This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue.
In the past several model years, we’ve seen diesel engine options expanding to plenty of vehicles other than 3/4-ton and larger pickup trucks. In particular, several half-ton and even mid-size pickups have had an available diesel option for a few years now. The Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon has been available with the 2.8L four-cylinder LWN Duramax since 2016, the Ford F150 has been available with the 3.0L V6 Power Stroke since 2018, the RAM 1500 has been available with the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel engine since the 2014 model year, and now we’re just seeing the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 models emerging with the all-new 3.0L six-cylinder LM2 Duramax option for the 2020 model year. The Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon and Suburban/Yukon XL also are getting the 3.0L Duramax option for 2021. It’s becoming quite a trend!
As with many technological and aesthetic upgrades and improvements that come with model years, these changes are generally catering to new general expectations from the buyers. While some of us might stick to our old ways and prefer our diesels to be big and loud, we also have consumers wanting more modest use of such an engine and vehicle. Some want better fuel economy while still being able to tow and haul a fair amount. Some just don’t feel the need to own something so big; however, they might also want a diesel, because diesels are still unique in the way they work and the character they give to a vehicle. After years of only having a gasoline option for their ideal vehicles, the wishes of that crowd are finally being granted.
The Right Balance
If I was in the market for a smaller diesel, I personally would prefer something like the new 3.0L Duramax Silverado/Sierra 1500 or EcoDiesel RAM 1500, as I don’t need a whole lot of truck, and I don’t want to spend a lot on fuel, but I still would like some towing power and hauling ability. I don’t see myself hauling anything larger than a 23-foot bowrider boat or a trailer full of lawn equipment. A half-ton diesel is probably the best compromise if you’re not hauling anything a lot larger than that and if you want good fuel economy.
Also, if you happen to be travelling frequently into an enormous, densely-populated city, a lifted 3/4-ton or larger truck can be quite a burden, especially when you have to find parking. Your truck may have a hard time fitting into some garages, and parallel parking is even more of a pain because of the length and size of the vehicle and all the blind spots that come with it. Having a mid-size or half-ton makes your life noticeably easier if navigating a huge city is what you do on a regular basis, even if the truck is lifted and built up. Of course, any truck with a more modest lift will have an easier time in a crowded surrounding. You might just prefer a larger diesel with a smaller lift, especially if you have a lot of large stuff to haul. It’s up to you.
A few of the builds we’ve featured within the last year or so have been of trucks smaller than 3/4-tons, including one in this issue. With their lift kits, wheels, tires, engine work, and other cool upgrades, they’ve all been just as meaningful as their larger counterparts. If you need something to provide you with encouragement to consider the smaller trucks, hopefully that helps you. The half-ton and mid-size diesel designs are not the same as those of their larger counterparts, so they often require a new approach to building them up, especially if you’re upgrading the engines. The mid-size build in this issue is an example of that, as the shop that worked on it ran into several roadblocks, but the truck conquered all odds with the finished product putting out over 460 horsepower at the wheels. With that said, know that an impressive build made out of the smallest North American diesel pickup that almost feels like a 3/4-ton or larger build can be done!