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First Reviews2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax Diesel First Drive Review: Unique advantages

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax Diesel First Drive Review: Unique advantages

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax Diesel Pros

  • Gobs of low-end torque
  • Great fuel economy
  • Strong towing capacity and payload

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax Diesel Cons

  • Not as smooth as the 6.2-litre V8
  • Not available in the Trail Boss or entry-level Work Truck
  • Expensive compared to the 5.3-litre V8 or 2.7-litre Turbo

The diesel engine is far from dead despite having been rocked by the VW scandal six years ago and the incessant push of the industry towards electrification. You probably won’t see a diesel powertrain in a sedan anytime soon, but in a big truck it still has its uses as the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500’s new Duramax Diesel proves.

Diesel engines are a lot better for the environment that the negative press of the past would have you believe. They produce less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable gasoline engines, and they also burn less fuel.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

They deliver ample torque early in the rev range which is an advantage when towing. That’s why offering the Duramax Diesel on the Silverado and GMC Sierra makes sense, but it also works in the new 2021 Tahoe and Suburban as well.

These vehicles aren’t built for performance, they are built to tow and haul. When powered with a V8, they are far from clean and efficient. Throwing a diesel in the mix doesn’t make them green, but it lowers their impact while also reducing fuel consumption to relatively reasonable levels.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax First Drive Review: Now With Diesel Power

A High-Tech Diesel

GM’s new Duramax engine is quite advanced, using a variable-geometry turbocharger that can adjust boost pressure depending on load to provide the most efficient level of performance. The engine also features a variable-flow intake manifold and makes extensive use of aluminum to reduce weight.

This translates into an engine with a load of low-end torque, specifically 460 pound-feet at just 1,500 RPM. To put that in perspective, the Duramax delivers the same level of torque as the 6.2-litre V8, but it sends it to the wheels a lot sooner (4,100 RPM for the V8).

2021 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

The Duramax also delivers more torque than the Ford 3.0-litre diesel V6, but has less than the Ram 1500’s Ecodiesel rated at 480 pound-feet.

Still, the Duramax is rated to tow 9,300 pounds with 1,870 pounds of payload. The 6.2-litre V8 delivers the same towing capacity.

So, what do we have here? A truck that has the same towing capacity and torque as the largest V8 in the lineup, but with lower emissions and better fuel economy (9.4 l/100 km versus 13.7 l/100 km). Should be a no-brainer, right? Especially since the price of the Duramax is on par with the 6.2-litre V8.

As always, it’s not so clear cut. Yes, the Duramax seems to be the better option when compared with the 6.2-litre V8, but for those buyers who don’t need that level of performance, the diesel might be too expensive. Moreover, there are some trims that aren’t available with the diesel, like the Trail Boss models for example.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

More importantly, the Duramax can’t compare to the V8 in smoothness and overall feel. The diesel engine feels clunky sometimes, especially around the city when you’re not towing anything. It doesn’t get off the line like the V8 and it hesitates more on the highway when passing.

Both engines may share similar torque numbers, but the 6.2-litre V8 delivers 420 horsepower compared to 277 with the Duramax. It’s no surprise that when it comes to overall performance, the 6.2-litre will have the advantage. It’s also quieter than the Duramax.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

So how should buyers go about deciding whether the Duramax is the right option for them? Well, let’s dive deeper.

  • If you are mainly interested in reducing your fuel bill, there isn’t a better engine across the Silverado 1500 lineup. It comes with a premium over the 5.3-litre V8 or the 2.7-litre turbo, but if you drive a lot, you should be able to recoup the cost. You also will be running a better vehicle for the environment.


  • If driving feel and smoothness are important to you, know that the Duramax is more enjoyable than the 5.3-litre V8 and drives more confidently than the 2.7-litre turbo. On the other hand, it isn’t as buttery smooth as the 6.2-litre V8.


  • If you plan to do a lot of towing, then the Duramax is the better option. It has roughly the same capacity as the V8, but it performs more efficiently.

The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a great truck, and the Duramax is a worthy addition to the lineup. It feels more refined than Ford or Ram’s diesel options, and it shines in terms of fuel economy and towing capacity as a diesel should.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss
2021 Chevrolet Silverado LT
2021 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ. Certain features shown not available with all configurations. See dealer for details.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado High Country
2021 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss
2021 Chevrolet Silverado RST
2021 Chevrolet Silverado High Country
2021 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ
2021 Chevrolet Silverado RST


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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including and as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email


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