By on June 24, 2019

If we were to have told you a few short years ago that The General would soon be producing mass copies of a rear-drive vehicle powered by a turbocharged straight six diesel, you’d have had us committed to the nearest madhouse. After all, such a bumf reads like sport European sedan from the eighties, when cars were cars and most passengers were terrified.

But it isn’t a sports sedan, nor even a performance coupe. Getting inline at GM these days means moving into a Silverado half-ton pickup truck, the latest entrant from the Detroit Three in a quickly escalating war of diesel supremacy in trucks not competing in the Dreadnought-class. These are the volume trucks, folks, and all of the diesel powertrains — Ford, Chevy, and Ram — displace an identical 3.0L from their six cylinders.

Differences abound between the three, causing your friendly neighborhood gearhead’s mind to temporarily out of control, even more so than it does after his third ration of Lamb’s Rum. Let’s dive in and decipher it all.

[Full disclosure: Chevy flew us to Oregon and put us up in a room for two nights. The program was focused on their HD pickups but a fleet of 3.0L half-tons were idling next door so, in a spurt of self-driven initiative, we took advantage of the opportunity assuming you lot would like a verdict on GM’s newest diesel bundle of joy.]

The knock on any diesel is, literally, the knock. Those of us who remember the bad old days will clearly recall being able to hear a diesel-powered machine well before seeing it, emitting a distinctive clatter and plumes of acrid black smoke. The 3.0L straight six Duramax in this bright red Silverado RST exhibited precisely none of those traits. Thumbing the start button lit the diesel fires with a zing; if one wasn’t paying attention, they’d might not even notice it was an oil burner.

At idle, parked between two other pickups to try and evoke maximum din to this driver’s ear, the running Silverado 1500 Duramax produced only a whir, not a clatter or rumble. It was noticeably quieter than the Gen 2 EcoDiesel V6 from Ram, offered in the old Ram 1500 and current Ram 1500 Classic. We have not yet driven the Gen 3 engine, available in the new-style Ram 1500, but will be doing so later this summer. Stay tuned for comparisons.

Turning right out of the active airfield (duck if you see a plane!) we set off on a 25 mile loop which included a mix of rural and highway roads. Others, with their Christian motoring styles, routinely averaged an indicated 30+mpg on this route. Your author recorded 20mpg, driving the Silverado like a real truck with extended periods of idling for photos and giving it bootfuls of acceleration when appropriate.

Somewhere in between those two extremes is a real world number, one which will likely fall in the very high 20s for most owners. Unladen and on a flat highway in a 2WD model, 30mpg would not be out of reach. Our tester was a rear-drive extended (not crew) cab trim, representing one of the lightest Silverado trucks on offer. If you buy a Crew Cab 4×4 with a standard length bed, expect lower numbers. Sadly, official EPA digits are not yet available.

Price? The diesel adds $2495 of cheddar over the 5.3L V8, same as opting for the mighty 6.2L gasoline V8. Stepping up to the diesel from the 2.7L turbo will cost $3890.

At full chat across Oregon wilderness, the Duramax power team was content to upshift its ten-speed automatic just shy of 4000rpm. GM says all of this engine’s torque, all 460 lb-ft of it, comes online at 1500rpm and sticks around until 3000rpm. Its power peak shoves out 277 horses at 3750rpm, which was approximately the shift point when the truck was left to its own devices. Chevy is clearly making the most of this engine and its power delivery characteristics, as the truck never felt boggy or down on grunt. It also never allowed itself to get near the 5000+rpm redline and the start/stop system was as good as invisible. Note well: Ford’s F-150 Power Stroke makes 440 lb-ft at 1750rpm while the (new) Ram 1500 EcoDiesel posts 480 lb-ft at 1600rpm.

Cruising at 50mph, the Duramax emitted only a low grumble, as if it were located far away and ensconced under a thick woolen blanket. A full throttle blast from 50mph-70mph to simulate a highway passing situation took about five seconds, estimated using the entirely unscientific “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” counting method. If all hands would like to donate to the TTAC Fund For Real Equipment, please feel free to do so.

It’ll go without saying this Silverado 1500 Duramax was unburdened by any trailer, though Chevy says it can haul 9300 lbs when properly equipped. For comparison, Ford claims a 11,400-lb limit on its F-150 Power Stroke while Ram boasts of 12,560 lb towing capacity for its new Gen 3 EcoDiesel.

