A diesel doesn’t solve the Silverado’s many ills, but everyday driving is a bit better.
We’ve been hard on the Chevrolet Silverado. A well-engineered pickup truck with a competent driving character for the most part, the Silverado suffers with a polarizing exterior design, a dull interior, cheap materials, and limited safety gear on most trim levels. Take price into consideration, and it’s a poor value relative to the competition, too.
While the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ featured here doesn't solve any of those problems, its new turbodiesel engine makes a significant improvement to the already likable driving character. And in cheaper LTZ guise, the cabin's shortcomings are more forgivable than on the High Country we reviewed not long after the truck's launch. Meanwhile, the Silverado's towing technology is among the segment's best. A diesel doesn't make the Silverado the best truck around, but it improves a middling pickup, provided you can live with a few major annoyances.
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Look, the Silverado just isn't an attractive truck. It's oddly proportioned in profile, garish from head-on, and anonymous from behind. It’s still better looking than what you'll find from Toyota, though, and if you look closely there are a few nice styling elements.
The subtle air curtain formed at the interplay of the front fenders and the grille/bumper/headlights shows Chevy actually stuck the Silverado's brick-like face in a wind tunnel – it's a neatly integrated piece of aerodynamics. Likewise, Chevy's designers integrated the tow hooks tidily in the front bumper, while the integrated steps in the corners of the rear bumper make bed access easier. The exterior isn't pretty, but there's little question designers put thought into functionality.
The cabin is a different issue. It's just… dull. A morass of hard black plastic with smatterings of faux aluminum and wood trim are all you get – in between those simple styling elements is an uninspiring and button-heavy design reliant on switchgear from the Chevy parts bin. Chevy made substantially more of an effort on the design and material quality of the related Tahoe and Suburban – here's hoping elements of those vehicles come to the Silverado in the near future.
Our disappointment with the cabin doesn't extend to the overall level of comfort. The Silverado benefits from plush, wide front chairs that offer ample support and plenty of shoulder space for those in the first row. We'd happily tackle multi-hour stints in these seats, although passengers in the back might be even better off.
As with most four-door, half-ton trucks, second-row space is positively immense, besting many purpose-built ultra-luxury sedans – a total of 43.4 inches of legroom is available. And as is usually the case with trucks, that second-row bench flips up, making the back of the cab a very versatile cargo area – we stuffed a wheelbarrow back there, for example.
That said, the Silverado remains the loudest, least comfortable pickup from a Detroit Three automaker. Impacts travel clearly from the chassis to the body over larger bumps – again, we hope an addition to the Tahoe/Suburban, a four-corner air suspension, makes its way to the Silverado. So equipped, this would be arguably the smoothest-riding truck on the road. The six-cylinder turbodiesel is quiet while cruising and drives without the annoying vibrations and drone at highway speeds of the diesel-powered Colorado.
Unsurprisingly, the Silverado's bed is expansive, even with the Crew Cab body. The 5.8-foot, LED-lit box is relatively easy to access via the aforementioned steps at the corners of the rear bumper, although the addition of the GMC Sierra's multi-function tailgate will make the back half of the Silverado even better for the 2021 model year. Our tester had a power-operated tailgate which functioned well, although so did just opening and closing the thing manually.
The heart and soul of the Silverado's tech suite is a responsive, nav-enabled 8.0-inch touchscreen that sits atop the center stack. While small relative to the Ram 1500's displays (a standard 8.4-inch screen and an optional, portrait-oriented 12.0-incher) and the 2021 Ford F-150's 12.0-inch touchscreen, the Silverado's setup is plenty usable. The graphics are adequate and the layout is easy to figure out. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meanwhile, are standard.
But folks intent on taking advantage of the Silverado diesel's 9,300-pound towing capacity should be even more excited, as the $2,125 Technology package adds a surround-view camera that includes numerous tow-specific modes. Drivers can get a hitch-facing view or one targeting the bed of their truck. GM's rear camera mirror comes with this package, too. The overall towing suite is the cream of the crop – able to walk the driver through an entire checklist before they set off, the system makes even novice towers feel like seasoned pros.
Beyond that very specific piece of technology, though, there's little in the way of exciting gear here. Wireless charging is available via the $6,700 LTZ Premium pack, as is the aforementioned automatic tailgate and rear heated seats. While what it has on offer is smart and works very well, the focus is on functionality rather than wowing the driver.
