The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax diesel champions itself as the fuel economy king of half-ton pickups. In its most efficient form, the Silverado is capable of earning an EPA-rated 33 mpg on the highway. That figure is only just above the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and Ford F-150 PowerStroke, but it does win the battle in 2020. It’s rather mind boggling to see this epic fuel economy in a truck, but that’s where technology has taken us as this decade winds down.
The 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six that’s designed and built by GM makes 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission that keeps the engine in its happy zone no matter the speed. In our test truck’s configuration — an LTZ Crew Cab with a standard bed and four-wheel drive — it’s rated at 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. And while that’s not as impressive as the 33 mpg headline, this truck is still mighty efficient. The Duramax diesel is rated to tow up to 9,300 pounds (9,200 pounds in our configuration), which falls below the F-150’s 11,400-pound rating and the Ram 1500’s 12,560-pound rating.
To tack on the diesel engine on a Silverado 1500 LTZ, you’ll need to fork out $2,495. Lower trims with less impressive base engines impose a larger markup of $3,890. This extra cost isn’t out of the ordinary for the class, but it’s worth doing some calculations to see if the diesel is actually worth it for your lifestyle. After the $6,700 LTZ Premium package, $2,125 Technology package and $1,605 Z71 package, our truck totaled $62,515. And before you ask, yes, it could be even more expensive, as the High Country trim sits atop the LTZ.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: In the Chevy Silverado, the 10-speed automatic feels like a good fit for the diesel engine. When I drove the Ram EcoDiesel, there were times when I felt like the truck suffered from a lack of potency at higher speeds. With the Silverado, I didn’t really notice an issue. Perhaps some of that came from the Chevy’s extra 17 horsepower (at 277) over the Ram keeping it pulling strong, but having those extra gears also means it’s more likely to keep the revs in the sweet spot to take full advantage of the power and torque on hand. I didn’t find it hunting for gears, and it kept the revs low and motor quiet during cruising.
This 4WD version is rated at 23 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined. Over the course of 100 miles of driving, close to 80% of which was spent on the highway, the trip computer showed 25.2 miles per gallon. I easily could have gotten better, had I tried. When I drove the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel rated at 21/29/24 mpg — in a completely different state, mind you — I got 23.1 miles per gallon. I’ll be curious to try the Ram on the same route as the Chevy.
Assistant Editor, Zac Palmer: I’ve laid a thick dose of criticism on the Silverado 1500 ever since it was redesigned last year. The interior is subpar in quality and luxury; the ride is too harsh, and the price isn’t any better than its contemporaries. Stick a turbocharged inline-six-cylinder diesel under the hood, and some of these negatives melt away.
Despite it being an oil-burner, this engine is shockingly smooth and docile. It hardly even sounds like a diesel most of the time, as the engine quietly tugs this gigantic pickup truck around. Folks may not even notice that it’s a diesel as it idles like a top at stoplights. This Chevy pickup is one cool customer.
I only wish the truck’s interior could match its powertrain in refinement. Chevy definitely designed its new Silverado interior without knowing how sumptuous and luxurious the new Ram 1500’s interior would be. The bland design and seas of black plastic do no justice to this truck at its over-$60,000 price. If Chevy could give the expensive Silverados a nicer cabin, this truck’s powertrain would put it over the top for me. As it is, the diesel is superb, but the experience as a whole is lacking — although I’d be more forgiving if this Silverado were $40,000.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: John and Zac hit on the diesel powertrain pretty well, so I’m going to use this opportunity to weigh in on the Silverado’s new styling. The 2019 launch was controversial, and many think Chevy went too far with the front end and curvy wheel arches. I actually like it, but generally have thought the blockier previous generation was a better, more timeless look. I still tend to feel that way, but I’m coming around to the new design. You have to change the styling at some point, and the Silverado does look more modern. The small headlights are an area that drew particular criticism, but I think on certain trims they add a sophisticated look. Our LTZ has a decent amount of chrome, and I think that helps. It feels more truck-like and has more presence than the lower trims. Overall, I’m starting to like the new Silverado’s design. It took me awhile...