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The Driver’s Seat: I Won A Truck!

The Driver’s Seat

Jul 30, 2019
If there's a pulse in your veins, you've undoubtedly found yourself deeply lost in a daydream involving wining a car. It might happen on a game show, in a casino, or through a sweepstakes. So, naturally, you can share in my excitement when, on a recent press event, I was presented with a sparkling new 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Centennial Edition. Let me explain
Manufacturers sometimes combine drive programs. It saves them money and saves us travel time (while a win-win on paper, it also divides attention), and the 2020 Silverado HD program was no exception. Paired with the new HD lineup was the 2020 Silverado 1500 equipped with the company's new 3.0L I-6 Duramax diesel engine. To say we've been looking forward to driving both of these vehicles would be a gross understatement.
Upon landing in Redmond, Oregon, we were swiftly shuttled to a municipal airport where the trucks were waiting. Along with a towing obstacle course and the opportunity to tow 35,500 pounds on private property (negating the need for a commercial driver's license), we found about a dozen or so Silverado 1500 diesels lined up for us to sample.
Photo 2/7   |   The Drivers Seat I Won A Truck Gauges
The plot thickened when we were informed one of the tasks at hand was a competition to achieve the highest indicated fuel economy with the new 3.0L Duramax. Challenge accepted. I quickly grabbed my drive partner and snagged one of just two two-wheel-drive pickups. The truck was an extended-cab model with a tonneau cover and side steps. If there was a truck that would ever tip the scales in our favor, this was the one.
The game was simple: drive the pre-planned 40-mile route and whoever had the highest indicated fuel economy upon returning wins. So we set off with the windows rolled up and air conditioning disabled. I was driving and my partner, Hot Rod magazine Production Editor Jordon Scott, was navigating. I kept throttle inputs light, used cruise control where possible, and kept the gear selector maxed out at 10. We drove way too slow in rush-hour traffic, drafted other trucks far too close, and even resorted to coasting along on the shoulder.
Our efforts were rewarded with a staggering 43.8 mpg indicated on the instrument cluster, besting the next closest challenger by nearly 3 mpg. We were victorious, setting the high mark for journalists for the day. However, the highest score of the day was an astonishing 49 mpg, set by John Barta, GM's assistant chief engineer in charge of diesel control systems.
Photo 3/7   |   The Drivers Seat I Won A Truck Results
Curious to know how he did it, we grilled John over drinks and coaxed his secrets out. First and foremost, he set his high number in the early morning hours, when the air was cooler and denser and traffic was nonexistent. We fought a very stiff headwind most of the trek. He commended us on our use of light throttle but pointed out that cruise control may have hampered us in traffic, as it tends to accelerate too briskly back to speed. We also did good coasting, but he then told us that shifting into neutral on the downhill grades was actually a bad move. While the engine is idling in neutral, it's using fuel to stay running, he explained. However, when coasting downhill in gear, the transmission is spinning the engine and fueling is cut off. Score one for the engineer. Armed with this newfound knowledge, we argued for another shot at it but quickly realized none of us were up to the task at this point in the evening.
As it turns out, our prize for setting the highest score of the day was in fact a shiny new Silverado just 1/24th the size of a real one. We all had a good laugh at dinner, and I took a bow and gloated for the rest of the evening. The truck has made its way back to the office and Jordon and I are currently sorting out custody details, since his navigating played a crucial role in our win.
Photo 4/7   |   The Drivers Seat I Won A Truck
And I know what you're thinking—no, as of writing this there are no official fuel economy numbers for the new 2020 Silverado equipped with the 3.0L Duramax engine. I suspect it'll be somewhere near 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, but we'll all have to wait and see.