Eagle-eyed truck spotters will be able to identify a half-ton oil burner by the chrome Duramax badge on the hoods of rigs so equipped, placed in the same location as that of those on the Heavy Duty trucks. Everyone wants to be a bit like their big brother, I guess. A side exit tailpipe will also spill this truck’s diesel secrets. Your author is not offended by Silverado 1500 styling, at least not in this RST trim with its color keyed grille and bumpers. Those vertical ventilation jowls south of the outrageously narrow headlights are functional, by the way, allegedly creating an air skirt along the side of the truck to help improve fuel economy.

Which is the whole point of a 1500-class diesel, right? In a world where the half-ton gas burners can haul just as much or more than their torquey brothers, stellar fuel economy will be the killer app for these rigs. It is worth it? How long will it take to pay for itself? We strongly recommend you call up your math nerd buddy and have that person help you run the numbers, keeping in mind the price (and availability) of diesel fuel.

Straight six engines hold a lot of allure for gearheads, thanks to their unique NVH and sound properties. Silverado shoppers would be wise to sample this new mill, as the half-ton diesel class is no longer a weirdo option. Quiet, torquey, and responsive, it’s never been easier to straighten up and get in line.

[Images: © 2019 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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47 Comments on “First Drive: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Diesel – Get It Straight...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Diesel is a little more expensive than regular unleaded on the Ohio side of the Ohio River and about the same price as regular unleaded on the Kentucky side ($2.89-$2.99/gal.) So, that’s a wash. 30+ mpg cruising is nothing to sneeze at for a such a large truck, even if you have to live with a face only a mother could love.
    Should make for some interesting comparisons between the Big-3. I believe diesel is the only way to go with something this large, even if you don’t tow, and with DEF and cleaner fuel, you don’t have to be the obnoxious SOB who blows soot all over everyone and everything.
    With all of the inevitable cash on the hood that is bound to begin soon, can we say screaming deal coming up?

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      Over on another board-a guy had a RAM diesel as a tow vehicle. Usually the wife drives it around town-during the week. Every time she needed to go somewhere-it seemed to her the diesel RAM wanted to go in to a “regen mode” and she had to sit in the parking lot of the market, school,etc., to let the motor do it’s thing before she could turn it off.

      Bottom line-you can’t short trip a diesel. He traded it in for a gasser and lost several thousand dollars.

      You need to look at a lot of factors other the the mpg rating.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        You don’t regen a diesel by sitting in a parking lot. The message on the Ram IP literally says to drive at highway speeds during regen cycles. I’m surprised the DPF would even clean itself correctly while idling in a parking lot.

        I feel bad for the 2nd owner of that truck.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yeah, I remember MY time with a ‘96 RAM 2500 Cummins. Once I started the truck in the morning, I kept it running, or at least idling, for the entire time I was working, even while parked between stops. Sometimes idling 20 minutes or more.

        Tiny diesels need to be kept spinning. Just like the BIG ones do.

        BTW, that Cummins engine is still run daily in Idaho, powering a waterpump on a farm that belongs to one of my wife’s second cousins.

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      theflyersfan,
      I think many believe diesels are only bought for FE reasons. FE is apart of it, but not all.

      Many people love the low down torque characteristics when driving and the clatter. Diesels sound like a living soul.

      I remember the days when people would name their cars and talk to them when challenged.

  • avatar
    Jon

    Dear GM,

    Please offer this engine in the WT and LS trim levels. Then maybe we will talk.

    Sincerely
    Someone who needs a new work truck.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Oh….that face! My eyes have been raped!

    • 0 avatar
      Goatshadow

      Yeah, shame the new trucks are so damn ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Yeah because the F-150 that has similar styling to a 2004 with those weird droopy front windows, that massive blocky plastic grille and those dorky backwards “C” lights is so attractive. Please

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The 2004s have a grill smaller than the current Corolla, except functional. But aren’t they all “plastic”?

          The “droopy” front windows is what I expect from all pickups. The Titan is kind of doing it, but it’s not just for “looks” or show.

          Just like the big trucks, and medium class cab-overs, the droop give a better outward view, drops/lowers F-series side-mirrors, so even with enlarged tow-mirrors, you can totally see over them, despite the crown of the road, instead of needless blind-spots that can swallow a whole school bus (on the left) from across a big intersection, but obviously close-range pedestrians, bike riders, etc, too.

          The rest of the pickup-makers need to get over themselves and droop the windows.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I kinda think this drivetrain in a Suburban/Tahoe would be lovely.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      It makes a lot more sense there honestly.

