The diesel engine really starts to make sense at the pumps, where it severely undercuts consumption.
With the fuel prices in this country playing a yo-yo trick over the last two decades in Canada, the pickup truck market has had time to keep hold of its strong cult-like following and anchor it even deeper. Year over year, more features and technology found in passenger vehicles are becoming options, if not expected items on the build sheet. Bearing no exception is the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado High County, which gained a few neat tricks this year over its new platform launch last year.
Hopping into our test vehicle it was apparent things were different at the push of the start button, as we were greeted with a deep groggy idle instead of the typical roar of a V8. Yes that is right, this half-ton truck was born with a feisty diesel engine under its hood. Other neat tricks added for 2020 are some towing features handed down from the heavy-duty Silverado and Sierra (reviewed here), as well as adaptive cruise control. Among all of the towing goodies is a camera view called “Disappearing Trailer”, which uses the plethora of cameras on board to show the trailer’s surroundings in a way that helps with maneuvering.
The High Country trim package is one that was introduced late into the previous generation’s lifetime to offer up a high end luxury feel for those who wanted a truck, but were probably going to use it for family time more than filthy time. The trim level is notably on par with the Denali trim that has been a long-time best-seller for the Silverado’s sibling, the GMC Sierra. Some items that are standard on the High Country along with premium interior materials, are heated and cooled, 10-way powered front seats, with heated rear outboard seats. Power folding mirrors, power sliding rear window, remote start and keyless entry are along for the ride too.
For $7,020 our test truck was blessed with the High Country Deluxe package, bringing along additional safety intervention systems, a sunroof, all weather floor mats that look tailor made, and 22-inch black gloss wheels that make this truck look real mean. The $2,450 Technology package adds a heads-up display as well as HD surround vision cameras, including a rear camera mirror. $3,245 for the diesel heart thumping under the $495 gorgeous Northsky Blue Metallic paint, as well as $180 for the black bowtie emblem up front brought our as-tested MSRP up from $66,398 to $79,788 before fees, taxes and destination.
This is the first time the half-ton class Silverado has ever been sold with a diesel engine, and it is a fantastic start to what we hope is a very long tenure for this engine. Inside the cabin, the 3.0-liter inline-six engine purrs quietly, with only a bit of that diesel grumble coming through when idling. Acceleration is steady and strong, with 95% of torque already on-tap at 1,250RPM, and peak torque of 460 lb-ft. coming soon after at 1,500RPM. A maximum of 277 horses check in later on at 3,750RPM. While this might not sound like much for a truck of this size, the fact that it is so freely available through most of the engine range means it rows through the ten transmission gears with just as much gusto as the high-revving V8s do.
Driving around town is an effortless affair for this powertrain; you almost feel guilty that you are not challenging it by lugging around a trailer full of concrete. Braking, however is a different story. Being a diesel, there isn’t any vacuum produced by the engine to help with brake boosting, so GM had to come up with something else to help your foot out. Braking power is good, but pedal feel leaves something to be desired, and certainly takes some getting used to. Tap the brakes at parking speeds the way you would in a gas-powered truck, and you will send loose items flying into the dashboard. Heavy braking takes a heavier foot than you would expect, but not for a lack of stopping power.
The new T1XX platform that underpins the 2020 Silverado adds three inches of interior room over the previous generation, and it almost entirely was added to the rear seat area. It’s a pleasant surprise to be able to comfortably kneel on the cabin floor while clipping in car seat latch straps. The upper tethers for car seats that are now accessible without needing to move anything or reach behind anything are a testament to the notion that these trucks are built to do family duty alongside jobsite duty.
Interior design is quite dull and utilitarian when compared to some of the competition, but it is absolutely functional, clean and will age well after years of abuse. Hidden storage cubbies in the rear seats are a neat trick, and the seats are firm and perfect for long hauls. On the topic of hauling, you might be surprised to learn that the maximum possible towing capacity with the diesel engine is 9,300-pounds (4218kg), which is slightly less than the majority of the capabilities of the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter gas engines in standard form. A maximum trailering package is available on gas-engine trucks only that boosts that number to anywhere from 11,000-pounds (4,990kg) to 13,400-pounds (6,078kg).
Body control is still notably truck-like, but suspension tuning really eats away at the jarring bumps from the road that previous generations were susceptible to, with the new Silverado choosing to bounce and float those inputs slowly away, almost undetected for a more comfortable ride. The bed is emblazoned with the High Country logo, with plenty of lighting and tie down points, along with the fantastic corner bumper steps, that are only bested by the Sierra’s MultiPro staircase. The powered up/down tailgate is a nice feature to have, but we found ourselves having to nudge it closed a few times.
The diesel engine really starts to make sense at the pumps, where it severely undercuts the consumption on the gas engines, some of which beg for premium fuel. Environment Canada rates the diesel Silverado at 10.4L/100km city, 8.0L/100km highway, and 9.4L/100km combined. Compare that to the most fuel efficient of the V8 family members in the 12.6L/100km combined range, and things start to look exciting, depending on your use case.
There are only a few other trucks in this segment that are worth cross shopping if you are looking in this price range. The GMC Sierra Denali (reviewed here), comes down to a difference mostly in looks and some tech features, as it too is available with the same engine options. The Ram 1500 (reviewed here) has some great powertrain options, some with mild-hybrid capabilities. Ford’s F-150 Limited is also a strong competitor, but is at the end of its current product lifecycle and will see a new generation in 2021.
It is rare that I am not happy to get back into the comfort of my familiar, personal vehicle at the end of a week with a press car. This time, it was a bittersweet moment stepping out of the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado High Country and handing the keys over. The diesel engine and ten-speed transmission are a fantastic powertrain for the truck, with lots of power on deck and really nothing to complain about. The only thing that it has going against it is that this truck can be had with the 6.2-liter V8 gas engine, an all-time favorite powertrain across the entire DoubleClutch.ca Magazine family.