Heavy-duty pickup trucks don't get any better than the heavy-duty Silverado line. General Motors completely re-engineered its heavy-duty pickups last year. Based on our driving experience, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra appear to be the best heavy-duty pickups on the market.
That's a strong statement, but they boast the most power, the heftiest gross vehicle weight rating and the highest gross combined vehicle weight rating available. More noticeable on a daily basis is their superior refinement. They offer excellent handling, the smoothest ride and the most up-to-date interiors.
Two monster engines are available in addition to the standard 6.0-liter V8: an 8.1-liter Vortec V8 that develops 455 foot-pounds of torque, and the mighty new Duramax 6600 diesel V8 that generates 520 foot-pounds of torque. Each is available with the truly impressive Allison five-speed automatic transmission.
A dizzying number of configurations is available, ensuring that nearly everyone can find exactly the right truck to suit their needs.
Heavy-duty Silverado pickups are broadly divided into the 2500 HD series and the 3500 series. "Half-ton," "3/4-ton" and "one-ton" are outdated terms because modern trucks haul far more than 1000-2000 pounds. Many of us, however, still tend to refer to the Silverado 1500 and 2500 series as the half-ton trucks (see separate nctd.com review of the Silverado 1500 and 2500 light-duty trucks).
2500 HD pickups are what we generically call 3/4-ton trucks. All Chevy 2500 HD trucks come with single rear wheels.
3500-series trucks all come with dual rear wheels; these so-called one-ton trucks are often called "duallies."
Regular Cab, Extended Cab and Crew Cab bodies are available with 6.5-foot short beds or 8-foot long beds. Wheelbases run 133, 143.5, 153.0, 157.5, and 167 inches long on 2500 HD pickups; wheelbases are available in 133, 157.5, 161.5, and 167.5 inches on 3500 duallies. All use the standard Fleetside-style body.
Three trim levels are offered: base, LS and LT.
Engine choices: 6.0-liter Vortec V8, 8.1-liter Vortec V8, and 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel.
Just as important are the transmission choices: five-speed manual, six-speed manual, four-speed automatic ($1095 on base and LS, standard on LT), and an exciting new Allison five-speed automatic ($1200 on LT, $2295 on base or LS models). And, of course, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
Retail prices range from less than $23,000 for a 2500HD 2WD Regular Cab to more than $43,000 for a fully loaded 4WD Crew Cab with the Duramax diesel and Allison automatic.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering - which improves low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability - will be extended to several more GM full-size trucks during 2002. The system, first introduced exclusively on the GMC Sierra Denali, will be offered this calendar year as a regular production option on properly equipped 2002 GMC Sierra Wideside and Chevrolet Silverado Fleetside 2WD and 4WD extended cab short-box pickups.
GM's new pickups are not standouts in the styling department, and a Chevrolet Silverado 3500 looks conservative when parked alongside a Dodge Ram 3500 or a Ford Super Duty. Though all the body work was all-new for 2001, the Silverado styling is clearly evolutionary, not revolutionary. In other words, the new heavy-duty Silverado looks a lot like the previous heavy-duty C/K trucks, until you park them alongside one another, that is. Then the differences are quite striking.
Compared with the previous-generation, the current Silverados look like they were driven through a giant sander. The body work is smoother and more fluid. Sharp creases have been rounded off and smoothed over. Silverado 2500 HDs look similar to the light-duty Silverado 1500 and 2500 models, but the heavy-duty Silverado comes with a bulging hood designed to provide space for the giant engines that are available. Even the fender flares around the dual rear wheels on the 3500 Series models are smoother and more elegantly designed.
Styling distinctions differentiate the Chevy Silverado from the GMC Sierra, unlike in the past. The Silverado is called "The Truck" at Chevrolet. It looks bold, with its power dome hood and a big Chevy bow tie on the grille. That grille is accented by a heavy center bar with a bow tie in the middle.
Coming soon is a redesigned 2003 Silverado with much bolder styling.
