Ram had the first modern Class 1 pickup with a diesel — a VM engine originally created partly for General Motors. Ford and Chevy were caught flat-footed. Then came an emissions scandal, thanks, it seems, to placing too much trust in suppliers. Eventually, Ram got their engine certified for 2018 trucks, but the 2019 Ram 1500 is still gasoline-only, with an updated diesel promised for calendar-or-model-year 2109 (expect it later, rather than sooner).
Meanwhile, Chevrolet started fresh with an in-line six-cylinder diesel. The displacement, 3 liters, is the same as Ram’s VM unit; but it’s a straight six, rather than a V-6, which should help with vibration. Chevrolet claims their engine will lead the class in horsepower, torque, and fuel economy alike, which should help address the big concern over buying Ram’s diesel — a lower towing capacity than the gasoline V8s.
The 2019 Silverado 1500, like the 2019 Ram 1500, has lost a good deal of weight — but while Ram took off 250 pounds, the Chevy Silverado has apparently dropped no less than 450 pounds, which should increase the payload and towing capacity accordingly. The hood, tailgate, and doors are aluminum-covered; the rest of the body is steel. As with the Ram, the boxed frame is lighter (88 pounds) but the truck has more torsional rigidity (10%).
Chevy updated the suspension, front and rear; they now have an independent front suspension with a short/long arm design, new forged aluminum upper control arms (both lighter and stronger than the old stamped ones), and a redesigned rear suspension — still live axle, but now with composite second-stage springs, saving 24 pounds over steel.
The 2019 Silverados are showing up any day now, but the Duramax diesel, built on a new assembly line, isn’t due to arrive till close to the end of 2018; that’s still long before Ram is likely to be competing diesel-to-diesel. The other fascinating new Chevy engine, a four-cylinder turbo pushing out over 300 horsepower, is probably coming after the diesel.
As usual, America’s pickup makers are playing leapfrog — to the buyers’ benefit.