First Drives Years

Story by Howard J Elmer

The banner headline for this story should be “Chevrolet introduces its first small diesel for use in the Silverado 1500”.  However, while a good news story for truck buyers – increased powertrain options always are – in this case I could also add the word “finally” to my headline as they are the last of the Big Three to do this.

Even by its own admission this diesel engine is late. So, while this new oil-burner will be dropped in an engine bay of a 2020 model – the truck itself got a complete generational update for the 2019 model year and that was where it was supposed to go.  

Now you’d think that this late availability 3.0L would simply be added to what is already a new truck and that would be news enough.   Not so, in the hyper-competitive world of pickup truck sales; I was just a little surprised to also see significant additions to the 2020 truck – in addition to the diesel - just a year after the new half-ton was released.

But first, I don’t want to gloss over a powertrain option that many of us have been waiting a decade for. Its arrival is big for the bow-tie brand. This Duramax addition means that as of today - all popular American built half-tons are now available with a diesel option.

Here is what you’ll get.  This new Duramax turbo-diesel engine displaces 3.0L and is designed as an inline-six cylinder configuration.  Its GM designed and built and its straight long-block design sets it apart. This last detail is important.  Over at Ford and Ram they use V-designs for their 3.0L’s, while this new Duramax instead took a page out of the book written by Cummins – which primarily uses a straight-six design and is famous for it.

This aluminum powerplant uses a variable-geometry turbo and a new low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system that adds to its efficiency. Thanks to its in-line design it’s also vibration-free and the power comes on smoothly.  This straight-six designs’ other advantage is more power. The GM 3.0L makes a generous 277 hp and puts out 460 lb-ft of torque at 1500 rpm.  Compare this to Ford’s 3.0L V6 Power Stroke which is rated up to 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque; while the Ram EcoDiesel (also a V6 3.0L) makes 240hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.

A known feature of any diesel is fuel efficiency. GM wants its new turbo-diesel to be known for this quality in particular. So, knowing that gearing is also important to fuel efficiency they paired it with a new efficient transmission.  A light-weight 10-speed automatic manages this diesel’s power – with a design emphasis on over-drive gearing.

Chevy’s stated goal for the 3.0L Duramax at the drive event I attended was an estimated fuel target of 40MPG at a steady 50mph (which is 5.8L/100 km at 80 km/h).

*This engine has not received EPA fuel economy certification yet.

 To demonstrate that this goal was not just a boast, GM asked me to drive a 30-mile (50 km) loop while trying to achieve the best fuel economy number on the trucks digital readout.

I managed a top-scoring run of 44.1 mpg for this loop (which converts to 5.3L/100km).   Now, I was hyper-miling – mirrors folded in, AC off, feathering the accelerator and never touching the brakes as I drove way below speed limit to achieve this result.  Not something I’d normally do.  Still, it was an impressive outcome and clearly shows off the potential fuel savings of this 10-speed diesel powered combination.  

So, while fuel economy is a high note a curious stat is Chevy’s max tow rating for the 3.0L diesel equipped Silverado. It will be 9,300 lb. This is considerably lower than the Ram 3.0L diesel rating (12,560 lb) and what Ford has pegged its 3.0L Power Stroke at – max 11,500 lb. Is Chevy being conservative? Are the others boasting?  These questions remain to be answered.   

However, conversely, for 2020 Chevy is claiming also the towing high ground in the weight wars with a new max rating of 13,400 lb – with the 6.2L V8 gas engine providing the propulsion.   Of note too is that this max number has been boosted from a (what was then) high of 12,200 lb on the 2019 Silverado 1500.   This kind of jump in just a year is what this level of competition causes.  

For 2020, with the diesel engine included, you now have five powertrain options available to you. Silverado 1500 is also offered in eight unique trim packages – Work, Custom, Custom Trail Boss, LT, RST, LT Trail Boss, LTZ and High Country.  The content is already high, but Chevy felt that it needed more.

So, other available new features for 2020 include Adaptive Cruise Control, increased camera views (up to 15 now including one called Transparent Trailer – which allows the driver to see what is behind the trailer on-screen in the centre stack at anytime). Other helpful towing features include: a trailer checklist, GM’s unique towing label (listing precise weight ratings), a hitch-view camera, Automatic Parking Brake, Tow-Haul Reminder, and a computer that stores up to 5 different trailer profiles including each one’s specific trailer brake gain memory.

Pricing has not been set, but trucks are available to order now across Canada – including ticking the box for the new 3.0L Duramax diesel engine option.

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