For decades, gasoline engines were the fuel of choice for cars, boats, and big semi-trucks. But over the years, vehicle manufacturers have realized 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 in comparison to gasoline engines. Also, with the infamous Volkswagen “Dieselgate” emission scandal, truck buyers are a bit skeptical about diesel engines.
That said, the advantages of diesel engines cannot be ignored, For one, they tend to have more torque than gasoline engines, which means higher towing and payload capacities. Also, diesel engines are more economical, offering more miles per gallon compared to gasoline. But not all diesel-powered trucks are worth your hard-earned money. So, if you’re shopping for a diesel-powered pickup, here are the best deals on the market and the worst ones you should steer clear of.
10 Best: 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke
The Ford F-150 has been one of the best-selling American pickups for a while now, and it received a serious upgrade in 2018. Although Ford made improvements on the styling and technology, the biggest upgrade is under the hood. For the very first time, 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 capacity of 2,020 pounds, depending on the configuration. The 3.0-liter diesel engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission to deliver 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque.
9 Worst: 2014 Ram 1500
The 2014 Ram 1500 offers a decent amount of luxury and power, with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine that makes 240 hp 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-liter EcoDiesel tends to fail when towing heavy loads in mountainous regions. This problem also occurs to Ram 1500 trucks that haven’t towed any item before.
Also, many owners of 2014-2015 EcoDiesel Ram trucks complain about leaking exhaust couplers. This issue can cause the truck’s cabin to smell like diesel exhaust and there are even 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 daily driver. The heavy-duty pickup has a surprisingly snappy turn-in and the transmission upshifts quickly and smoothly. Ford offers two engines for the 2018 F-350 Super Duty: a 6.2-liter gasoline V8 and an optional 6.7-liter turbo-diesel V8.
The diesel engine makes up to 450 hp and 935 lb-ft of torque. At idle, the clackity-clack of the diesel engine is quite audible, but as you accelerate the intake whoosh sound becomes faint.
7 Worst: 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty
The 2006 F-250 Super Duty is a hard-hauler that shares many design elements with Ford’s 2005 Mighty F-350 Tonka concept. The 2006 F-250 Super Duty comes with three compelling 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 terrible diesel engine. In fact, Powerstroke’s parent company, Navistar and Ford had to settle a class-action suit over the 6.0-liter Powerstroke engine.
6 Best: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD
Chevrolet completely overhauled the Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD for 2020, with both heavy-duty trucks boasting more powerful diesel engines, higher tow ratings, and stronger chassis. On a mission to offer the best HD trucks on the market, Chevrolet offers an optional Duramax diesel 6.6-liter V8 in addition to the standard gas-powered 6.6-liter V8 for the 2020 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD.
The Duramax diesel engine, which is hooked up to an Allison 10-speed automatic produces 445 hp and an astonishing 910 lb-ft of torque. Customers who often tow heavy loads will find the 35,000 pounds of the Duramax powertrain very satisfying.
5 Worst: 1994-2001 Chevy & GMC 6.5L
Diesel enthusiasts laugh at the Detroit-built 6.5L engine, while diesel mechanics avoid them like a plague. Powering the 1994-2001 Chevy and GMC trucks, the Detroit 6.5L diesel engines are notorious oil-burners that were lagging far behind the Cummins and Powerstroke engines of that era.
While other diesel engines were equipped with direct injection, the Detroit 6.5L worked with indirect injection, so it could only manage a yield of 180 hp and 360 lb-ft at best. But besides the power deficiency, the 6.5L diesel engine is plagued with many mechanical problems, with pump-mounted driver failure being the most common.
4 Best: 2017 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD
The 2017 Sierra 2500HD came with upgrades to the traction control, speed Allison A1000 automatic transmission, and integrated exhaust brake 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 heavy cooling needs of the truck.
The heavy-duty Sierra truck tows up to 14,500 pounds and takes on snowy and desert roads. The 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V8 engine code-named L5P makes an impressive 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.
3 Worst: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado
Anyone looking for a pickup that fits into tight parking lots and narrow driveways will find the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado fitting. But its 16-valve DOHC 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder is not that impressive, with an output of 181 horsepower. The 2016 Colorado Diesel often engine misfires and transmission fails.
With a torque of 369 lb-ft, the Colorado 4×4 Duramax tows up to 7,700 pounds. But the downside is that the Duramax engine increases the Colorado’s curb weight by over 440 pounds.
2 Best: 2019 Ram 2500HD
For a heavy-duty truck, the 2019 Ram 2500 offers a refined driving experience with a touch of luxury. The Ram 2500 has a standard gasoline 6.4-liter V8 that makes 410 hp, while the optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder puts out 370 hp and tows a maximum of 21,560 pounds.
But the torque output is where things get interesting, as the gasoline makes only 429 lb-ft, while the turbo-diesel produces up to 850 lb-ft. Just like SUVs, the 2019 Ram 2500 has a coil spring rear suspension to facilitate a smooth ride, whereas many other HD trucks have leaf springs.
1 Worst: 2016 GMC Canyon
The 2016 GMC Canyon is the mechanical twin of the Chevrolet Colorado, so it runs on a Thai-built 2.8-liter engine that makes 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Just as you steer clear of the Colorado Duramax, also avoid the GMC Canyon.
Many drivers complain about the midsize truck lagging or almost stalling when it’s supposed to be accelerating at cruise speed. But the most frustrating part is that dealerships are not even willing to work with drivers to resolve the issue. Also, a driver pointed out that the 2016 Canyon Diesel is supposed to get to 30 MPG at least, but his own only managed 21 MPG.