2020 Chevrolet Silverado High Country Duramax
Too much engineering, not enough “wow”.
THE PROS & CONS
- What's Good: Smooth and efficient diesel engine, Loaded with engineering and technology, Spacious and comfortable cabin
- What's Bad: Disappointing towing and payload numbers, Disappointing interior, Will cost more than a V8 in fuel and maintenance
Immediately after driving the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, we felt it was important to compare it to its main rival from General Motors. After all, both the Silverado and the Sierra also got all-new turbodiesel six-cylinder engines this year, so it’s only fair to evaluate them as well. We contacted General Motors Canada and asked them to prepare us a worthy contender.
This is what they gave us: a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado High Country Duramax loaded to the gills with a $79,949 price tag. Is GM overcompensating from losing the coveted North American Truck of the Year Award? Perhaps, but we won’t go there.
There’s a reason GM missed the mark when it released its latest duo of half-ton trucks, and it had absolutely nothing to do with how good or well-put together the rigs were. If Ram is bringing home all the prizes lately, it all comes down to substance and smart packaging.
The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado may be oozing with clever engineering, but that’s not what consumers necessarily want. Allow me to explain.
In the world of trucks, numbers are everything. Even if the large majority of targeted buyers won’t even scratch the surface of what these machines are capable of, the simple fact that your rig can tow 12,000 pounds is what truck owners like to brag about when enjoying a cold one at the bar.
Ram and Ford both understand this and their diesel-powered half-ton rigs present impressive numbers: 12,560 pounds (5,697 kg) for the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, and 11,500 pounds (5,216 kg for the Ford F-150 Power Stroke. That’s way more than anyone could ever ask for.
The Chevrolet Silverado Duramax, on the other hand, maxes out at only 9,300 pounds (4,218 kg). What gives?
We dug deep to figure out why this is. General Motors says it’s not looking for bragging rights with the Silverado, but rather to offer consumers what they want. In that respect, it’s not entirely wrong; 9,300-pounds is well over the average Jo’s hauling needs. GM also claims that with the 1500 Duramax series, it found the right balance between fuel economy and capability.
In that respect, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax you see here certainly delivers as it recorded fuel consumption averages that are well under the 10L/100 km mark. But then, the numbers from Ford and Ram are just as impressive.
The High Country sits at the top of the Silverado food chain. See it as an equivalent to GMC’s Denali trim where wood trim, thick leather seats and a slew of safety technology make up the package.
And with virtually every option in the catalogue ticked off, from the optional Northsky Blue Metallic paint job ($495), to the $5,450 High Country Deluxe package which includes a set of 22-inch high gloss black wheels, a power sunroof, GM’s Safety Alert seat which vibrates to warn you of possible threats, and Chevrolet’s Safety Package II bundle which includes virtually all the semi-autonomous safety technology currently on sale.
Does all this help bump up the Silverado’s premium look and feel? Not really.
For instance, while, yes, its seats are comfortable, they never appear as plush or expensive as in a Ram Longhorn. Material quality – while considerably better than in a base Silverado – simply never manages to grab your attention the way they do in a high-end Ford or Ram. And, we’re sorry, but the very weak attempt at covering the door panels and center console in wood trim does very little at justifying this truck’s heavy price tag.
Furthermore, the largest available screen in the Silverado tops out at 8-inches, while a Ram can get a full-on 12-inch vertical tablet that’s both visually more striking, and more enjoyable to use.
There is, however, some hope, and that’s in the way the Silverado was engineered. Build quality is spot on, with tight panel gaps and near-perfect ergonomics. There’s a sense here that GM really understands what workers expect from their trucks. The center console offers a wide array of available storage areas, while the available technology is both accessible and class-leading.
We particularly enjoyed the range of available USB ports and 110-volt power outlet to connect a laptop. And we absolutely loved the built-in trailer app that allows you to set up your truck to virtually any towing reality.
The 3.0-liter turbodiesel straight six also proved immensely smooth, quiet, and surprisingly energetic considering what it’s running on. Diesel engines typically exhibit a fair bit of turbo lag and never tend to rev much. In the Silverado, however, power delivery is linear, torque kicks in low, and the entire unit is generally more rev happy than competing engines.
We also found the 10-speed automatic gearbox to operate seamlessly, both during urban and highway driving. Where FCA’s eight-speed unit does feel rough at times, annoyingly hesitating before dropping a gear, GM’s calibration here is exemplary, and, ironically better than Ford’s (this transmission is a joint-venture project between Ford and GM).
So, in the end, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax is indeed a better truck…if you’re an engineering geek. Sadly, that’s not what sells trucks.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: engineering is a fantastic thing, we all need it. But passion is what makes a buyer sign the check, something Ford and Ram have understood better than General Motors when putting together their latest workhorses.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado High Country Duramax
BODY STYLE: Full-size truck
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, rear/four-wheel-drive
ENGINE: Turbodiesel 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder (277 hp @ 3,750 rpm / 460 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: Ten-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.2/8.1/9.4 L/100 KM (City/Hwy/Combined)
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 9.8L / 100 km
CARGO CAPACITY 6.4-foot bed
PRICE: $66,798 ($79,949 as tested)