Raw Power Meets Refined Efficiency
When it comes to hauling heavy loads and towing, diesel is still king. While the car market continues to reel from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, the diesel truck market remains strong. Diesel engines provide truck buyers with abilities that gasoline engines can't match.
While gasoline engines may produce more horsepower than diesels, truck buyers are looking for a high torque rating to crank out the brute force required for getting heavy loads moving, and diesels provide more torque than their gasoline counterparts. Diesel engines also tend to be more efficient than gasoline powertrains, with the ability to get more power out of each drop of fuel. Because diesels generally use heavier engine components, their longevity is typically greater than a gasoline engine, especially when pushed to the limits of their capabilities.
There are some downsides to diesels, with initial cost and higher maintenance requirements leading the list.
Check out the following slides to see some of the best diesel-powered trucks on the market today. We’ll start with a couple of compact pickups and work our way up to heavy-duty models.
2017 Chevrolet Colorado
For customers who need excellent towing capacity and fuel efficiency in a truck that still fits in most garages, look to the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado diesel in one of just a couple of options available. It earns EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.
Under the hood is a 2.8-liter Duramax diesel that produces 181-horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It can tow up to 7,700 pounds, which is a 700-pound increase over the Colorado's highest-powered gasoline engine offering. That's enough to pull a sizeable camping trailer or water ski boat.
The diesel engine option is only available on crew cab models, and it will add about $4,000 to the truck’s price tag. The Colorado holds a spot near the top of our rankings of compact pickups.
2017 GMC Canyon
The 2017 GMC Canyon shares its diesel engine offering with its Chevy Colorado corporate sibling, and its performance stats are identical to the Colorado’s. However, you can spend a bit more money on the Canyon because two special models can be fitted with the diesel powertrain.
GMC’s Denali brand loads trucks with a host luxury car amenities. The Canyon Denali features 20-inch wheels, a distinctive grille, upscale leather seating, plus standard advanced safety equipment including forward collision warning and lane departure warning. You can expect to pay north of $43,000 for a Canyon Denali diesel.
New for 2017 is the Canyon All Terrain X, which has a base price of about $39,000 with the diesel engine before options and the destination charge. The package includes aggressive Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires, step bars for easy entrance into the cab, an upgraded suspension, additional underbody skid-plating, plus a host of interior and exterior design touches.
2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Currently, Ram offers the only diesel engine option in a light-duty full-size pickup. It produces 240 horsepower and a strong 420 pound-feet of torque, allowing the full-size truck to tow up to 9,300 pounds. The Ram 1500 holds a midrange spot in our rankings of full size pickup trucks.
It achieves Chrysler-published fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. The EPA has temporarily pulled its official mileage estimates from the fueleconomy.gov website.
Ram is facing increased scrutiny of its diesel emissions, so the EPA has yet to approve the 2017 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel for sale. You can still buy a 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, but it may require modification sometime in the future to meet emissions standards.
The Ram 1500 features one of the nicest cabs in the industry, Ram’s excellent UConnect infotainment system, and an optional air suspension that keeps the truck level no matter what it is carrying.
2017 Nissan Titan XD
Nissan has slotted the 2017 Titan XD between the light-duty Nissan Titan and heavy duty full-size pickup models from other manufacturers. It can be equipped with a 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel that’s good for towing 12,640 pounds when properly equipped. The truck is available in single, extended, and crew cab models.
The Titan XD aims for a niche with the towing capacity that approaches heavy-duty models, with the driving dynamics, interior comfort, lower price, and slightly higher efficiency of light-duty pickups. The EPA does not test the fuel economy of heavier trucks such as the Titan XD, though most test drivers achieved somewhere around 15 mpg combined.
Pricing for the Titan XD with the Cummins diesel starts at $37,140 for a single cab with rear-wheel drive. Load up an opulent 2017 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve crew cab model with all the available options, and you can expect a sticker price that’s more than $65,000.
2017 Ford Super Duty
Ford has taken the lessons they learned in building the aluminum-intensive F-150 full-size pickup and applied them to the redesigned-for-2017 F-Series Super Duty lineup of trucks. They’ve lightened the truck by up to 350 pounds through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum. At the same time, towing capacity increased.
When equipped with the optional 6.7-liter PowerStroke turbodiesel V8, the Super Duty can tow up to 32,500 pounds. The engine produces 440 horsepower and a whopping 925 pound-feet of torque.
It’s also a technological powerhouse, with available adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system with trailer brake support. The Super Duty’s available blind-spot warning system takes into account the length of the trailer, and an accessory camera can be placed on the back of the trailer to help you with maneuvering.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD
Chevrolet introduced a new diesel engine for their 2017 lineup of Silverado HD pickups. The 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 produces 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the previous generation, the new engine is smooth and refined, with engine noise at idle reduced by 38 percent.
Properly equipped, the Silverado 2500HD can tow up to 18,100 pounds, while the heavier-duty Silverado 3500HD can tow up to 23,300 pounds.
The Silverado HD heavy-duty pickups share a number of useful features with the light-duty, full-size 2017 Silverado. The beds feature dual-level loading capability and a rear corner-step bumper for easy access. GM’s Teen Driver system is included, so parents can receive a report card on how their young drivers are behaving behind the wheel.
Silverado HD pricing starts at $42,615 with the new diesel engine.
2017 GMC Sierra HD
The 2017 GMC Sierra HD lineup can also be fitted with the same 6.6-liter turbodiesel Duramax V8 that is available on the Silverado HD. A large hood-scoop on the truck collects cool, dry air to keep the engine temperature in check under extreme conditions or when towing maximum payload.
Just because it’s a truck, doesn’t mean it can’t be outfitted like a luxury car. GMC offers the Sierra HD in the Denali trim with standard and available features that include LED headlights, power-deploying running boards, Magnetic Ride Control that constantly tunes the suspension for changing road conditions, and premium leather seating.
Of course, all that equipment doesn’t come cheap. The Sierra Denali HD with the Duramax starts at $69,640, which includes a $12,355 bump for the diesel engine option.
2017 Ram 2500/3500 HD
The king of diesels in the Ram heavy-duty pickup lineup is a 385-horsepower 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel that cranks out 900 pound-feet of torque. That’s a big step up from the diesel in the light-duty Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. Properly equipped, the Ram 3500 can tow up to 31,210 pounds.
Ram offers their 2500 and 3500 series heavy-duty trucks with three cab configurations including regular, crew, and ultra-roomy mega cabs. Trim levels range from simple Tradesman models designed for commercial use to plush Limited trims.
Pricing for a diesel Ram 2500 pickup starts at $41,345. Load the options onto a Ram 3500 Limited with the Cummins diesel, and the price can easily eclipse $70,000.
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