Recently, I had the opportunity to drive the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD in the kind of real-life situations that are the primary reason many folks opt for HD pickups over standard-duty models. At a press event in the blue-collar bastion of Davenport, Iowa, I got my first experience towing equipment that many in the construction industry are already familiar with: John Deere Excavators and Track Loaders. With the addition of Big Tex trailers, the event was not only fun and exciting, but gave a great deal of insight to the features that make the Chevrolet Silverado HD such a strong contender in the heavy-duty arena.
Unless you’re in the construction industry or own a boat, chances are, like me, you’ve never towed anything larger than a U-Haul trailer or a Jet Ski, which at most probably weigh around 3,000 pounds. At the John Deere-GM event, the lightest trailer/ equipment combination tipped the scales at just under 10,000 lbs. Just how heavy is 10,000 lbs? It’s more than two rhinos, three Chevrolet Malibus or 10 Grand Pianos. That amount of heft can be a bit intimidating, especially when you haven’t pulled anything much larger than a trailer full of yard equipment. Luckily, GM had a highly knowledgeable staff on hand to shepherd me through the process of towing equipment large enough to crush my daily driver like an empty Budweiser can.
The first vehicle I strapped into was a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD tethered to a Big Tex conventional trailer, which had been loaded with a John Deere Compact Track Loader. The term "compact" is somewhat of a misnomer, however, as total tow weight came in at 11,645 lbs. That much weight might make a standard-duty pickup fold under the pressure, but thankfully, the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine had more than enough gusto to get the job done. With a GM engineer to my right, I buckled into the 2500HD, adjusted my mirrors and made my way toward the world’s largest truck stop: the Iowa 80.
As we accelerated on to the highway with tow mode engaged, the 2500HD intuitively selected the appropriate gear, making towing the heavy equipment a breeze. The integrated trailer brake control gave me a bit of peace of mind, knowing that the Big Tex trailer containing more weight than a small family of rhinos was linked with the Silverado’s own braking system, meaning less possibility of calamity. In departing the highway, I experienced the functionality of these systems working in concert with the included exhaust brake control, which uses the turbo as an engine brake during deceleration. We then arrived at the Iowa 80, where I switched Silverados for an untethered version of the 2500HD. Without a trailer attached, the 2500HD felt strong and almost on the verge of agile. I found it easy to drive, stylish and the type of vehicle that can handle business while looking good at the same time.
My time in the 3500HD was slightly different, albeit positive. Due to the size of the trailer needed to transport the larger equipment, someone with a Commercial Driver’s License was required. I recruited a GM staff member with a CDL, and we headed back toward the Iowa 80 truck-stop circuit. My initial reaction was to be awestruck, as the heavy-duty Silverado dually pulled the 20,330 lbs of Big Tex gooseneck trailer loaded with John Deere equipment behind it effortlessly. The only minor issue was the shaking caused by the well-worn road, pockmarked from years of semis, heavy-duty trucks and equipment making their way across it. After arriving safely at the truck stop, I migrated into a trailerless Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD, which was ready to bring me back to my starting point. Much like the 2500HD, the 3500HD was attractive and powerful, though it did not feel quite as agile as its less-muscular sibling. This could likely be to the dual rear wheel setup, but nonetheless the pickup was still fairly easy to maneuver in Iowa’s wide expanses.
As a bonus, the event wrapped up at the John Deere testing facility, where I was able to see the Chevrolet Silverados in their natural habitat: loading and unloading heavy equipment at a job site. After a brief demonstration of the speed and ease with which equipment can be unloaded, used and then loaded again, I was able to actually operate some of the John Deere equipment. It was very cool to experience the remarkable capability that the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD have to offer, as well as what a day in the life of one of their owners might be like.