2020 GMC Sierra 1500 First Look

Diesel Do Nicely


What Is It?

Like its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 stablemate, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that gets a notable update this year in the form of an optional turbodiesel inline-six engine. The hotly anticipated 3.0-liter Duramax diesel engine option has been talked about for over a year. Recently, it appeared briefly on the 2019 Sierra options sheet, but it was abruptly removed when it became clear the certification process would be delayed. The price that was briefly visible during that time was $2,495 above that of the 5.3-liter V8.

This engine differs from other half-ton diesel pickup engines because it's a straight-six instead of the usual V6. This longer engine takes up more engine compartment space, but engines with this layout tend to run smoother and produce more torque. The Duramax's tentative power ratings support this: 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission will be paired with this new engine, and that should ensure smooth and seamless power in all situations.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500

Why Does It Matter?

Every 2500 and 3500 HD pickup truck has a diesel engine option, and they're always in demand despite the extra upfront cost. The same has not been true of the 1500 series "half-ton" segment. For years there wasn't a single choice until Ram reintroduced a diesel in 2014.

Diesel engines are popular among truck buyers because they excel in two key areas: They make abundant torque for easier towing and offer better overall range and fuel economy. They are especially good at doing both at once by providing respectable fuel economy and range while towing. No hard numbers are available because fuel economy ratings have not yet been announced, but we expect the advantage over gasoline will be compelling for truck owners who regularly tow.

What Does It Compete With?

Ford sells a 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V6 engine that makes 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy in mixed driving is rated at 25 mpg for two-wheel-drive models and 22 mpg for four-wheel-drive versions. The upgrade costs $4,000 in a Lariat with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 and $3,000 in a King Ranch with a 5.0-liter V8. These two trims match up well with similar ones that are popular among GMC buyers.

Ram began selling a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in 2014, and sales were brisk until it was pulled from the lineup due to problems with emissions certification. Last year's redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 debuted without a diesel option, but word is it will return to the 2020 Ram 1500 at nearly the same time as the GMC Duramax diesel arrives. The Ram will offer strong competition with ratings of 260 hp and a class-leading 480 lb-ft of torque. It's also rated to tow as much as 12,560 pounds, which is going to be hard to beat.

Edmunds Says

We're believers in the idea of a 1500 series truck with a diesel engine, because the long-term 2014 Ram EcoDiesel we hosted for 50,000 miles constantly impressed us with its smooth driving and strong fuel economy. General Motors may be getting into the act later than the others, but it will be interesting to see if GMC's choice of a straight-six diesel layout makes it worth the wait.