In late 2008, when the U.S. economy went into freefall and GM stood on the edge of the precipice, any projects that weren’t core to the automaker’s survival were either canned or put on the back burner. One of the latter, was a light-duty version of the GM Duramax diesel, designed for the light duty 1/2 ton Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Now that truck sales are on the rebound, the idea of a light duty diesel engine is gaining traction once again. According to Mark Cieslak, Chief Engineer for GM’s full-size truck program, making the engine an option in HD trucks as well as the 1500 personal use models would give it a stronger business case. “The 4.5-liter V8 diesel is fully developed and ready, so if we wanted to, we could launch it in a hearbeat,” he said.
If GM were to make the 4.5-liter Duramax diesel available, even in the HD trucks, it would likely carry a premium over the gasoline fueled 6.0-liter Vortech V8. Recently; GM introduced a substantially updated line of HD pickups for the 2011 model year, with a more powerful 6.6-liter Duramax diesel, that’s rated at 397 horsepower and a whopping 765 ft-lbs of torque. And although HD pickups current don’t fall under the EPA’s tough new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards laid out between now and 2016, the light duty Silverado and GMC do.
Offering the 4.5 as an option in those trucks would help towards GM’s overall fuel economy targets, while offering it in the larger trucks would give buyers a cheaper and less extreme alternative to the 6.6 diesel, which current carries a healthy $8,395 premium over the standard 6.0L gas Vortech V8.