Choosing Your Next Diesel Pickup Truck

2021 Chevrolet Silverado. PHOTO General Motors

From midsize to heavy-duty, there’s an option for just about everyone.

Diesel engines are a popular choice for truck fleets due to fuel economy, engine longevity, and resale value.

Once restricted primarily to heavy-duty, diesel trucks are now available in all half-ton full-size pickups offered by Detroit manufacturers, and even in two midsize ones.

Heavy-duty diesel trucks are meant for grunt and boast high towing and payload numbers. Light-duty trucks have small-displacement diesels, and some of the larger gasoline choices provide higher capacity. Be sure you’re getting the engine that’ll do the job you need it to do.

Heavy-duty diesel trucks

In our list, we’ve included maximum towing for each model when properly equipped, and some configurations will have lower capacity. Fuel consumption is for light-duty, as heavy-duty trucks aren’t rated by Natural Resources Canada.

Both light- and heavy-duty trucks have come a long way with creature comforts, and while most are available in a base work-style trim to keep the price down, it’s possible to outfit most with several productivity features such as telematics, wireless chargers, Wi-Fi connectivity and USB ports.

Available driver-assist features include blind-spot monitoring, emergency front braking and lane-keeping assist; while many also boast a wide range of luxury features.

GM: Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500

Along with a diesel, these mechanical twins share gasoline engines in four sizes, including a turbocharged four-cylinder and a 5.3-litre V8 with two different types of cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy.

For 2021, the Silverado gains the optional multi-position tailgate first used on the GMC. It’s known as the Multi-Flex tailgate on Chevrolet, and MultiPro on GMC, and can be configured for such functions as a step or load stop. The diesel gains 200 lbs in maximum towing capacity, and there is a wider range of available features on lower-priced trims.

Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 specs:

  • 3.0-litre I6 turbodiesel (277 hp/460 lb-ft of torque)
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Fuel consumption (L/100 km): 10.2 cities, 7.2 highway, 8.8 combined
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity: 9,500 lbs

GM: Chevrolet Silverado HD/GMC Sierra HD

Available in 2500 and 3500 models, the Silverado and Sierra HD start with a 6.6-litre V8 gasoline engine; but can be optioned to a 6.6-litre Duramax diesel.

New features for 2021 include available wireless phone connectivity, a bed-view camera available on entry-level trims, and on the diesel-equipped 3500 with dual rear wheels, maximum gooseneck trailering goes to 36,000 lbs, an increase of 500 lbs over the 2020 model.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom. PHOTO GM

Chevrolet Silverado HD/GMC Sierra HD specs:

  •  6.6-litre V8 turbodiesel (445 hp/910 lb-ft of torque)
  • 10-speed Allison automatic transmission
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity:
    • 18,500 lbs (2500);
    • 20,000 lbs (3500)

GM: Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon

These two trucks currently offer the only diesel in the midsize segment. It’s offered alongside four-cylinder and V6 gasoline engines, but the diesel provides the highest towing capacity. Fuel consumption is higher than on the full-size Silverado diesel, mostly because the larger truck has been updated with more fuel-efficient technology.

These trucks are aimed more at consumers, and the diesel’s availability starts above the base trim level. Standard features include a locking tailgate, spotter mirror, WiFi-capable hotspot, power driver’s seat, cruise control, keyless entry, and OnStar.

2020 GMC Canyon red diesel
2020 GMC Canyon. PHOTO GM

Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon specs:

  • 2.8-litre I4 turbodiesel (181 hp/369 lb-ft of torque)
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Fuel consumption (L/100 km):
    • 11.8 city
    • 7.9 highway
    • 10.1 combined
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity: 7,700 lbs

Ford F-150

Ford’s half-ton F-150 offers six powertrains, including a full hybrid, but our interest here is the light-duty diesel. It’s available on higher trim levels for consumers, but for fleets, it can be optioned at the XL trim level.

Even at that base trim level, the F-150 includes such standard features as a locking tailgate, automatic high-beam headlamps, vinyl flooring, automatic emergency front braking, Wi-Fi hotspot, and cloth seats.

All-new FORD F-150 Lariat in Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat.
Ford F-150. PHOTO Ford

Ford F-150 specs:

  • 3.0-litre V6 Power Stroke turbodiesel (250 hp/440 lb-ft of torque)
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Fuel consumption (L/100 km):
    • 11.9 city,
    • 9.1 highway,
    • 10.7 combined (4×4)
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity: 12,100 lbs

Ford Super Duty

The Super Duty is available as the F-250, F-350, and F-450, all of them basically unchanged for 2021.

All three come in Regular or SuperCrew cab, but while the F-250 and F-350 also come in SuperCab configuration, the F-450 does not. Dual rear wheels can be added as an option to both the F-350 and F-450. The diesel option is offered alongside two gasoline engines.

As with its competitors, Super Duty has several towing-assist features either standard or available. These include power-telescoping mirrors, rear trailer camera, blind-spot monitoring with trailer coverage, and Pro Trailer Backup Assist.

2021 F-Series Super Duty
2021 F-Series Super Duty. PHOTO FORD

Ford Super Duty specs:

  • 6.7-litre V8 Power Stroke turbodiesel (475 hp/1,050 lb-ft of torque)
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity:
    • 20,000 lbs (F-250)
    • 21,200 lbs (F-350)
    • 24,200 lbs (F-450)

Ram 1500

Ram was the first to put a diesel in a modern half-ton, and it calls the engine an EcoDiesel. Unlike GM and Ford, the Ram 1500 only comes in Quad Cab or Crew Cab, not in regular cab. The last-generation Ram is still made as to the 1500 Classic and includes a regular-cab configuration, but it’s not available with the diesel.

Depending on the trim, available features include RamBox locking bed-side storage compartments, emergency front braking, flip-up towing mirrors, and rear in-floor storage containers.

2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel stellantis
2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel. PHOTO Stellantis

Ram 1500 specs:

  • 3.0-litre V6 EcoDiesel (260 hp/480 lb-ft of torque)
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Fuel consumption (L/100 km):
    • 10.5 city
    • 7.3 highway
    • 9.0 combined
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity: 12,560 lbs

Ram Heavy-Duty

The Ram 2500 and 3500 are mostly unchanged for 2021, except for an increase in power to the optional high-output diesel on 3500 models to 1,075 lb-ft of torque, up from 1,050 lb-ft.

Ram HD models come in regular cab, crew cab, and Mega Cab, with most of its extra length dedicated to additional storage space behind the rear seat. 2500 offers a rear five-link coil system or air suspension, while the 3500 uses leaf springs with an available supplemental air system.

2021 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually
Ram Heavy Duty Cummins Turbo Diesel. PHOTO Stellantis

Ram Heavy-Duty 2500/3500 specs:

  • 6.7-litre I6 Cummins turbodiesel (370 hp/850 lb-ft of torque)
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity:
    • 19,780 lbs (2500)
    • 23,000 lbs (3500)

Ram Heavy-Duty 3500 High Output specs:

  • 6.7-litre I6 Cummins high-output turbodiesel (420 hp/1,075 lb-ft of torque)
  • 6-speed automatic transmission (high-output)
  • Diesel maximum conventional towing capacity: 23,000 lbs


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august, 2021

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