Pros: Overbuilt and capable of virtually everything; three cab configurations, two bed lengths and two drive types; top-notch optional Duramax diesel V8
Cons: Dated compared to more recently updated competitors, especially inside, all-new 2014 model already on its way.
At one point in history, all trucks were "trucklike." No one buying a truck used it for anything but work. If it looked like a farm truck, you could bet your life (or farm) it was a farm truck, driven by an actual farmer. It didn't tow your ski boat, and it didn't carpool.
While today's pickup can be all things to all people, heavy-duty pickups remain a breed apart. And perhaps no others in that category stand quite so proudly as Chevrolet's 2500HD and 3500HD. With a fully boxed frame and an optional Duramax diesel driving through an Allison transmission, these trucks weren't designed for making a coffee run to Starbucks. Rather, they were designed to build the Starbucks itself.
But if you're a fugitive from the nine-to-five routine and simply want to get out of town, there are few better machines to tow a 10,000-pound Airstream or cabin cruiser than Chevy's heavy-duty truck. If your cargo fits in the bed, the 2500 can carry more than 7,000 pounds of payload, and the dual-axle 3500 handles even more.
Comfort & Utility
From the outside, Chevrolet's 2500HD and 3500HD have work written into every line of chassis and fold of sheetmetal, beginning with their bold, bright grilles and ending at the bow ties on their tailgates. Regrettably, the same can be said for their interiors, which haven't kept up with other automakers in the heavy-duty pickup game.
Premium cloth is standard on LT trim levels, and leather-trimmed front seats are standard on LTZ models. But for the most part, Chevy dispenses with decorator touches. Not only has Eddie Bauer left the building, Eddie's never been in GM's building. Although the lack of décor won't be missed by your construction crew, it may be noticed by your significant other. The 2500 cab does everything a truck cab should do, but no more; again, in the competitive set, Ford and RAM are doing lots more.
When it comes to utility, however, the Chevy's Heavy Duty delivers on all counts. The new fully boxed frame enables the HD to haul and tow virtually any load you or your crew can reasonably handle. And its utility is enhanced by its mobility; buyers can opt for mobile Wi-Fi and enjoy USB connectivity, Bluetooth, Sirius XM and navigation. Multiple charge points throughout the cab allow for operation of multiple electronic devices.
As an older platform, the Silverado HD doesn't support the wide array of technology available in some of its competitors. That said, a range of CD/DVD/MP3-capable audio systems is available, as are navigation radio with USB port, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and SiriusXM NavTraffic, which can update you on traffic conditions in your area. OnStar is your connection for needs as wide-ranging as turn-by-turn directions and dinner recommendations. Finally, Wi-Fi is available via AutoNet Mobile.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2500 and 3500 HD both have a standard 6.0-liter V8 that provides a more than adequate 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. For maximum capability and a modicum of efficiency, heavy haulers will spec the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel, providing a slight bump in horsepower (to 397) and a quantum leap in torque to 765 lb-ft. Both powertrains provide competitive power in the heavy-duty category, although the Duramax/Allison transmission combo is arguably the current benchmark in personal-use diesels.
The EPA doesn't provide estimates for heavy duty truck applications, and actual economy will vary widely based on application. The 2500 HD's standard 36-gallon capacity does enable a diesel operator to travel up to 680 miles on one tank of gas, suggesting roughly 18 mpg on the open road.
Chevrolet offers a full menu of active-safety components, including four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, StabiliTrak electronic stability control and a trailer sway control system. Should you have an accident, head curtain side air bags with rollover protection are available, as are seat-mounted side-impact air bags for driver and right-front passenger; these provide thorax and pelvic protection.
OnStar is provided on all HD models except the Work Truck, where it is available as an option. Using GPS and cellular technology, OnStar will automatically call for help in the event of a crash.
Given the wide array of cabs, wheelbases, suspensions and drivetrains, a Silverado HD's ride, handling and performance are essentially what you want them to be. Just one example: The HD chassis can be ordered with one of five different torsion bar rates. And a Z71 off-road suspension is available on LT and LTZ models. It provides enhanced capability when the road to the work site ends before the work site begins.
If the ride/handling balance can best be described as workmanlike, so can the responsiveness of the available V8 engines. By its very nature, the 6.0-liter gasoline engine is more responsive. The diesel, meanwhile, provides the stump-pulling torque but slower response to throttle inputs.
Other Trucks to Consider
The Silverado 2500 HD's immediate competition is--and always has been--the Ford F-250 and (to a growing extent) Chrysler's Ram 2500. Both Ford and Ram offer newer designs, capable powertrains and more expansive technology.
We'd opt for an extended cab 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LT equipped with 4WD, the 6.0-liter V8, Z71 appearance package, off-road suspension and forged 18-inch wheels. So equipped, it would have a window sticker of just over $41,000 with destination. Given the menu of typical incentives, however, we'd expect it to buy it for a figure substantially lower than that.