Diesel engines in pickup trucks are nothing new. Early diesels of the 70s and 80s were full of promise, but they were so weak that nobody wanted one. Today’s heavy duty diesels are incredibly strong and powerful, but they are also expensive and too much for the average person who does not have a huge trailer to tow. Ram was the first to put a small diesel in a half-ton pickup truck a few years ago, but now Ford and Chevrolet also offer a small diesel in their half-tons.

The Silverado 1500 Duramax promises a lot, and we just had to see if it is the real deal, so we loaded it up as much as we could and started to look for some challenges. After a few days, we came away totally impressed with the work that has gone into the Silverado.

This is the first diesel offered in Chevrolet’s light-duty trucks since 1997, and the brand’s first-ever inline-six diesel for full-size, light duty trucks. As such, engineers had a clean sheet to leverage the efficiency and balance of an inline-six-cylinder architecture.

“We set out to offer light duty truck customers the best of diesel – outstanding fuel economy, great horsepower and responsive torque – plus unexpected levels of refinement,” said Nicola Menarini, director for diesel truck engine program execution. “We leveraged our global diesel expertise to make sure the all-new 3.0L Duramax turbodiesel engine offers the impressive performance and durability our truck customers demand.”

There are significant details that make this Duramax engine such a great achievement. The inline six provides a balanced configuration for low noise and vibration. Inline sixes are inherently well balanced engines and provide a solid foundation. The block is aluminum for weight reduction and the cylinder head has four valves and dual overhead camshafts. The cooling system also has been addressed, with a new thermal management system that warms up components for more efficient operation. The 3.0-liter engine provides 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a 10L80 10-speed automatic transmission.

It is important to note that this engine is different from the 2.8 liter diesel that is offered in the smaller Colorado truck. Properly equipped, the Silverado diesel can tow 9,500 pounds and carry 1,870 pounds. While those are impressive numbers, the more impressive number is fuel economy. Our 4WD model was rated at 29 mpg on the freeway and the 2WD version is even better at 33 mpg. Think about that for a minute. A full size truck that can tow 9,300 pounds can get 33 mpg. That is an amazing achievement.

Despite those numbers, the real test lies in how it drives. We are happy to report that it is just as impressive behind the wheel. The engine is so smooth and quiet that you really forget that it is a diesel. You actually have to be careful at the gas station not to put unleaded fuel in it. It idles so quietly that most people do not realize that it is a diesel. When the truck is empty, there is a very short lag until boost builds up but once you have boost, the Silverado is actually pretty quick and feels strong. With a trailer and a full load, it never feels winded. No matter how steep the hill you throw at it, it just conquers it like it was nothing. We also have to mention the transmission, because it shifts so smoothly that you never even realize what is going on and the computer always seems to find exactly the right gear for the job.

A diesel option on a heavy-duty pickup is usually around a $12,000 option that may or may not be worth it. In this case, the engine is a $2,495 option in LTZ and High Country trims and $3,890 on the LT and RST trims. That is a bargain. In fact, it is such a great deal that it makes the gas motor seem unnecessary. That is the biggest compliment.


Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC inline-six cylinder turbodiesel
Horsepower: 277 @ 3,750 rpm
Torque: 460 @ 1,500 rpm
Front Suspension: Independent coil-over, twin-tube shock
Rear Suspension: Solid axle with multileaf springs
Transmission: Hydramatic 10-speed automatic
Axle Ratio: 3.23:1
Curb Weight: 4,960 lbs.
Base MSRP: $46,000
Image courtesy of Chevrolet


  1. I’ve had a 1/2 ton diesel, the Ram EcoDiesel, as my tow vehicle since 2014. Trailer is 8500lb enclosed. As long as one can live within the hp limitations of the small diesel, these 1/2 ton diesels make terrific tow vehicles.

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