Standard seating is much better than basic. In fact, these trucks are downright comfortable. They are quite roomy, among the roomiest available. Four cab styles are available: Regular Cab, Extended Cab, Crew Cab, and Chassis Cab. All offer identical front-seat space. The extended-cab's rear-door openings are the largest in the industry, according to Chevrolet
The Crew Cab offers roomy rear seats, comfortable for two adults, capable of three. In addition to their people-carrying capability, the Crew Cab models come in handy in many sometimes unforeseen ways. We like changing into our driving suits in the back seats at races or putting on a pair of waders when fishing in cold weather. The rear seats fold down, a huge benefit for carrying cargo inside.
OnStar, the telematics system, comes standard on Silverado LT extended cab and Crew Cab models. OnStar when send someone to the rescue if your airbag deploys and you don't respond to their calls. All models come standard with dual front air bags with a passenger-side deactivation switch on regular and extended cab models to protect small occupants.
Chevy's heavy-duty Silverados offer excellent ride quality and lots of power with the capability of carrying big loads and pulling heavy trailers.
Whether 2WD or 4WD, the ride quality is nice. These trucks ride much smoother than GM's pre-2001 heavy-duty trucks and better than Ford's Super Duty trucks. Handling is surprisingly good for such a big truck. They can cover ground quickly, even on winding rural roads. A hydroformed front frame let GM's engineers to tune the suspension more precisely for a better ride and handling. Front suspensions use torsion bars for durability. The front axles are designed to take up to 4800 pounds, while the rear axles can handle up to 8600 pounds.
Four-wheel disc brakes have reduced stopping distances and give the driver a solid pedal feel, a huge improvement over GM's previous-generation trucks. Bigger front rotors, larger brake pads, improved linings offer better stopping power and longer pad life. Dynamic rear proportioning shortens stopping distances by transferring front and rear brake bias to the tires with the best grip.
The base engine is the Vortec 6000, a 6.0-liter V8 (366 cubic inches) that generates 300 horsepower and 360 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. Introduced for 1999, it's designed for a 200,000-mile operating life with 10,000-mile oil change intervals. Its aluminum cylinder head is similar to that of the L56 Corvette. It comes with a choice of a heavy-duty five-speed manual and GM's optional 4L80-E four-speed electronically controlled automatic, which features the Tow/Haul mode.
Want more power? The big Vortec 8100 V8 delivers 455 pounds-feet of peak torque at 3200 rpm. Torque is that force that propels the truck off the line and this 8.1-liter, 496 cubic-inch V8 has gobs of it. It generates 400 lbs.-ft. at just 1600 rpm. Don't expect neck-snapping acceleration, however. Quicker acceleration performance when towing is the objective. And it does this very well. Introduced last year, this 8.1-liter V8 replaces GM's 7.4-liter V8. It has advanced features such as an engine oil life monitor and a limp-home mode.
The new Duramax 6600 diesel is smooth, quiet, and powerful. It punches out an amazing 520 lbs.-ft. of torque at just 1800 rpm. GM's Duramax diesel engine is built in Moraine, Ohio, but was developed with Isuzu, one of the world's largest manufacturers of diesel engines. The new 6.6-liter Duramax offers improved fuel economy over the old 6.5-liter GM diesel it replaced. The Duramax was designed for a 200,000-mile operating life, according to GM engineers, and for easy serviceability. Half of heavy-duty truck pickups are sold with diesel engines.
The Duramax and Vortec 8100 offer a choice of a ZF six-speed manual or optional Allison 1000 five-speed automatic. Both have close-ratio gearing, which provides exceptional launch, hill climbing, and towing capability and economy. Their heavy-duty components are stronger than those typically found in one-ton truck transmissions, providing exceptional durability.
The ZF six-speed manual is easy to shift and is fully synchronized in all gears with dual-cone synchronizers in second and third. A convenient shift pattern allows the shift lever to be moved forward for reverse and straight back for first, making it easier to maneuver quickly in tight spaces. Second gear works well for taking off with a light load; first is a creeper gear.
