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In Europe, small and efficient diesel engines are popular, even in passenger cars. But here in the U.S.A., Detroit automakers offer diesel engines almost exclusively in heavy-duty pickup trucks. A recent surge in half-ton trucks with small diesel engines led to multiple diesel-powered SUVs. But today, only one automaker still builds any SUV with a diesel engine: General Motors.

Can you buy a diesel Land Rover or Jeep?

In the past, diesel SUV engine options in the U.S. have included the Land Rover TDI and Jeep EcoDiesel. But both automakers have discontinued these powerplants.

closeup of the Duramax 3.0-liter turbodiesel badge on the fender of a GMC Yukon SUV.
2021 GMC Yukon Duramax badge | General Motors

Jeep will offer Stellantis’ 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 in its Gladiator pickup trucks through the end of 2023, but is canceling the option for 2024. With its 3.0-liter turbocharged “Duramax” I6 available in Chevrolets, GMCs, and Cadillacs, General Motors is the only automaker building a diesel SUV.

Which GM SUVs have a diesel engine?

After GM and Opel co-designd a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel I6 for the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500, General Motors began to experiment with offering the engine in its SUVs as well. The result is a Duramax diesel option in the current Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, the GMC Yukon, and even the Cadillac Escalade.

The Duramax 3.0-liter I6 diesel engine under the hood of a 2021 Cadillac Escalade SUV
2021 Cadillac Escalade Duramax engine | General Motors

You’re likely wondering just how fuel-efficient these turbo diesel SUVs are. The answer is “very.” On the EPA gives GM’s 4WD diesel SUVs a combined rating of 22 mpg. The 2WD configurations of the smaller SUVs (the Tahoe and the Yukon) get 24 mpg. The 2WD configuration of the third-row versions (Suburban, Yukon Xl, and Escalade) get 23 mpg.

Owners report that these numbers are accurate. One diesel Suburban buyer told me, “It gets crazy fuel economy. 4k miles on it and averaging 24mpg.” When Car and Driver tested the Silverado 1500 with the same 3.0-liter diesel, it used professional “hypermiling” techniques to achieve 40.6 mpg on the highway.

Here’s how the official EPA estimates break down by configuration:

Diesel SUVCityHighwayCombined
2WD Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon21 mpg28 mpg24 mpg
4WD Chevrolet Taho/GMC Yukon20 mpg26 mpg22 mpg
2WD Suburban/Yukon XL/Escalade21 mpg27 mpg23 mpg
4WD Suburban/Yukon XL/Escalade20 mpg26 mpg22 mpg

Is GM’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel good for towing?

In the Silverado/Sierra 1500, with its upgraded cooling system and rear end ratio, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel can tow up to 13,300 pounds. In an SUV, the same engine’s highest towing capacity will be 9,500 pounds–depending on the vehicle’s weight and other options.

A white Chevrolet Tahoe SUV with a Duramax diesel, parked in front of a treeline.
2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax | General Motors

The truth is that a modern half-ton truck’s towing capacity is decided by its engine cooling capacity and rear-end ratio. A properly configured Silverado or Sierra with the 3.0 Duramax can tow as much as one with a V8. And when it comes to GM’s SUVs, the diesel engine won’t give them towing superpowers, just better mpg.

But when U.S. drivers hear “diesel” they tend to think of heavy-duty trucks with their incredible 40,000 lbs towing capacities. This has left some folks disappointed in the towing capabilities of the 3.0-liter turbodiesels the Detroit Three offered for several years.

Recently, a reader commented the following on one of my articles on half-ton diesel trucks: “Had Ram stuck with the 5.0 Cummins like they had planned for almost a decade instead of switching to a worthless V6 that neutered the truck’s capacity at the last second. I promise you they’d still be selling them in the 10s of thousands a month.”

We’ll have to wait an see how heavy towing affects the latest 3.0-liter Duramax I6’s longevity. But the bottom line is that this engine was designed for mpg, and it hits this out of the park.

Next, read about who killed the light-duty diesel truck and SUV or see a diesel Cadillac Escalade reviewed in the video below: