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Just last year, every Detroit automaker offered an efficient and powerful diesel engine in its half-ton pickup trucks. But Ford canceled its F-150’s PowerStroke V6 ahead of the 2022 model year. Then Ram announced it would only build its EcoDiesel V6 through the end of 2022. The final automaker offering a half-ton truck with a diesel engine option is General Motors and its Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra equipped with a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel I6.

What diesel is in the Silverado 1500/Sierra 1500?

General Motors builds a turbocharged diesel I6 for its half-ton trucks, badged as the Duramax. In either the GMC Sierra 1500 or the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, this 3.0-liter powerplant makes 460 lb-ft of torque and gets up to 30 mpg on the highway.

Dark blue Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck powered by a Duramax diesel I6 engine.
3.0L Duramax powered Silverado 1500 | General Motors

GM first offered a 6.2-liter diesel V8 in its C/K trucks way back in 1982. Since then, Diesel engines have been prized by pickup truck buyers for both their power and their efficiency. The latest Duramax 3.0 is no different. But GM paired the benefits of diesel with a tried-and-true engine layout to increase dependability and decrease moving parts.

While the most recent diesel half-tons from Ram and Ford were turbocharged V6 engines, GM offers a turbocharged inline six-cylinder. According to GMC‘s Assistant Chief Engineer, John Barta, “The inline six is a naturally balanced engine.”

What does this mean for truck owners? Barta reveals, “We don’t need balance shafts and the engine only has one set of overhead cams. Fewer parts mean less weight and friction and enhanced efficiency. It’s a win-win design that offers fuel economy and smooth operation.”

GM used advanced technology to address diesel’s Achilles heel

Rendering of a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel I6 engine from a GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado.
3.0-liter Duramax from the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra | General Motors

One of the weaknesses of past diesel engines has been their slow acceleration. Engines designed to launch quickly have had to sacrifice efficiency.

Barta said, “The 3.0L Duramax was designed to be a ‘no excuses’ engine option that offers excellent fuel efficiency, great low-end torque and smooth responsive operation.”

GM leveraged advanced technology to balance power and efficiency. For example, the 3.0 can change the pitch of its turbocharger blades to shift from responsive acceleration to efficient operation.

Barta added, “Also, new to the Duramax diesel engine family, the 3.0L uses a variable intake valve, we call it the swirl valve, to tumble or swirl the air at low rpm to get better combustion and power with less fuel.”

The Duramax 3.0 is a favorite engine of GM truck buyers

Closeup of the forged rim of a 2023 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck with an off-road package, trees visible in the background.
2023 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Bison | General Motors

Barta feels his engine is a success: “The low-end torque and broad torque band give you a satisfying punch that speaks to power and capability while doing it at low noise levels and offering a combined average fuel economy in the mid-20s.”

The success of the Duramax 3.0 in both Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s speaks for itself. It is no wonder that in the world of half-ton trucks, the Duramax 3.0 is the last diesel standing.

Next, learn which full-size pickup truck killed its V8 engine or watch a Duramax 3.0’s towing ability put to the test in the video below:


Will You Actually Get Caught for Filling Your Truck With Off Road Diesel?