Editor’s note: You may want also want to read the 2007-2010 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD used car review and the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD & 3500HD review.
The 2001-2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD pickup is GM’s answer to the big success of Ford’s Super Duty F-250 pickup introduced in 1998. The idea was to create a line of heavy-duty 3/4-ton pickups with greater payload and trailer towing capabilities, without too many frills. Beginning with a stiffer frame and wider stance, the Silverado 2500 HD added tough chassis components, such as Hydroboost recirculating-ball power steering, torsion-bar front suspension, massive 4-wheel discs with ABS, tough 8-lug wheels, an all-V8 engine lineup to choose from and a commercially proven optional Allison 5-speed automatic transmission. Together, these components enabled payloads ranging from around 3,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds, and tow ratings from 10,600 pounds and up. The 2001-2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD also looked tougher than the 1500, with a taller grille, domed hood and bulging wheel flares. Chevrolet introduced a new-generation Silverado 2500 HD in the spring of 2007 but continued to offer the previous (2006) version as the Silverado Classic Heavy Duty pickup during the first half of 2007. The 2001 Silverado HD pickup was named Motor Trend Truck of the Year. See the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 models for sale near you
Why You Want It
The 2001-2005 Silverado 2500HD pickup is designed with a heavy-duty frame, suspension, steering and brakes to handle heavier payloads and towing jobs. With its standard 300-hp 6.0-liter V8 and heavy-duty drivetrain, it’s built to go hundreds of thousands of miles with minimal care, and it can take abuse in stride. If you want the easy torque, pulling power and fuel economy of a turbodiesel, the optional Isuzu codeveloped Duramax V8 has a good reputation for long-running durability. It can be teamed with the Allison 1000 5-speed automatic, legendary for its toughness in large, commercial trucks.
Notable Features and Options
The 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD is offered in a 3-passenger 2-door Regular Cab. It is also offered in 5-to-6-passenger 4-door Extended Cab and 4-door Crew Cab configurations, with a Wideside 8-foot long box or 6-1/2-foot regular box. The Extended Cab has smaller, rear-hinged rear doors, while the Crew Cab has full-size, front-hinged rear doors and about 6 inches more rear legroom.
Base and Work Truck Silverado 2500HD trim includes a 6.0-liter Vortec V8, 5-speed manual transmission, 245/75SR-16 tires on steel wheels, vinyl floor covering and 3-passenger 40/20/40 bench front seat, A/C, automatic headlamps, a 4-speaker AM/FM radio, tilt steering wheel, 34-gallon fuel tank, intermittent wipers, tachometer and an engine hour meter. A CD player and cruise control are standard on base trim from 2003 on.
Moving up to the LS model adds the following: carpeting; cloth seats; CD player; cruise control; leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel; front center armrest with storage; security system; keyless remote with panic alarm; and power windows, mirrors and door locks. From 2003 to 2005, standard LS trim includes an auto-dimming inside mirror with outside temperature display and compass, as well as a heated rear window and side mirrors. The 2006 LS model strips out the standard leather steering wheel, keyless remote, security system, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temp display, heated side mirrors and power windows, door locks and side mirrors. The model moves those items to a new LT1 trim.
Opting for the top-of-the-line LT trim on 2001-2005 models gains heated leather front power bucket seats with memory, heated rear window and outside mirrors, auto dimming inside mirror, outside temperature display, compass, OnStar, aluminum wheels, fog lamps and automatic transmission. Starting with 2003 models, LT trim includes a trip computer, steering-wheel audio controls, automatic A/C and turn-signal indicator side mirrors. Beginning in 2006, most of the above LT trim standard items are included in a new LT2 model, but heated front leather buckets with memory and aluminum wheels are part of a new LT3 trim. All LTs are Extended or Crew Cabs with 26-gallon fuel tanks.
Popular options include a sliding rear window, upgraded Bose sound systems, XM satellite radio, tubular assist steps, bed extender, bed rail protectors and a tonneau cover.
There are two shift-on-the-fly 4WD systems available. Insta-Trac on base, Work Truck and LS trims has the traditional range lever on the floor, while LT trims feature the Autotrac push-button-activated system. Autotrac is an automatic 4WD system that defaults to rear-wheel drive unless slippage is detected, whereupon the system engages 4WD High range. A locking rear differential is also available.
The 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD offers towing capacity that’s competitive with the Ford Super Duty and Dodge RAM Heavy Duty pickups. This ranges from 10,600 pounds with the Regular Cab and base 6.0-liter Vortec V8 to more than 16,000 pounds with the 8.1-liter Vortec V8 or 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 when equipped with a fifth wheel and gooseneck hitch.
2002: All trims get a chrome grille and front bumper.
2003: Facelift gives new front-end appearance resembling Avalanche and TrailBlazer. XM Satellite radio is a new option. Work Truck version of Base model debuts. Bose audio system offered. New dual-zone climate control, instrument panel, seats and center console.
2005: Hood and grille redesigned. Sunroof package with Homelink garage door opener on LS and LT models is offered. Dual electric cooling fans replace single engine-driven one. Output of Duramax diesel increased to 605 lb-ft when teamed with Allison 5-speed automatic. Snowplow Prep Package upgraded with 160-amp alternator.
2006: Revised Duramax diesel gets uprated to 360 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque when teamed with Allison 5-speed automatic. Extendable camper mirrors revised. OnStar and XM radio antennas combined.
