GM Working to Boost Chevy Silverado 1500 Diesel Towing, Maintain Best-in-Class MPG: Report

The half-ton Silverado diesel achieves 33 mpg highway, but its towing capacity falls more than 2,000 pounds short of Ford and Ram.

Chevrolet

Although General Motors manufactures the most fuel-efficient half-ton pickups—the 3.0-liter Duramax diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 models—there's quite a deficit to Ford and Ram when it comes to towing capacity. As a result, the automaker is reportedly looking to bump the capabilities of its compression-ignition trucks while retaining their 33-mile-per-gallon ratings. John Barta, assistant chief engineer of diesel engine controls at GM, revealed in an interview with Muscle Cars and Trucks that there are a few obstacles standing in the way to fix the trade-off and create a more well-rounded workhorse.

The 2020 Ford F-150 Power Stroke can pull up to 11,400 pounds, while the new 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel can tow up to 12,560 pounds. These easily beat the Duramax powertrain’s current max of 9,300 pounds, and Barta says that's because GM prioritized fuel economy above other performance areas. With GM's diesel half-ton models being released just this year, the automaker is supposedly now working to gain ground on the other side of truck development that maintains a focus on efficiency while also improving towing.

“We’re actually looking at upgrading some of the materials around (the engine bay) to see if we can maybe raise our tow rating,” Barta mentioned. Unlike their V-6 competitors, the Silverado and Sierra are powered by inline-six engines. “Because the width of the engine is smaller (than a V6), we have a lot of room on either side of the engine."

"One of the things we’ve done that our competitors with a V-6 can’t do is we’ve been able to pull our after-treatment systems up very close to the side of the engine, very close to the outlet of the turbo. The heat from the turbo is warming up our exhaust systems, and our exhaust systems need to run hot to be efficient. We can use less fuel and less energy to get our exhaust systems hot, and meet our emissions quicker.”

"If you look under the hood you’ll see a significant amount of silver ‘moon tape’ around to make sure things aren’t getting overheated…if we were to go up in higher towing, which we can, we start impacting the possibility of deteriorating some of the components.”

The company says that 95 percent of its customer base never tows over 9,000 pounds, so the trucks’ current capacity covers the vast majority of people buying a half-ton diesel pickup from GM.

“Even though it’s nice to brag about big numbers, in reality, light-duty customers are not towing that large with their trucks. We think we hit the right balance with delivering class-leading fuel economy and still be able to tow what they tow as a light-duty customer," explained Barta.

That said, the General apparently wants to deliver towing numbers that are at least on-par with its crosstown rivals.

The two-wheel-drive, Duramax-powered Silverado 1500 bests its Ford competition by three mpg and the Ram by one mpg as it stands. As for torque, one of the most important metrics when it comes to towing, it sits in the middle with 460 pound-feet compared to Ford's 440 and Ram's class-leading 480.