The half-ton pickup truck segment has a new fuel economy king: the two-wheel drive 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 diesel. With an EPA highway rating of 33 MPG, it makes even mid-size trucks look like guzzlers and positions itself as the most fuel efficient pickup for sale in the U.S.
Today, Chevrolet put out a press release declaring that its new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 diesel—you know, the one with the extremely promising 3.0-liter “Duramax” inline-six—managed an EPA rating of 33 MPG on the highway in two-wheel drive guise, and 29 MPG in 4x4 configuration. Both drivetrain configurations scored 23 MPG in the city.
This 33 MPG figure—which comes after a significant delay, due to in part to the EPA certification process, caused this truck to come as a 2020 model and not a 2019—is just downright impressive. Not only does this figure best the Ford F-150 diesel by 3 MPG highway and one MPG city, but it also destroys the diesel 2019 Ram 1500 Classic, which only manages up to 27 MPG highway, 20 MPG city. (Previous Ram diesels managed up to 29 MPG).
Granted, the new “DT” generation Ram 1500 will get a third-generation 3.0-liter VM Motori diesel engine, and we haven’t seen its fuel economy figures yet. That said, we know it will make an impressive 480 lb-ft of torque, which is 20 more than the Chevy and 40 more than the Ford. As far as pure horsepower, this 33 MPG Silverado is at the top of the half-ton diesel truck pack at 277 ponies—17 more than the Ram and 27 more than the Ford.
This is quite a feat. Just look at smaller mid-size trucks like the Chevy Colorado diesel, which leads its segment with a 20 MPG city, 30 MPG highway rating. Then there’s the unibody Honda Ridgeline based on the Honda Pilot crossover; the little truck scores 22 city, 26 highway. Matching the Silverado 1500 diesel’s city figure is the two-wheel drive Ford Ranger, but its 26 MPG highway number is no match for the Silverado’s.
As for towing, it’s not clear how much this particular 33 MPG-configured Silverado will be able to yank, though Chevy does state that the 29 MPG four-wheel drive model can tow up to 9,300 pounds, and haul up to 1,870 pounds. By comparison, the F-150 equipped with The Blue Oval brand’s 3.0-liter diesel is rated to tow 11,500 pounds, and the new “DT” generation Ram with its third-gen engine will do 12,560.
As for how Chevy accomplished its fuel economy number, it seems like the answer comes down to reducing vehicle demand energy via aerodynamic changes and also to increasing powertrain efficiency. Chevy’s press release quotes the Silverado’s executive chief engineer, Tim Herrick, as saying: “The engine utilizes state-of-the-art technologies to optimize every drop of fuel, and takes advantage of architectural changes to make Silverado larger, lighter and more aerodynamic than before.”
The press release specifically points out clever thermal management, engine start/stop, and the 10-speed automatic transmission as key enablers for fuel economy. That transmission is a Hydra-Matic 10L80, which Chevy says “[features] smaller gear steps and an overall larger ratio spread to enable peak efficiency.”
The Silverado diesel, whose engine costs $2,495 more than the 5.3-liter V8 base engine in the LTZ and High Country (the same price as the 6.2-liter V8) and $3,890 more than the 2.7-liter turbo four-cylinder base motor in the LT and RST, will hit dealerships in the fall.
It will have to compete with the new generation Ram, with its revised 3.0-liter diesel engine. Here’s what Ram said about that powertrain in June:
The all-new third-generation 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel is also expected to lead the segment on fuel economy.
Looks like Ram’s got its work cut out for it.