      Likely a more fuel economy focused buyer, less bothered by long term longevity, 6 cylinder engines, total cost of ownership, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Jack4x you are spot on regarding the longevity, the long term ownership costs of the modern diesel are very concerning for me, regardless of the factory of origin. I love my Suburban, 08′ 5.3 swapped the pistons/rings due to the MDS issue at 80k and turned off the 4 cylinder mode, that has 126k on the odo now. I am hoping to get to 200k before swapping, so I won’t be an early adopter most likely.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      +1

  • avatar
    1500cc

    Automobile magazine hyper-miled one and got close to 45mpg

    https://www.automobilemag.com/news/2020-chevrolet-silverado-1500-duramax-diesel-first-drive-review/

  • avatar
    Hummer

    While I fully admit that it was a one off fluke I’ve achieved 30MPG over a 250 mile period on my 17 5.3L W/T Z71 going from Raleigh West into Tennessee on 40. On average that truck can put down 24-25 on those roads at 75-78 cruising.
    At that MPG (24-25) it really destroys the whole point of the diesel factoring in initial cost, diesel fuel premium, and of course expected diesel repairs.

    I could go on about the cost but the real killer here is the god awful styling that kills this truck. Unless your able to buy the 6.2L on the cheap, literally every other full size on the market is easier on the eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      That’s very impressive mpg Hummer.

      Is it a RWD, regular cab?

      I had a 2008 Silverado 5.3, 4wd ext cab, with stuff in the bed.

      From Ohio to Tennesse, if I kept at a steady 62, the computer showed 20-plus mpg (under 21). Which I thought was pretty good for 5500-plus pounds of a brick with excellent acceleration (IMO)

      I think, in the real world, the diesel will get about 3-6mpg more. When you’re starting with 16-18mpg, that is significant.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        It is a 2017 4 door 4×4 Z71 5.3L LT, 6 speed with cylinder deactivation.

        I was impressed it still says 30.4MPG on my “Best” for 250 Mile average.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          This is a Norm-esque claim. 24-25 mpg at 75-78 mph? Maybe there is an overall drop in grade or favorable tailwinds over that 250 mile stretch.. something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            No I’m completely serious, it’s fully repeatable with cruise control.

            The truck has horrible gearing and feels like a 6 so I’m sure that’s how it’s possible.

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Hummer,
      Sounds like your trip computer is tripping, or your arithmetic is wanting.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    I’d say this is pretty encouraging.

    Of course, the typical (and misplaced) GM hubris leads to this engine being overpriced–doubly–it’s too expensive at $2500, and it’s not available on lower work trims.

    If they want to stem their market share, they need to offer the better engines for less.

    That said, GM’s last clean sheet in-line six, the 4.2 liter that was standard in the Trailblazer was an excellent engine that did well with the 4-speed auto, but deserved a 6-speed.

    I have a friend with a 2003/4 Envoy with 195k miles on it–original motor.

    I think that bodes well for this new engine–and GM. IF/when the next fuel crisis comes, this diesel might be what saves GM!

    GM, cut the price–and offer it in the Tahoe for $1500.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Does the 140 mph speedometer mean that GM isn’t governing their half-tons and big SUVs to 98 mph anymore? Because if they are, I sure would like a gauge that is easier to read in the highly-enforced 25 to 55 mph range.

    Where I live this wouldn’t make much sense. The 6.2 is the only nice thing about a GM truck, and it costs the same. Unleaded is consistently between 25 and 30% cheaper than diesel at the gas stations I pass almost every day. Increased maintenance and repairs will eat any remaining fuel savings and then eat any resale benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      TimK

      It’s an “aspirational” speedometer, ’cause, well, umm, math,uh…

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        Aspirational….I like that.

        It’s one of the more underhanded forms of deception practiced by the auto industry…and full-size pick-up trucks (ALL of them) are perhaps the worst offenders, speed limited to 90-something mph.

        Why not 160mph? Lol

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I shouldn’t make fun of their math, considering what I meant to write is that diesel is currently 27% more expensive than unleaded, making unleaded only 21% cheaper than diesel.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It’s ridiculously ugly, which kills sales right there.

    What’s with the goofy notches cut into the bezels around the speedo and tach? Did someone have too much time on their hands?

    Whose engine is this, anyway? VM Motori?

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Ugly. Overpriced. Over-styled. Spotty quality. Cheapened to death. Rough riding. Noisy. Stupid commercials. Full of “technology” expensive to fix, or impossible to fix, or the dealer says: “They all do that. Within specs. A characteristic of the vehicle.” … No thanks. The Tundra works just fine for me.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Rumors have it that Tundra may be offering a Hino-diesel Turbo in the future Tundra, 2020 maybe, along with the 4.6L being the largest gasoline engine available. Don’t know if it will be the 4-cyl Turbo used for short hop duty or the turnpike-devouring 6-cyl Turbo used in Japan and Asia for the long hauls.