Chevrolet offers a pair of excellent gas-powered V8 engines, but for our money, the diesel inline-six is where it's at. Packing 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, this is a remarkably smooth and pleasant engine in daily driving. Sure, push it hard and the noise from under the hood is more surly than sublime, but there are very few situations where the 3.0-liter requires that sort of treatment. It's just loaded with big, fat dollops of torque, even down low.
The six-cylinder engine is eminently controllable too. Engineers dialed in the throttle response perfectly, so that just a toe is all it takes to easily modulate the pedal. Matched up to a quick, smart 10-speed automatic transmission, the diesel-powered Silverado lacks the bravado of its V8-powered siblings, but in our estimation, the easy-to-access torque, buttery-smooth character, and ample fuel economy (more on that in a second) make the 3.0-liter the pick of the litter (this will be doubly true when the diesel engine arrives in the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade).
If towing is in the cards, though, it's worth keeping in mind that both gas engines have a higher total capacity, depending on configuration. Even with the Max Trailering pack, the 3.0-liter tops out at 9,300 pounds with four-wheel drive and a crew cab – similarly configured Silverados with the slightly pricier 6.2-liter V8 will manage 12,000 pounds, while the 5.3-liter can out-tow the diesel in every configuration but one (the Trail Boss variant ties the diesel's max).
All that said, the 3.0-liter is the smoother, more likable engine. Unless you're towing heavy loads regularly (and if you are, why aren't you shopping for a Silverado 2500?), the diesel is the better companion.
Also worth considering? Both the diesel-powered Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 can out-tow the Silverado. Option those trucks like our tester – four-wheel drive and the biggest cabin – and you'll get up to 9,550 pounds out of the Ram, although the F-150 will crush both with an 11,000-pound tow rating.
Regardless of engine, though, the Silverado isn't an agile vehicle. In terms of out-and-out composure, the F-150 beats it by a little and the air-suspended Ram 1500 by a lot. Both of those trucks are just plain better on a twisting road. The Silverado does have good steering at least, with adequate weighting and a fair amount of feedback. The brake pedal is quite good, too, exhibiting the same thoughtful tuning that makes the gas pedal so easy to modulate.
This one is simple: the Silverado LTZ features no active safety equipment as standard. Not even low-speed automatic emergency braking. Instead, and despite our tester’s $50,000 starting price, you’ll need to select two packages if you want the following pieces of equipment: forward collision warning with low-speed (below 50 miles per hour) automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. The total cost of these two option packs is $1,985.
That said, the gear included for that price is comprehensive and works quite well. That the Silverado offers excellent sightlines and, on the LTZ trim, standard LED headlights, help its safety score, too.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Chevrolet Silverado 1500
The biggest fuel economy argument we can make against the diesel-powered Silverado is that it costs more per gallon than petrol. That said, pick the 3.0-liter engine and you'll have the thriftiest Bowtie by a country mile: with four-wheel drive, the EPA rates our tester at 23 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined. The next closest variant is the turbocharged four-cylinder model, with 21 combined mpg.
Not only is this the most efficient half-ton Chevy, it's the most efficient of the Detroit Three. The Silverado bests both the diesel-powered F-150 (20 city, 25 highway, and 22 combined) and the Ram 1500 (21 city, 24 highway, and 29 combined).
The base Silverado Crew Cab with the shorter bed starts at $36,035. Snagging our LTZ trim and four-wheel drive boosts the price to $50,595. That's a bit more than a Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 Super Crew ($49,875) and substantially more than the Ram 1500 Laramie Quad Cab 4x4 ($45,985). However, Chevyasks just $2,495 for its diesel engine, while there's a $4,000 premium at Ford and a $4,995 charge at Ram.
From there, comparisons become a bit more difficult owing to all the different option packages flying about. Suffice it to say, our very well-equipped Silverado LTZ Crew Cab carried an as-tested price of $61,720, which strikes us a bit of a poor value considering the plusher cabins and greater capability you'll get from the competition. Still, this is one Silverado we wouldn't besmirch anyone for buying – it's a pleasant truck in everyday conditions, and while you can tow more with a diesel-powered Ford or Ram, the Chevy's abilities should suit most people.
Gallery: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ Diesel: Review
2020 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab