Jetta/Golf TDI is not available as a "stripper" but it starts more at a mid-level trim.No manual transmission choice on the Cruze, Jetta/Golf available with manual transmission.As mentioned by many - no five door option on the Cruze, VW offers wagon and hatchback.Apparently the car was so boring that the writer choose to talk about the "food" (poison?) and baseball vs. the car. Fail GM - good luck trying to pawn off the extra inventory on the rental car companies but they probably won't want them for fear of all the mis-fueling by clueless customers.
Rob Rutkowski
I believe the market associates brands with powertrains.  The Prius outsells all other hybrids because the car = powertrain = buyer.Similarly, VW has found the diesel + wagon is a solid seller in the US.  I think Chevy would find the same with the smartly styled Cruze wagon sold in Europe.Plus, the sight lines in the coupe border on hazardous, which the wagon may solve.
Shamar Cunningham
this was taken at the milwaukee art museum...
Fritz von Zipper
Thank you for a fine article. The car is very briefly mentioned as the rest of the writing is all about how to gain weight without really trying. I could have had all this food info from Porker-R-US magazine, but nooooo, Automobile has to feed me this fare, instead of providing me with more auto read as the name of the magazine clearly implies. Perhaps all readers should get together and send you a ton of Pastrami, so you can feed your journos for free.
Richard Ovens
Please GM give us the Euro Cruze wagon or sport wagon. Wanna see one? Google the Cruze wagon that sold over 225K in Europe and I think it looks spiffy and would serve my needs with a diesel extremely well.  GM said no cuz it would eat sales of GM small crossover SUVs that have no diesel offered. This diesel is strong enough to power Equinox and even larger rigs.   
Gregory Easton
Great idea - great car
Nir Cohen
It's about time America will discover the advanteges of modern turbo diesel engines more MPG and longer engine life.
Raj Kumar
My favourite car...
red rotors
With this offering the water is cold. GM will never jump and will use this poor excuse as their excuse.OMEGATALON below needs to come back from dreamland
Anthony - Keeps it 100
@Rob Rutkowski I agree, they should be aggressive with the diesel Cruze and its variants in the North American market. As long as it's priced competitively with the Jetta which is, built in the US, it will sell once idiots get over their "Buy American" phobia.
Anthony - Keeps it 100
@inkysol  True the writer of this article has had a few too many chilli dogs and fries already, I don't think we needed to be informed on what 4,000 or 5,000 calories looks like. 
Rob Rutkowski
@Anthony - Keeps it 100 @Rob Rutkowski The wild card is the 2015 VW Sportwagen (based on the Mark VII Golf).  That means any Cruze wagon gets leapfrogged by a newer V dub.  Yet I still think the Cruze wagon is funky enough, especially as a diesel, to find a home here.  It drives like a world class car.
Anthony - Keeps it 100
@Rob Rutkowski @Anthony - Keeps it 100 That just means GM will have to refresh the Cruze if its introduced and sold here. OEM's are starting to do that, you have seen the 2 year refresh of the Grand Cherokee and Benz E class, you'll see more going forward. 

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