Engines and Performance
A 6.0-liter Vortec V8 is the base engine in all 2001-2006 2500HDs. The 6.0-liter makes 300 hp at 4400 rpm and 360-370 lb-ft of torque at 4000. It is teamed with a standard 5-speed manual transmission — except for LT models, which feature a standard GM-built 4L80 4-speed automatic (optional with the 6.0-liter and lesser trims). Optional on all trims are an 8.1-liter big-block Vortec gas V8 and a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8, teamed with either a heavy-duty ZF 6-speed manual or Allison 1000 5-speed automatic. The 8.1-liter makes 330-340 hp at 4200 rpm and 450-455 lb-ft of torque at 3200. The Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel delivers 300-310 hp at 3000 rpm and 520 lb-ft of torque at 1800 rpm on 2001-2004 models. Engine mods bump the automatic-transmission version of the Duramax to 605 lb-ft at 1600 rpm for 2005. In 2006, the automatic-transmission version of the Duramax gets reworked again, this time producing 360 hp at 3200 rpm and a stump-pulling 650 lb-ft of torque at 1600. The GM 4-speed and Allison 5-speed automatics feature tow/haul mode for better control and performance when trailering. Tow/Haul delays upshifts and gives earlier downshifts when activated.
Because all 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HDs have gross vehicle weight ratings over 8,500 pounds, they are exempt from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing and therefore no fuel economy estimates are available.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the following safety recalls for the 2001-2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD:
2001-2002: In areas exposed to road salt, corroded wheel-speed sensor may cause unwanted anti-lock brake operation.
2001-2004: Galvanized tailgate support cables may corrode and break. Dealer to replace with stainless-steel cables.
2001-2005: On manual-transmission trucks with worn brake linings, parking brake may not hold on hill.
2003-2006: 8.1-liter V8 fuel rail may leak, presenting a fire hazard.
2004-2005: Hydro-boost accumulator may crack, resulting in loss of steering and braking.
2005: Automatic transmission gear indicator in instrument panel may not illuminate.
2005: Intermediate steering shaft may separate from steering box.
2006: Power steering hose may fracture and leak, resulting in loss of steering and braking.
NHTSA has not tested any heavy-duty pickups, so frontal and side impact star ratings are not available for the 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did not test the 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD.
The 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD came with 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties with roadside assistance. Corrosion perforation coverage expanded to 72 months or 100,000 miles.
The 2001-2006 Silverado 2500HD does not qualify for Chevrolet’s certified pre-owned program because used trucks more than five years old or with over 75,000 miles are not eligible. Newer trucks that pass the mileage and age tests get a 172-point inspection and are sold with a 1-year/12,000-mile limited warranty with roadside assistance and 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Word on the Web
Consumerreports.org gave 2003-2006 gas-engine Silverado HD pickups above-average reliability ratings for engine, transmission, electrical and body hardware areas but worse-than-average ratings for drive system and climate control. For diesels, CR rated the 2003-2006 Silverado HD pickups better than average in the areas of cooling, brakes, transmission, exhaust, paint and trim and squeaks and rattles; however, CR rated these pickups below average for drive system, fuel system and suspension.
Carcomplaints.com reports that the biggest issue on Silverado 2500HDs is cracked and leaking brake lines on 2001-2003 models.
Motortrend.com heaped high praise on its long-term 2001 Silverado 2500HD tester equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel. It commented that the truck was quiet on a cruise, had more-than-ample torque for climbing hills and handling altitude and made child’s play out of heavy loads, with fuel economy and interior comfort good for 400-mile runs between stops. Only the bouncy, harsh unloaded ride quality came in for criticism, but that was offset by its surprisingly good handling. Motortrend.com tested a mechanically identical GMC Sierra 2500HD in 2004 in a turbodiesel shootout with a Dodge RAM 2500 Heavy Duty and a Ford Super Duty F-250. The shootout’s results showed the GM diesel as having the best measured fuel economy over a controlled test loop — 18.6 mpg for the GM truck, compared to 17.4 for the Dodge Cummins and 16.6 for the Ford Navistar.
There are only three competitors for the Silverado 2500HD: the Ford SuperDuty F-250, Dodge RAM 2500 Heavy Duty and the mechanically identical GMC 2500HD, each with a fiercely loyal following. Each of these trucks will run several hundred thousand miles without major overhaul if maintained properly. The Ford is the sales leader in HD pickups; however, durability problems with the Navistar-supplied diesel have hurt its reputation — something to watch out for when buying used. A large percentage of Dodge RAM heavy-duty pickups were sold with the well-regarded Cummins diesel. But rough-road ride with the solid front-axle RAMs will jiggle your gizzard. Otherwise, in every major category that counts — engine choices, towing and hauling ability, durability, resale value and cab and bed choices — the Ford Super Duty and Dodge RAM Heavy Duty offer compelling value.
Auto Trader Recommendations
For a Silverado 2500HD that will handle anything you throw at it and keep chugging mile after mile, it’s hard to beat an Extended or Crew Cab 2WD with LS trim, the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 and 5-speed Allison 1000 automatic transmission. Go for 4WD if back-country use or snow-country weather dictates. Do not opt for larger-diameter wheels, because as tough as the 2500HD is, running with 18s or 20s could result in frame cracking.
Stay away from modified rigs if possible and get a vehicle history report to make sure the Silverado’s safety recalls and product updates have been completed. Find a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 for sale