As good as the six-speed manual is, the optional Allison five-speed automatic is one of the most impressive features of these trucks. We highly recommend it for its responsive performance. Available for the Vortec 8100 and Duramax engines, the Allison is designed to last 200,000 miles; GM engineers said it's "over-designed," meaning it's heavier duty than it needs to be. But it's also sophisticated and keeps in close contact with the driver and the engine with full electronic control. It adjusts shifting according to driving style. The Tow/Haul mode keeps the transmission in gear longer to reduce hunting and heat buildup. This transmission senses when the truck is going downhill, senses when the driver is applying the brakes and downshifts, reducing wear on the brakes. This grade braking feature works great; just touch the brake pedal as the truck is going down a grade. On a practical side, the Allison transmission is set up to make it easier to attach power take-off (PTO) accessories. It downshifts crisply as the truck comes a stop. The Duramax and Allison combination does not come cheap, however.
GM says its heavy-duty pickups offer the highest GVWR for hauling and the highest GCVW for towing in the business. Payloads range from 3321 pounds for a 2500HD Crew Cab 4WD to 5753 pounds for a 3500 Regular Cab 2WD. Two-wheel-drive models and smaller cabs offer higher payloads.
Both the Vortec 8100 gas and Duramax 6600 diesel permit towing trailers up to 12,000 pounds. We pulled a 7000-pound trailer (a two-horse tandem-axle trailer full of bags of shot) in a 2500HD with the Duramax diesel and Allison transmission. Attached via a (Reese) Class III load-distributing hitch, it was a stable rig, easy to manage. With a fifth wheel setup, trailering capability increases to an astounding 15,800-pound maximum.
4WD trucks get a shift on the fly transfer case. It shifted immediately into 4WD when we shifted it at 40 mph.
"Heavy duty" is a good descriptor for the 2500HD and 3500 trucks as all of their hardware is beefier than what is found on the 1500 and 2500 light-duty pickups. Front tow hooks are standard.
Heavy-duty trucks have never been better than the Chevy Silverado. About one-third of all full-size pickup buyers opt for heavy-duty models, and they couldn't go wrong with the Silverado 2500 HD or 3500. These are great trucks.
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||2500HD: 2WD Regular Cab 8-ft box 133-inch wheelbase ($22,982); LS ($24,784); Extended Cab SWB ($25,362); LS LWB ($27,564); LT ($31,648); Crew Cab LS ($29,279); 4WD Extended Cab LS LWB ($30,409) 3500: Extended Cab 8-ft. box 157.5-in. wheelbase ($26,919); Crew Cab 8-ft. box 167.5-in. wheelbase ($28,569), LS ($30,241), 4WD LT ($37,732)|
|Engines:||6.0-liter Vortec V8, 8.1-liter Vortec V8, 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel|
|Transmissions:||5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic; 6-speed manual, 5-speed Allison automatic|
|Safety equipment (standard):||ABS with dynamic rear proportioning, four-wheel disc brakes with thick rotors and large pads, dual front airbags, adjustable rear seat headrests|
|Safety equipment (optional):||N/A|
|Basic warranty:||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):||Silverado 2500HD 4WD Crew Cab LWB long box LT ($36,845)|
|Standard equipment:||intermittent wipers, chrome front bumper, rear bumper, chrome grille, automatic halogen headlamps, oil life monitoring system, tachometer, trailering wire harness; LT includes air conditioning with air filtration system, six-way power heated bucket seats with front leather seating surfaces and driver memory, compass and temperature readouts, dual power heated outside mirrors, rear-window defogger, deep tint glass, pushbutton transfer case, front fog lamps, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, electronic speed control, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry with content theft alarm, leather-wrapped steering wheel, forged polished aluminum wheels, bodyside moldings, Onstar communications system|
|Options as tested (MSRP):||Duramax diesel 6600 V8 engine ($4810); Allison 5-speed automatic transmission ($1200); locking rear differential ($295); tonneau cover ($240); trailer hitch platform ($215); skid plate package ($95)|
|Gas guzzler tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSRP):||$43,700|
|Engine:||6.6-liter turbocharged diesel|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||300 @ 3100|
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):||520 @ 1800|
|Transmission:||5-speed Allison automatic|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||N/A|
|Track, f/r:||68.6/66.0 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||41.0/61.4/41.3 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||39.0/62.9/39.1 in.|
|Towing capacity:||12000 Lbs.|
|Suspension, r:||live axle|
|Ground clearance:||7.4 in.|
|Brakes, f/r:||disc/disc with ABS|
|Fuel capacity:||34.0 gal.|
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of December 21, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-950-2438 - www.chevrolet.com