While diesel engines have continuously been a presence in heavy duty pickups for decades, their availability in half-ton models haS been limited and sporadic. It was only recently that Ram’s EcoDiesel engine ignited substantial, prolonged interest among consumers who see value in their V8-matching capability and V6-beating fuel economy. Ford was the next to step up with its 3.0-liter PowerStroke V6, and now after its complete redesign last year, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 counts GM’s new Duramax diesel mill among a number of other updates.
Available as a $3,890 option on the Silverado 1500 LT, RST, LTZ and High Country models, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six produces 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, of which 95% is achieved at just 1,250 rpm. That peak torque is also sustained from 1,500 to 3,000 rpm, and thanks to its standard 10-speed automatic transmission, there are more gears available to make sure the engine remains in that stump-pulling sweet spot.
In terms of actual output, the Duramax bests its rivals’ horsepower – 17 more than the recently announced 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel (which we have yet to drive), and 27 more than the Ford Powerstroke. The Ram may have more torque – 480 pound-feet – but its peak is achieved at a higher 1,600 rpm. The PowerStroke, meanwhile, is the least torquey of the bunch, with 440 pound-feet at 1,750 rpm.
That torque advantage doesn’t translate into a higher towing capacity – the Silverado Duramax’s 9,300-pound rating falls well short of the F-150’s 11,400-pound rating and the 2020 Ram’s 12,560 rating. By contrast, the Ford and Ram diesels are comparable to their respective gasoline-powered maxes.
But there are two considerations that mitigate this on-paper disadvantage. For one, the Silverado’s torque advantage should mean an easier driving experience when hitched up. The second is that 9,300 lbs is a lot, and if you’re going to be routinely maxing out your half-ton truck’s towing capacity then perhaps a heavy-duty offering would be a better call. For what it’s worth, Chevy says its lower rating is because it optimized the truck for superior fuel economy rather than maximum capacity.
These can be a real difference maker for those who frequently tow, but altogether there’s just not enough to overcome the 2020 Silverado’s flaws. There’s quite simply more to a truck’s appeal these days than what’s under the hood.