Clean-air laws and lingering memories of smoky, smelly, sooty exhausts have relegated diesel cars to obscurity here in America. Despite the amazing fuel economy and power that diesel engines deliver, only two automakers offer them with any consistency: Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. Sure, diesel fuel costs more than regular gasoline, and the cars themselves cost upward of $2,000 more than their gasoline variants. But advances in low-sulfur diesel, special exhaust additives and high-tech catalytic converters have made most modern diesels more environmentally friendly than their gas-powered counterparts — without the smoke or smell. And the extra fuel costs and premium for the engine are, in most cases, offset by the fuel-efficiency savings. Here are five diesel-powered cars that are either here or coming to the United States, along with a few alluring models that, tragically, we won't get.

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2013 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Chevrolet hasn't sold a diesel car in the United States in more than 20 years. The compact Cruze sedan, introduced last year, will be available in early 2013 with a diesel engine that should beat the 42-mpg highway figure of the gasoline Eco trim. It's also a milestone; other than the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, no other compact car offers a diesel engine. The engine will likely be the same 2.0-liter 4-cylinder used in Europe, with 163 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque at just 1,750 rpm. That engine, when paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, achieves more than 50 mpg on European test cycles. We expect it to cost around $22,000, about the price of the roomier Jetta TDI.

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Compare: Chevrolet Cruze vs. Ford Focus

2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel

Like Chevrolet, Jeep has sold diesels overseas for a long time. But why not here, where a diesel's low-end torque is ideally suited to Jeep's low-range 4-wheel drive? For 2013, Jeep says it will offer a diesel engine on the popular Grand Cherokee. It will likely bolt on its trusty European workhorse: a 3.0-liter V6 with a thumping 406 lb-ft of torque. That's more than 50 percent greater than what the 3.6-liter V6 musters. (Jeep also has a smaller 2.8-liter diesel V6 for European-spec Wranglers, but we doubt they'll bring that, too.) Expect much better mileage than the current 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway.

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Compare: Jeep Grand Cherokee vs. Ford Explorer

2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Porsche introduced Europe to its first-ever diesel engine on the 2010 Cayenne, a top-heavy SUV that continues to outsell the company's Boxster and 911 models. Now, paired with the Cayenne's sleek redesign, the U.S. will receive the diesel later this year. The brand-new S Hybrid already does what the standard V6 Cayenne can't: boast great performance while achieving better gas mileage. The diesel, a more powerful version of the 3.0-liter diesel found in the Volkswagen Touareg TDI, will be a fantastic reason to pass on the regular S and its thirstier V8. If sales go well, perhaps Porsche will consider a Panamera diesel.

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Compare: Porsche Cayenne Turbo vs. Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

OK, so Volkswagen has lapsed with some of its diesels. The redesigned 2012 Passat brings back the beloved TDI diesel, not seen since 2005. While the body styling screams stale bread — the rear looks like an old Kia Optima — the rest of the car is class-leading. VW says the Passat TDI can travel 795 miles on its 18.5-gallon tank, with fuel-economy ratings of 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway with the 6-speed manual transmission. What other well-equipped full-size sedan can offer that for less than $27,000? Not even most hybrids half its size can beat that; we're looking at you, Honda Insight.

Read: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI — Flash Drive

Compare: Volkswagen Passat TDI vs. Kia Optima Hybrid