Diesel Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup blows past Ford F-150, Ram in fuel economy

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 diesel just hung a big number of the wall, challenging Ford and Ram to match it.

Chevy’s new diesel scored 33 miles per gallon on the highway in EPA fuel economy tests, topping the 2019 diesel Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 by 3 mpg and 6 mpg, respectively.

Three miles a gallon is a massive advantage in a race where engineers sweat bullets to gain fractions of a gallon. Six mpg is out of sight, though Ram likely will at least narrow the gap when it launches a new diesel later this year.

"That’s rarefied air," Silverado executive chief engineer Tim Herrick said, pointing out that GM’s new Flint-built 3.0L straight-six Duramax diesel engine gives the Silverado full-size pickup better highway fuel economy than some popular midsize sedans.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel pickup
2020 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel pickup

The 2020 Silverado 1500 diesel should be in dealerships in late summer or early fall. The engine produces 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Its maximum towing capacity is 9,300 pounds.

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I found the engine smooth, powerful and surprisingly quiet in a recent test towing trailers through hills in western Oregon.

Sales of diesel full-size pickups grew rapidly in the second quarter of this year, according to figures from the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents companies that sell diesel technology and fuel.

“Any consumer looking for a fuel-efficient, powerful option can find one in the diesel option of America’s favorite vehicle, the pickup truck,” Diesel Technology Forum executive director Allen Schaeffer said.

Diesels represent a small share of light-duty pickup sales, but their fuel efficiency and high towing capacity make them bigger players in the fierce battle for pickup bragging rights among Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Ram.

The Silverado 1500 diesel’s full EPA ratings are 33 mpg on the highway, 23 in the city, 27 combined for rear-drive pickups and 29/23/25 for all-wheel-drive models. The GMC Sierra should match the Silverado when Chevy’s sibling truck brand reveals its fuel economy.

The optional engine adds $2,495 to the price – the same as the 6.2L gasoline V8 – of a Silverado in upper trim levels. On lower-level trucks, it costs $3,890 more than the base 2.7L turbocharged gasoline engine.

Chevy engineers employed a host of tools to maximize fuel economy. The straight-six engine is inherently smooth, so the new Duramax didn’t need a balance shaft, a component that reduces vibration but puts an extra drain on the engine. Chevy also uses three electric fans to cool the engine to its most efficient temperature and avoid drawing on the engine, as the fans in other pickups do. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

“We designed the Silverado with this engine in mind,” Herrick said.

The Chevrolet Silverado’s all-new 3.0L Duramax inline-six turbo-diesel engine.
The Chevrolet Silverado’s all-new 3.0L Duramax inline-six turbo-diesel engine.

Diesel engines have fallen out of favor with car buyers since VW was caught lying about its emissions, but they remain popular with truck owners, both for their fuel economy and the power they generate for towing trailers.

“We believe this engine will draw new buyers to diesel light-duty pickups,” Herrick said. “It will surprise and delight people who don’t have previous experience with diesels.”

Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or mmphelan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Chevy Silverado 1500 diesel pickup takes fuel economy crown

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