Chevrolet has introduced a Duramax 3.0-liter inline-six diesel engine as an option for the 2020 Silverado 1500.
This means all three competitors in the hotly contested half-ton-pickup segment-the others, of course, being the Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500-will offer a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo-diesel option in the 2020 model year.
The new Chevy engine produces an impressive 460 lb-ft of torque, but the recently upgraded 2020 Ram Ecodiesel is back on top with 480 lb-ft of torque, although the Chevy's 277 horsepower still trumps the Rams 260 horsepower.
UPDATE 6/10/19: Less than three weeks after this story was published, Ram released the numbers for the updated, third-generation version of its 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine that is scheduled to arrive in the 2020 Ram 1500 in the fourth quarter of 2019. The story has been updated accordingly.
A decade ago, diesel-powered half-ton pickups were an endangered species. Diesel-powered HD pickups were common, but the half-ton diesel population was primarily composed of a handful of aging Chevrolet and GMC pickups equipped with the 6.2- and 6.5-liter diesel V-8s that disappeared from consumer vehicles at the turn of the century. Ram kickstarted a revival with its 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6, but that engine is currently available only in the Ram 1500 Classic, and not the the newest Ram. However, it is expected to be back on the Ram roster before the end of 2019, reportedly with a slight power bump. Ford later joined the fray with its 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke diesel, an optional 3.0-liter V-6 mated to Ford's 10-speed automatic.
The 2020 model year brings the arrival of the Chevrolet 1500 Duramax diesel, rounding out the trio of domestic entries into the segment. Don't confuse this new breed of six-cylinder diesel with the soot-belching beasts of old, however; all three of these new six-cylinder diesel engines employ loads of modern technology in terms of materials, assembly, and engine management, and in our experience they're dramatically less noisy and cleaner-burning than their predecessors.
Equal Displacement, Different Methods
Curiously, all three post comparable numbers but go about achieving them in distinctly different ways. They all have six cylinders, displace three liters, and employ turbocharging, but the new Chevrolet is an inline design while the Ram and the Ford are configured in a V format. Seeing as the truck wars are ultimately about comparing numbers, we've cut right to the chase and itemized the vitals in the chart below:
Ford Power Stroke
460 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
440 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
480 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
277 hp @ 3750 rpm
250 hp @ 3250 rpm
260 hp @ 3600 rpm
You don’t need a calculator to discern that, when it comes to raw power, the Ram's 480 lb-ft of torque put it atop the half-ton-diesel pyramid. When it comes to horsepower however, the Chevrolet's 277 ponies still tag the win over the Ram's 260 horsepower.
Crucially, that 480 lb-ft is available at 1600 rpm which means the max grunt is available right off idle. Chevrolet pairs the new diesel with a 10-speed automatic transmission, as does Ford, while the Ram diesel to continues to use the smooth-shifting eight-speed currently in use in the 2019 Ram 1500.
It's easy to chart the sequence of one-upmanship over the past five or so years: After sitting on the sidelines and letting Ram have the segment to itself for a couple of years, Ford took stock of its resources and emerged with an old engine updated to produce numbers just strong enough to steal the lead and some headlines. In turn, Chevrolet knew that it had to come in strong, and it developed a new engine in house that upped the ante just enough to take the lead. Then, before they even had time to sweep up the confetti the new and improved Ram EcoDiesel posted a 480 lb-ft victory.
Equally interesting is the backstory behind the diesels; while the Chevrolet is all-American, both the Ram and Ford carry international pedigrees. Ram sources the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 from VM Motori, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat. As recently as 2013, however, General Motors owned 50 percent of VM Motori, and GM was reportedly working on a version of the EcoDiesel engine for Cadillac and possibly other GM models. Needless to say, GM must have been a bit miffed when, in February 2013, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced the EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. (FCA bought GM's 50 percent share of VM Motori in October 2013.) Ford's 3.0-liter Power Stroke, on the other hand, is based on the Lion engine that was jointly developed by Ford with PSA Peugeot Citroën years ago and is currently used in some Land Rover products. Ford beefed it up for truck duty with, among other things, a forged crank and purpose-designed main and rod bearings.
By comparison, Chevrolet's Duramax diesel is a homegrown affair, assembled in Flint, Michigan. It's a clean-sheet design with an aluminum block, an available exhaust brake, and defeatable stop/start, promising to leverage the inherent balance benefits of an inline-six design for smooth operation. We'll soon have a first drive of the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the new engine.
There is a price, of course, for going diesel. Chevrolet says the 3.0-liter diesel will be available on LT, RST, LTZ, and High Country trims for an upcharge of $3890 over the 2.7-liter turbo inline-four or $2495 over the price of the standard 5.3-liter V-8. Eagle-eyed readers will note that $2495 upcharge is the same amount Chevrolet charges for upgrading to its 6.2-liter V-8. In that sense, it's gonna be a tough call for many buyers. And the situation is roughly equivalent with the competition: Ford charges $4000 to upgrade to diesel from the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 and $3000 to move up from the popular 5.0-liter V-8. While we don't yet know what Ram will ask for the revised 3.0-liter diesel upgrade, previously it was a $4000 upgrade from the Pentastar V-6 and a $2850 upcharge from the Hemi V-8.
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