Old vs. New Diesels: 2016 GMC Sierra HD vs. 2002 Chevy Silverado HD [Video]

2016 gmc sierra hd duramax denali diesel heavy duty luxury
2016 GMC Sierra HD vs. 2002 Chevy Silverado HD

How far has the heavy duty pickup truck technology come in 14 years? This is what we wanted to find out by comparing a 2002 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD LT to a 2016 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Denali. Both of these trucks have 6.6L Duramax turbo-diesel V8s under the hood. However, power outputs, transmissions, features, and curb weights are quiet different.

The 2002 Silverado HD has the first generation of the big Duramax V8 (codename: LB7). It was rated at 300 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque. It is backed up by a 5-speed Allison automatic transmission.

The 2016 Sierra HD has the fifth generation of the Duramax (codename: LML). It is rated at 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed Allison transmission does the shifting here.

The LT was a high-end trim level on the 2002 Silverado. It does have heated, power adjustable leather seats with a center console and five-passenger configuration. However, it did not come with a factory integrated brake controller or an exhaust brake. It also does not have a backup camera, built-in navigation, Apple CarPlay, or a sunroof. The old truck weighs about 800 lbs less the brand-new Sierra HD Denali in this test.

We ran our standard “100 mile” highway MPG loop with each truck towing the other to get a real-world mpg numbers. We always run this loop at 70 mph, but we were fighting a strong wind during this test with both trucks. We also performed 0-60 mph testing to see which truck is the quicker.

Watch the video to see what happened.  (Spoiler alert: the results of the MPG loop and the 0-60 mph testing are in a table below the video.)

Please remember that we do all of our testing at just below or just above one mile above sea level. The lower air density affects engine performance and efficiency.

In the end, the 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD edged out the 2016 Sierra HD on highway towing efficiency. The new Duramax (LML) is simply a lot more powerful. It makes 97 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque more than the 2002 (LB7) engine. The Sierra HD had power in reserve while accelerating onto the highway with the heavy trailer. The old Silverado was much slower to get up to speed. Still, the old truck impressed with efficiency and towing stability.

The 2016 Sierra HD Denali made the towing job very simple and comfortable. The cabin is much more quiet at speed and ride and stability are top notch (even in the heavy winds we encountered).

Not surprisingly, the new Duramax was quicker in our 0-60 MPH testing. It carries about 800 lbs more than the old truck, but it was 0.83 seconds quicker to 60 MPH. We repeated the acceleration test three times and the results were consistent.

2016 GMC Sierra 2500 2002 Chevy Silverado 2500
Model CrewCab Denali 4×4 CrewCab LT 4×4
As Tested $ $67,710
Engine 6.6-liter V8 6.6-liter V8
Transmission 6-speed 5-speed
Power (hp / lb-ft) 397 / 765 300 / 520
Curb Weight (lbs) 7,740 6,920
Tow Rating (lbs) 13,900 (3.73 axle) 12,000 (3.73 axle)
Test Load (trailer + cargo + ppl)  12,010 lbs 12,580 lbs
Suspension Sag 1.75 in 2.25 in
Highway MPG 10.3 10.7
0-60 MPH Time (sec) 8.15 8.98
Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been writing and reporting at TFL since 2011.