• All-new 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel available
  • 277 horsepower, 460 lb-ft of torque
  • New engine provides refinement, punch and efficiency
  • Available on LT trims and higher
  • Priced as a $2,495 option
  • On sale later this fall


In the past several years, buyers of half-ton pickups have been given a tantalizing option beyond the traditional choices of gasoline V6 and V8 engines: a diesel 6-cylinder. Yes, now light-duty truck buyers can get the kind of torque, stump-pulling grunt and enhanced fuel efficiency of a power plant formerly reserved for heavy duty pickup owners.

Ram was the first to offer a modern diesel in its half-ton truck for the 2014 model year, then Ford followed suit last year with its F-150 diesel. Now General Motors has gotten in the game, offering a diesel in its 2020 Chevrolet Silverado (brand sibling GMC will also follow in the Sierra 1500). This is the first time Chevy has offered such an inline-6 turbodiesel in its popular Silverado full-size truck.

While Chevrolet has been later to join the diesel party, truck buyers considering the 2020 Silverado will be happy to know it was worth the wait. Chevrolet invited us to Bend, Oregon, to be among the first to test this diesel truck. In this setting we had the opportunity to gauge its ride and handling on mountainous roads and scenic byways at elevations spanning from 3,000 to 6,500 feet, and also see its potential fuel economy.

Quiet and refined

Let’s quickly get past the elephant that may be hiding in the room. It’s no secret that the word “diesel” has a stigma to overcome. Diesels from decades ago stunk with soot and rattled obnoxiously. Newer versions in passenger cars lost whatever traction they were gaining due to Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandals.

The new turbodiesel engines used in the Detroit Three’s trucks aim to be different, and they’re much better for it. First, they curb emissions via DEF (diesel exhaust fluid that is poured into an inlet every several thousand miles), and are world’s quieter than both past diesels and their current, larger counterparts in each brand’s heavy duty siblings.

Quiet, refined inline six

The Silverado’s all new Duramax 3.0-liter in-line-6 could very well be the best of the bunch yet. It is remarkably quiet and refined. Inside the cabin, you’ll be hard pressed to hear the clattering usually emitted from a diesel.

Acceleration is also very non-diesel-like, in that it’s quick and immediate. There is little if any lag off the line, and the mighty power plant has the ability to quickly increase velocity no matter where the speedometer needle is located.

Equal credit goes to the transmission pairing. GM’s new light-duty diesel truck engine uses a 10-speed automatic transmission that is also among the best out there. Car reviews often use terms like “buttery” and “smooth” when discussing transmissions, but if such glowing terms were ever warranted, they are here. This was most evident in higher gears. When manually moving up and down the range, shifts were all but imperceptible.

What is the power output and towing capacity of the Duramax 3.0-liter diesel?

GM’s new 3.0-liter diesel is good for 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, vs. the 250 horsepower/440 lb-ft of torque put up by the 2019 Ford F-150 diesel option. Ram’s new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 is still forthcoming, but the automaker has already announced that its diesel will have class-leading torque of 480 lb-ft, though its 260 horsepower doesn’t quite beat GM’s.

As for towing, however, the Chevy’s rating is the least. The Duramax has a max tow rating of 9,300 pounds, while Ford boasts 11,400 pounds for its diesel. Ram is already touting its new diesel as best-in-class with a towing max of 12,750 pounds.

Fuel efficiency advantage

Beyond grunt, fuel efficiency is another benefit of diesels. GM is still awaiting numbers from the EPA, but we would not be surprised to see a highway figure somewhere in the 30 mpg range. During a challenge where media attendees practiced hypermiling, many attained well over 40 mpg by going easy on the throttle at consistent speeds of around 50 mph.

What’s the price of a Duramax diesel-equipped 2020 Chevrolet Silverado?

A new Silverado LT begins around $40,000, and the Duramax is a $2,495 option over the 5.3-liter V8, the same price as the optional 6.2-liter V8 gasoline engine. That means you can get into a new Chevy Silverado diesel in the mid-$40,000 range when including destination charge. In addition to the trim choices and the various amenities they bring, the diesel Silverado is available in both 4x2 and 4x4 variants as well as on LT, RST, LTZ and High Country trim levels.

This means that getting into a Silverado diesel variant will cost less than a comparable new Ford F-150 diesel.  To get a diesel in a Ford, you must begin with at least a Lariat trim that starts at nearly $44,000, then add another $4,000 for the diesel option, putting you closer to the $50,000 mark.

Pricing for the Ram diesel is still to be announced. We should also mention that Nissan makes a diesel pickup truck, but it falls between a half-ton and three-quarter ton. Called the Titan XD, it is available with a 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 and starts under $40,000 if you go with a basic regular cab model. 

Class of 2020: The New and Redesigned Cars, Trucks and SUVs

Availability and recommendation

With the new Duramax, Chevrolet now offers half a dozen engine options in its 2020 Silverado 1500, ranging from a perky 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder to the mighty 6.2-liter V8. We think the diesel falls nicely in the middle, offering a fine balance of power, refinement and fuel economy. The latter is especially notable, and this could well be the most efficient engine of the bunch.

If you want a power plant that packs a lot grunt and punch, can tow up to 9,300 pounds and can hit the 30 mpg mark without too much effort, the new Duramax 3.0-liter makes a great choice. This latest engine for the Silverado will be available in 2020 models later this fall.

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