A popular Chevy diesel truck for sale near you, a red 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 diesel, is driving on a misty forest highway.

How Chevy’s Diesel Trucks Are Getting Better

The automotive industry may be moving further in the direction of hybrids, electric vehicles, and alternative fuel sources, but it doesn’t mean that the tried and true combustion engine isn’t still being improved upon and updated regularly. All of the major car and truck manufacturers have focused on improving everything from fuel economy to torque for both the gasoline and diesel-powered engines in their vehicles. For truck shoppers deliberating on whether to find a new or used gasoline pickup or instead start looking for Chevy diesel trucks for sale near you, there are a few things you should know about how Chevy’s diesel trucks have improved over the years.

Dawn Of The Diesel

Since the early 2000s, Chevy has been outfitting the Chevy Silverado HD models with diesel engines. Incrementally adding new features and improving the fuel economy with each new generation. Originally, the Silverado’s heavy-duty line of pickups was fitted with the 6.6-liter Duramax V8 diesel engine. It topped out with 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque, which was good for the day even if those numbers are modest by today’s standards.

In 2005 Chevy upgraded the Duramax to 310 hp and 605 lb-ft of torque, which was followed by an even larger boost in 2006. This gave the last two years of the first-generation of heavy-duty Silverado pickups 360 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. This gave the final model year of the first-generation Silverado 3500 HD a maximum towing capacity of 16,500 lbs.

Chevy kept with the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine for the subsequent generations of the Silverado HD, but the engineering was continually improved. The second generation hit the market in 2007, boasting 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful pickups during that time. A few years later, the Duramax would receive an upgrade, outputting up to 397 hp and topping out at 765 lb-ft of torque for Chevy’s Silverado 2500 HD and 3500 HD series.

Bio-Diesel And Light-Duty Diesel Support

A blue 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 diesel is driving on an empty highway.

During the first two years of the third generation of the Chevy Silverado, the 6.6-liter Duramax was retained with the same specs from the tail-end of the second generation. However, for 2017 Chevy improved the 6.6-liter Duramax V8 to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, enabling the heavy-duty series of Silverado pickups to offer a towing capacity when properly equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch at 23,300 lbs.

It was also during this period that GM introduced bio-fuel options for many of their vehicles, including making the Chevy Silverado B20 biodiesel compatible in 2017. That means the truck is rated for a 20% biodiesel mix, reducing the output of carbon emissions. As GM embraced bio-diesel engines, so did its line-up of light-duty pickups in North America. It was around this time that the Chevy Colorado was brought into the diesel fold for the Western market.

Unlike the heavy-duty iterations of the Silverado, the Colorado’s diesel options were more economical and practical, rather than designed for cumbersome towing or trailing. The Colorado’s foray into the world of diesel engines consisted of a turbo-charged 2.8-liter Duramax inline four-cylinder boasting 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. While heavy-duty truck drivers might scoff at those specs, the fuel economy for the midsize pickup happens to be quite notable, topping out at 20 MPG in the city and up to 30 MPG on the highway.

In 2019, the fourth generation of the Silverado 1500 also received a diesel option in the form of a 3.0-liter Duramax I6 with 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The engineers have consistently managed to increase the Silverado 1500’s diesel performance, not only under the hood gusto but also in efficiency, reliability, and fuel economy. With the newest Silverado 1500 pickups housing the I6 Duramax, the pickup is capable of 23 MPG in the city and up to 33 MPG on the highway.

Improved Heavy-Duty Trailering

Each new generation of the Silverado sees an increase in towing capacity, mostly due in large part to the Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine’s scalability. The Chevy Silverado 2500 HD series is currently capable of towing up to 18,510 lbs when properly equipped.

The Silverado 3500 HD series has received additional updates, with the engineers at Chevy buffing the suspension capabilities and drivetrain so that truck drivers can get even more out of the Duramax turbo-diesel. The long-box, two-wheel drive models of the 3500 HD are now capable of towing up to 20,000 lbs with a conventional trailer hitch.

But the numbers get even more impressive when you consider that the rear-wheel drive models of the Silverado 3500 HD are capable of towing up to 36,000 lbs with a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailering hitch. This has made the Chevy Silverado one of the best in class when it comes to heavy-duty towing and hauling and one of the most reliable workhorse pickups in the industry.

A white 2020 Chevy Silverado 2500HD diesel is towing construction equipment in front of evergreen trees.

What Makes Chevy’s Diesel Trucks Special

Back in 2010, GM made it known that it wasn’t just about producing another engine; it was about elevating the brand with proven architecture. That’s exactly what we see implemented for the powertrains of the diesel engines that give the Silverado and Colorado their edge. After making the Duramax engines biodiesel compatible and improving the fuel efficiency, Chevy also made numerous changes to help extend the lifespan of the engine and the hard-working components such as the pistons and valves.

The latest iteration of the Chevy diesel engine is the 6.6-liter Duramax L5P V8, which has been in use since the latter half of the Silverado’s third-generation. The engine boasts the highest amount of horsepower and torque available for a Chevy truck, and the company’s most ambitious diesel engine yet, thanks to taking many of the changes made in 2010 and tweaking them for further improvements, such as replacing the piezoelectric injectors with solenoid injectors, reinforcing the cylinder block with a hardened cylinder wall, introducing a larger diameter camshaft, and increasing the piston cooling jets by more than 50% compared to the LML.

Long Live Chevy Diesel Trucks

Many of the modifications, updates, improvements, and changes made to each new version of the Duramax helped to expand the lifespan of the already highly durable diesel engines resting at the heart of many Chevy trucks. Not only has durability and reliability been increased over the years, allowing drivers to put 200,000 miles on the truck and still have plenty of life left, but Chevy has also managed to reduce fuel consumption, boost power output, and increase towing capacities.

So long as a Chevy diesel engine receives maintenance at regular intervals, the Duramax will hold up well beyond the warranty. Some pickup enthusiasts have noted putting hundreds of thousands of miles into their Duramax-powered Chevy truck without having any issues. This has made Chevy one of the go-to brands for commercial trucking as well since the Duramax helps power the Chevy commercial medium and heavy-duty trucks. So when you check for Chevy diesel trucks for sale near you, you’ll know that you’re searching for a quality made pickup with a reliable powertrain at its core.