For decades, gasoline engines were the fuel of choice for cars, boats and large semi-trucks. But over the years, automakers have recognized the potential of diesel fuel, so they now have optional diesel engines. However, diesel engines have never really been a hit, sales-wise, at least when compared to petrol engines. Also with the infamous Volkswagen “dieselgateEmissions scandal, truck buyers are a bit skeptical about diesel engines.
That said, the benefits of diesel engines cannot be ignored. First, they usually have more torque than petrol engines, which means a higher towing and payload capacity. Diesel engines are also more fuel efficient and offer more miles per gallon compared to gasoline. But not all diesel-powered trucks are worth your hard-earned money. So if you’re looking for a diesel pickup truck, here are the best deals on the market and the worst to avoid.
10 Best: 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke
The Ford F-150 has been one of the best-selling American pickups for a while and got a serious upgrade in 2018. While Ford made improvements in styling and technology, the biggest upgrade is under the hood. For the first time ever, the half-ton Ford F-150 is powered by diesel, as well as five other engine options.
The 2018 F-150 can tow up to 11,400 pounds with a payload of 2,020 pounds, depending on configuration. The 3.0-liter diesel engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission to deliver 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque.
9 Worst: 2014 Aries 1500
The 2014 Ram 1500 offers a fair amount of luxury and power, with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine making 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. But then the engine and transmission are the Ram EcoDiesel’s Main Sources of Concern† The oil cooler in the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel tends to fail when pulling heavy loads in mountainous areas. This problem also occurs with Ram 1500 trucks that have never towed anything before.
Also, many owners of 2014-2015 EcoDiesel Ram trucks complain about leaking exhaust couplings. This problem can cause the cab of the truck to smell like diesel exhaust and there have even been reports of nauseating amounts of fumes.
8 Best: 2018 Ford F-350
The 2018 Ford F-350 is a reliable diesel truck that makes for a good everyday driver. The heavy-duty pickup has a surprisingly snappy slant, and the transmission shifts up quickly and smoothly. Ford is offering two engines for the 2018 F-350 Super Duty: a 6.2-liter V8 petrol engine and an optional 6.7-liter V8 turbo diesel.
The diesel engine delivers up to 450 horsepower and 935 lb-ft of torque. At idle, the diesel engine clicking clack is quite audible, but as you accelerate, the intake noise becomes faint.
7 Worst: 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty
The 2006 F-250 Super Duty is a hard-hauler that shares many design cues with Ford’s 2005 Mighty F-350 Tonka concept. The 2006 F-250 Super Duty comes with three attractive engine options, including a Powerstroke 6.0-liter turbo diesel V8 that spits out 325 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque.
However, many buyers steer clear of the 2003-2007 F-250 Super Duty because of its awful diesel engine. The parent company of Powerstroke, Navistar and Ford had to settle a class-action case about the 6.0-litre Powerstroke engine.
6 Best: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD
Chevrolet has completely overhauled the Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD for 2020, with both heavy-duty trucks featuring more powerful diesel engines, higher pulling power and stronger chassis. On a mission to offer the best HD trucks on the market, Chevrolet is offering an optional Duramax diesel 6.6-liter V8 in addition to the standard gas-powered 6.6-liter V8 for the Silverado 2020HD 2500HD and 3500HD.
The Duramax diesel engine, which is connected to an Allison 10-speed automatic transmission, produces 445 horsepower and an astonishing 910 lb-ft of torque. Customers who often pull heavy loads will find the 35,000-pound Duramax drivetrain very satisfying.
5 Worst: 1994-2001 Chevy & GMC 6.5L
Diesel aficionados laugh at the Detroit-built 6.5L engine, while diesel mechanics shun it like a plague. The Detroit 6.5L diesel engines, which power the 1994-2001 Chevy and GMC trucks, are infamous oil burners that lagged far behind the Cummins and Powerstroke engines of the era.
While other diesel engines were equipped with direct injection, the Detroit 6.5L operated with indirect injection, so it could only get 180 horsepower and 360 lb-ft at best. But in addition to the power shortage, the 6.5L diesel engine is plagued with many mechanical problems, the most common of which is pump-mount drive failure.
4 Best: 2017 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD
The 2017 Sierra 2500HD came with upgrades to the traction control, Allison A1000 automatic transmission with speed and the integrated exhaust braking system. But General Motors didn’t stop there, as the 2017 Denali 2500HD was equipped with an all-new air funnel to help with the truck’s heavy-duty cooling needs.
The heavy-duty Sierra truck tows up to 14,500 pounds and can handle snowy and desert roads. Code-named L5P, the 6.6-liter V8 turbo diesel engine delivers an impressive 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft of torque.
3 Worst: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado
Anyone looking for a pickup that fits in tight parking spaces and narrow driveways will find the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado appropriate. But its 16-valve DOHC 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder isn’t that impressive, producing 181 horsepower. The 2016 Colorado diesel often stalls and the transmission fails.
With 369 lb-ft of torque, the Colorado 4×4 Duramax pulls up to 7,700 pounds. But the downside is that the Duramax engine increases the Colorado’s curb weight by more than 440 pounds.
2 Best: 2019 Ram 2500HD
For a heavy truck, the 2019 Ram 2500 offers a refined driving experience with a touch of luxury. The Ram 2500 has a standard 6.4-liter gasoline V8 that produces 410 horsepower, while the optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline six-cylinder makes 370 horsepower and tows a maximum of 21,560 pounds.
But the torque output is where things get interesting, as the gasoline only produces 429 lb-ft, while the turbo diesel produces up to 850 lb-ft. Like SUVs, the 2019 Ram 2500 has coil spring rear suspension to facilitate a smooth ride, while many other HD trucks have leaf springs.
1 Worst: 2016 GMC Canyon
The 2016 GMC Canyon is the mechanical twin to the Chevrolet Colorado, so it runs on a Thailand-built 2.8-liter engine that puts out 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Just as you avoid the Colorado Duramax, you also avoid the GMC Canyon.
Many drivers complain that the medium truck lags or almost stalls when it should accelerate to cruising speed. But most frustratingly, dealers aren’t even willing to work with drivers to fix the problem. Also a driver pointed out that 2016 Canyon Diesel should get at least 30 MPG, but his own only got 21 MPG†