2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax diesel first drive: Delayed gratification

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax sports a 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine making 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax might be a little late to the party but there’s good news for those who were waiting for the Bowtie to enter the ring for light-duty diesel pickups: it’s finally here. This 3.0-liter obviously isn’t Chevy’s first adventure with light-duty, full-size diesel pickups, but it might be the best half-ton oil-burner to ever leave its workshop.

For those keeping score, the 2020 Silverado is essentially a carryover from the new-for-’19 edition. The only major addition is the diesel engine, which won’t be available in low-cost models. Instead, the folks at Chevrolet are offering the 3.0-liter into trucks bearing the LT, RST, LTZ and High Country badges.

With the 2.8-liter Duramax powering the Silverado’s little brother, it’d be easy to assume that the slightly larger diesel-burning truck engine would be based on GM’s already extant engine platform. However, that’s far from the case. Chevy’s new downsized-diesel is an inline-six – that 2.8 is a four.

As is the trend with diesel engines in GM cars and crossovers, the Silverado’s diesel won’t be the flagship. Instead, they’re positioning the engine as the fuel sipper that can still do plenty of work. According to Chevrolet, the max you’ll be able to tow with this Silverado is 9,300 pounds, far from the 13,400 pounds that the Silverado RST with the 6.2-liter V8 can now pull.

The interior for the Duramax-powered Silverado trucks is the same as the standard gas-powered versions. 

The interior for the Duramax-powered Silverado trucks is the same as the standard gas-powered versions. 

The interior for the Duramax-powered Silverado trucks is the same as the standard gas-powered versions. 



The Execution

For the figure hungry: here are some numbers. The 3.0-liter Duramax makes a reasonable 277 hp and a stump-pulling 460 lb-ft of torque. Most impressive is that this 3.0-liter diesel makes that peak torque number at 1,500 rpm and carries it to 3,000 rpm. That power goes through a 10-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or all four.

Historically, diesel engines are known for their grunt and not for being refined. Well, that stereotype has been fading for the past decade, and the 3.0-liter Duramax powering these Silverado pickups might be proof that these oil-burners are now fully domesticated.

In fact, the new Duramax diesel is almost too quiet. The engineers at Chevy worked to get rid of the clacking diesel noises with tricks and a heavy-handed application of sound deadeners. At worst, you might just think this is a straight-six gas engine that’s a little low on oil. There is a faint whistle of turbocharging, which is always a pleasant noise.

Power delivery is similarly refined, with the immediate peak torque playing a part. There are no odd shakes or rattles as you put the hammer down; acceleration is linear and predictable. The diesel also carries the Silverado well past the peak torque figures and doesn’t feel gutless as you push the engine to its 5,100 rpm redline

The diesel isn’t a heavyweight so it doesn’t really affect the truck’s handling. That’s because the Duramax sports an aluminum casting with thin iron cylinder liners keeping the aluminum pistons at bay. The head, too, is aluminum to further keep the weight down.

This makes it handle basically like any other Silverado, which is better than average. Unladen, the truck bounces smoothly over bumps and ducks and weaves with your steering inputs. 

Fuel numbers are still waiting on final approval, but the gauge cluster’s active fuel mileage calculator reported up to 33 mpg on an open-road run. That’s good by any measure, but don’t expect to see that number when city driving or towing. We’ll wait and see what the folks at the EPA have to say about the new 3.0-liter Duramax on the combined cycle.

Engine aside, the 2020 Silverado carries basically everything else over from the 2019 models. That means the interior is still extremely familiar for those moving out of the last generation model. There are some new features that make trailering easier for the unfamiliar, with an available15-camera array that feeds video back to the 8-inch touchscreen that’s molded into the dash. The extra tech makes the 2020 Silverado more pleasant to live with daily but it still feels more truck-like than the latest Ram. That’s not a bad thing if you’re expecting a truck to feel like a truck, but it’s not an off-roadable luxury barge even in the penultimate LTZ trim.

The beating heart of the new Duramax-powered Silverado is a 3.0-liter making 277 hp and a whopping 460 lb-ft of torque.

ON SALE: Late summer 2019

BASE PRICE: $45,685

POWERTRAIN: 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel I6, 10-speed automatic, RWD

OUTPUT: 277 hp @ 3,750 rpm, 460 lb-ft @ 1,500-3,000 rpm

CURB WEIGHT: 4,900 lbs (est)

FUEL ECONOMY: TBD

PROS: Quiet, refined and powerful

CONS: Priced the same as the 6.2-liter V8, it becomes a harder sell 

The Verdict

It’s a shame that the 3.0-liter Duramax didn’t see the 2019 model year, but it’s better late than never. This new engine is the champion of 2020 and is a good sign of what’s to come for light-duty pickups. The mill is supremely refined but still delivers the torque and grunt you expect from a diesel, just, without the clacking and shaking. It might not be the top towing Silverado either, but it’s certainly the most interesting in the lineup. You can add either a 6.2-liter gasoline-burning V8 or this 3.0-liter Duramax for the same $3,890 price penalty over the base engine.

The 3.0-liter Duramax also pits Chevrolet firmly in the ring with the rest of the small-displacement light-duty pickups heading to market later this year. This engine might not be a first-round knockout, but it should be strong enough to go the distance.

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