      I would hate to see the 5.7L Tundra engine go but that is only because I don’t care about mpg or the price of gasoline. There may be fancier gas-engines around, but the Tundra 5.7L all-aluminum 32-valve DOHC and the Titan 5.6L 32-valve DOHC are the engines I want to drive, if I ever buy another truck.

      All other truck engines, including this I-6 diesel are just too complicated for daily drivers. And diesels stink, require Urea juice, and require a lot of airfilter and intake cleaning.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Oh – you mean the magnificent 5.7L all-aluminum 32-valve DOHC?

        C’mon, man…don’t hold back…

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Fordson, I wasn’t holding back. I was on the Throne in the smallest room of the house.

          On my iPad Air, I was trying to keep the typing to a minimum.

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        Toyota, not Hino have a 4.5 V8 diesel. Here in Australia the 200 Series has it and its the most popular engine. The midsize 70 Series uses s single turbo version.

        Hino diesels have a relatively low specific output for their engines. Toyota are the same with their diesels. BMW, which Toyota are working with nowadays has a nice inline 6, 3 litre diesel.

        I can’t see a Hino or Toyota diesel used in the US market. The only one is the 4.5 V8 diesel.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Thanks BAF0/JC/Big Al – Australia/Africa still allows dirty diesels and yet to joint the “rest of the modern world” and “other more advanced countries”, obviously.

          The Toyota diesel 4.5 can’t be fixed.

          You guys will feel a whole lot different about diesels when “First World” diesel emissions are required.

          Enjoy them while you can and I was the biggest proponent of diesels in the ’80s to up until the early ’00s.

          It’s a different “world”…

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Interesting considering all the former Tundra owners we know that have since switched back to one of the big 3 pickups including the Silverado you so comically bash!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        What you wrote, must be true, about “all the former Tundra owners we know that have since switched back to one of the big 3 pickups”.

        But I don’t know any.

        In fact, I am FINALLY getting my best friend to SERIOUSLY consider buying a Tundra 1794 as his last new truck, in spite of his wife favoring the all NEW, BETTER THAN EVER, 2019 Silverado LT/RST/LTZ.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This is the worst truck in GM history, a mid cycle refresh couldn’t fix it because the worst part is the sheet metal, it just looks ridiculous, was this designed in China? How did any part of that design make it past the first level of approval?
    GM would be better served to revive its outgoing model with a refresh over keeping this for a full model cycle.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Sorry guys I just don’t think it’s THAT terrible looking.
    I’d still buy a new RAM instead, though, and I own Chevy and Ford trucks right this very minute…

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      The Silverado goes out of its way to look cheap and tacky, just like the rest of the Chevy lineup.

      In comparison, the RAM simply presents itself better — at least when it’s not wearing the Rebel’s plastic-fantastic grille. I quite like the clean, understated chrome grille on the Tradesman.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      LOL the exterior styling is the least of the Silverado’s issues. Seeing them all over the road now so apparently styling isn’t an issue save the normal GM hate this site attracts. This trucks biggest weakness is the interior and that has been very well documented.

  • avatar
    Dan

    A truck this ugly makes diesel’s only consumer grade selling point, the ability to roll coal on cyclists while passing them, nearly redundant.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    There is very little point in this, IMHO. Anything you save in fuel you will end up paying in maintenance costs (probably and then some).

    If you want low-down grunt, get a Ford with an Eco-Boost.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    短的;近的;矮的;短期的;短暂的;简短的;少量的;简短地;突然扼要
    段落;短评;将…分段;分段落;写短评段落

    Chrevoret Sriverado! Feel Exciterement, by Guangzhou Motor (GM), Dong Yue LLC, and Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila de Mexico LLC.

  • avatar
    webebob

    a decade ago, when men were men and DEF was hard to find, i had the pleasure of listening to the exchange between a Mercedes service manager and an irate lady GL whatever SUV driver. Seems on a run in the country, the GL stopped dead. The culprit, lack of DEF “Blue-Tec” in the DEF tank. Oh, yes, a tow can really get you out of sorts, especially in a MB tea and crumpets service waiting room. Aside from stranding her, the rest of her spiel was she paid for the prepaid maintenance and wasn’t filling the DEF tank covered in the prepaid.

    A diesel mobile that shuts the diesel part completely down just because the DEF air freshener stops working, (nice, but not required to make the diesel clatter), is a diesel I wouldn’t buy. Why not have a limp home mode, restricting the driver to 45mph to remind them DEF is needed, but at least save a $300 tow! DEF is probably on a blue light special at Wal-Mart nationwide now, ie much cheaper than then, but add that cost to the premium for the diesel, to the new backflash cleaning that must be done, or die the diesel price…well, it just ain’t no fun anymore riding the convoy in your diesel dan.


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