Auto review: Hereís how the 2020 Chevy Silverado pickupís quiet, powerful diesel is like a BMW

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 1, 2019

               

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel.

REDMOND, Ore. ó A powerful and refined diesel headlines new features on the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup, as General Motorsí best-selling brand looks to change perceptions that its full-size pickup is an also-ran compared to Fiat Chryslerís Ram models.

GMís all-new straight-six diesel is smooth, amazingly quiet and likely to hit the market at least a couple of months ahead of Ramís corresponding new 3.0-liter light-truck diesel V-6.

Diesels have fallen badly out of fashion with car buyers, but they still have devotees among pickup owners. Thatís because diesels generate more torque ó which matters most when towing ó and use less fuel than comparable gasoline engines.

After years when they didnít offer diesels in the light-duty 1500/150 trucks that account for around two-thirds of pickup sales, Chevy, Ford, GMC and Ram have made diesels the latest front in the Truck Wars. The GMC Sierra 1500ís diesel will be available shortly, using the same engine as Chevy.

The Silverado 1500 diesel should go on sale any day.

The only holdup is getting final EPA certification of the pickupís fuel economy rating, a step that normally goes without saying but has been delayed for many new 2020-model vehicles because of the month-plus government shutdown last December and January.

Chevyís already shipping diesels to dealers. The cost premium over the 5.3L V-8 is $2,495, the same bump as to get a 6.2L gasoline V8. Itís a considerably smaller premium than Ram charges for the old diesel V6 in the carryover Ram Classic pickup it continues to build.

A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard with Chevyís diesel.

Diesels are expensive engines, because they have extra parts, including the emissions equipment Volkswagen left off its vehicles in the scandal that virtually killed the market for diesel cars.

GMís new Duramax 3.0L is the first new inline six-cylinder engine the company has developed since a 4.2L model that powered midsize SUVs for a few years early this century.

Straight-sixes, as the engines are often called, are less prone to vibration than some other engines. Thatís particularly useful for diesels, which tend to be louder and shake more than gasoline engines.

Luxury brands like straight-sixes for their silky-smooth operation. BMW has used them for years, and Mercedes and Jaguar Land Rover recently introduced new ones to replace V-6s.

Chevyís new straight-six diesel produces 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That compares with 250 hp and 440 pound-feet for Fordís 3.0L diesel V6 thatís already on sale; and 260 hp/480 pound-feet for the 2020 Ram 1500ís 3.0L V6 diesel. The 2020 Ram 1500 diesel is due to go on sale in the third quarter.

Chevy has horsepower for bragging rights, but the 2020 Ram carries the day when it comes to torque, and correspondingly in towing capacity, where it claims 12,560 pounds. Iíd say thatís a ton more than Chevyís 9,300 towing capacity, but at 3,260 pounds, itís nearly a ton and a half. Fordís diesel F-150 splits the difference with 11,400 pounds of towing capacity.

Built in Flint, Mich., the 3.0L Duramax diesel should eventually account for around 10% of total Silverado 1500 sales. Duramax is the brand name GM uses for its diesels.

Driving impressions

Even the most modern diesels are renowned for being louder, shakier and generally less refined that gasoline engines, but Chevyís new I-6 changes that. Itís as smooth as a gasoline engine, and virtually devoid of the rattle that makes other diesels recognizable half a block away before you can read the badge on the tailgate.

The engine delivers 95% of its maximum torque at just 1,500 rpm. That means the brawny power you want when towing a heavy trailer is available quickly when you start, and on tap when youíre towing a trailer up a long hill or on a highway entrance ramp.

Without EPA-certified fuel economy figures, Chevy doesnít have the mpg bragging point it undoubtedly hopes will offset Ford and Ramís higher towing capacities, but the Silverado team ran some tests to simulate common driving situations on a spring day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Running at a steady 50 mph on the 2.5-mile oval track, Chevy claimed a 4WD diesel Silverado 1500 got 35.9 mpg, compared with 31.3 for a 4WD F-150 diesel. The gap narrowed to 1 mpg ó 26.7 Chevy, 25.7 Ford ó at 65 mph. The new Ram diesel wasnít available to test.

If official EPA mpg ratings give the Silverado 1500 diesel anything like that advantage, fuel economy, power and quiet, smooth operation, this round of the Truck Wars could go to Chevrolet.

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Silverado 3.0L I-6 diesel at a glance

Available on Silverado LT, RST, LTZ and High Country models

Price premium vs. 5.3L V8 gasoline engine: $2,495

Engine: 3.0L inline-six diesel

10-speed automatic transmission

Power: 277 hp @ 3,750 rpm; 460 pound-feet of torque

Towing capacity: 9,300 pounds

EPA fuel economy and electric range ratings: TBD.

Key new features:

ó 3.0L inline-six diesel engine

ó Adaptive cruise control

ó New towing features, including ďinvisible trailerĒ camera

ó 6.2L 400-horsepower V8 available on Custom Trail Boss model

ó 6.2L V8 RST model with 13,400-pound towing capacity