Light-duty pickup trucks are typically powered by gas engines, but in recent years several manufacturers have rolled out diesel engine options. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is one such example, as it offers a turbo-diesel engine with select trims. We drove a crew cab in RST trim that was powered by the new engine, finding it efficient and powerful. Importantly, the added cost of the diesel is within the reach of most consumers shopping for a full-size pickup truck.
Chevrolet offers the Silverado in regular, double, and crew cab body styles. As many as eight trims are available, with five engine choices, and three transmission options for consideration. The 2021 Silverado is priced from $30,195, including a $1,595 destination charge. That price is for a regular cab in its basic Work Truck configuration. A fully loaded crew cab model with four-wheel drive might approach $75,000 before discounts. But by playing with multiple online build samples we found well-equipped models for about $50,000.
Last updated in 2019, the 2021 Silverado undergoes light changes. These include new color choices and several additional package offerings. All models are marked by a squared-off exterior that seems chunky, yet strong. One of the chief changes with the current-generation model is that the squared wheel wells are gone. These were replaced by rounded wells that relax the rigid look of the truck.
Inside, customers will find differences among the regular, double, and crew cab models. The crew cab is the best seller of the three and therefore offers all eight trim choices. With room for five or six, the crew cab easily matches the cabin space of the largest sedans and in most cases exceeds it. The cabin itself leans on the more practical side with standard vinyl or cloth seats. Our test model came with leather-trimmed seats, heated and cooled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. While the top-trim models won’t easily be confused with a luxury model, there are enough amenities available, including wood trim, to give this truck an upscale vibe.
Chevrolet equips the Silverado with either a 7- or 8-inch touch-screen display, as many as six USB ports, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone capabilities. Navigation and a Bose audio system are available. Most driver-assist features are spend-up options, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
Chevrolet offers seven possible powertrain configurations with the 2021 Silverado and that’s the most of any manufacturer. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are twin models, therefore we’ve driven one with each of the five engine offerings available.
Our test model with the 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine afforded us with a week’s worth of on- and off-road driving opportunities. Upon conclusion of our time with this truck, we gave it our approval.
And it wasn’t hard to reach that conclusion. To begin, the in-house branded Duramax engine launched quietly and did so fairly quickly, even on cold mornings. If you have followed diesel engine technology through the years, you probably know that glow plugs aid in the starting process, taking 15 seconds or longer to create hot air to ignite the fuel (unlike gas engines which use a spark plug). Current engineering technology has reduced that wait time considerably. And we can testify to its effectiveness as we witnessed a three-second delay on one sub-freezing morning.
Following ignition, the engine delivers a low hum, which is a marked difference from the clatter the types of diesels of old offered. Under hard acceleration, the clatter becomes evident, but it never approaches half the decibel level of the old engines.
On the road, the diesel-powered Silverado moves forward steadily, almost uneventfully. It is slower off the mark than either of the V8-powered choices, delivering 277 horsepower. But once on the open road and when passing, the Duramax matches the 460 pound-feet of torque served up by the 6.2-liter V8 gas engine. That’s significant not only for power, but for towing as it delivers a respectable 9,500-pound tow rating in its rear-wheel-drive configuration.
Importantly, the diesel engine is efficient too, enabling the Silverado to achieve a laudable 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for a combined 27 mpg. That’s 6 mpg more than the next best Silverado engine, giving the diesel a noteworthy fuel-efficiency edge. Coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission, we found this model not only up to the task in delivering power, but it follows through on efficiency.
Chevy Silverado Model Musings
At most, choosing the turbodiesel will cost you an additional $2,390 over the base gas engine. But it costs just $995 more than the standard V8 engine, which makes it a relative bargain in the segment.
If you’re looking at long-term ownership of your pickup truck, spanning decades even, the diesel is likely to outlast the truck itself. You’ll pay extra for the engine as well as in slightly higher fuel costs. But its maintenance costs are lower. In all, expect to recoup your investment in three to five years. Then, you will enjoy many more years of a solid pickup truck offering with an equally impressive engine.
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