When it comes to heavy-duty haulers, you can always expect a scrap between General Motors, Ford and Dodge as to which brand has the most power, offers the biggest payload and can haul the biggest yacht.
The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD appears determined to assume the lead when it makes its summer debut.
In this category, the vast majority of buyers depend on these trucks for their livelihoods, while a relatively small minority use them to tow massive fifth-wheel travel trailers. It’s really a numbers game for both groups of people, who carefully consider cab configurations, payload ratings, towing capacities, box sizes and powertrain output before investing a sizeable chunk of their cash.
Chevrolet thinks is has the right stuff to attract the Heavy Duty crowd with a host of new features and technologies plus a superior level of bar-raising muscle.
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Structurally, the Silverado’s variety of uses necessitates no fewer than 11 frame assemblies, all of which have been significantly stiffened to resist bending and twisting. The engine and transmission mounts have been enlarged and hydraulic body mounts are used on extended-cab and crew-cab models to isolate the passenger compartment from powertrain and road vibrations.
The steering has been upgraded and the redesigned front suspension can now better support more weight. According to Chevrolet, these changes improve ride and handling and make the HD better able to function with a snow plow on all cab models with four-wheel-drive.
The rear leaf springs have also been beefed up and now feature a 6,200-pound gross rear axle rating on the 2500 (three-quarter-ton) HD series, up from the the previous 6,084-pound mark (the rear axle ratings on the 3500 (one-ton) HD single and dual rear-wheel models have also increased).
The HD can now trailer up to 16,000 pounds (previously 13,000 pounds) using a conventional ball hitch, or up to 20,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch, up from 18,500 pounds.
The base 6.0-liter pushrod V8’s remains unchanged at 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. By comparison, the upcoming 2011 Ford Super Duty will arrive with 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque produced by its new 6.2-liter V8, while Chrysler’s Ram HD’s 5.7-liter V8 generates 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.
The real game-changer is the Silverado’s optional (and very popular) 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V8 that retains the outgoing motor’s displacement, but now puts out 397 horsepower and an earth-shaking 765 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the Ford SD’s 390 horses and 735 pound-feet of torque emanating from its 6.7-liter V8 turbo-diesel, or the Ram’s optional 6.7-liter six-cylinder turbo-diesel that’s worth 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet torque. All are capable of just about any task you can dole out, so, yes, this is a bit of a numbers game, but one that Chevy is probably happy to be winning.
Both base and optional engines employ six-speed automatic transmissions: a GM-developed Hydramatic comes with the 6.0, while the turbo-diesel employs an Allison-built unit.
Chevy has added its “smart exhaust brake system” to the turbo-diesel for 2011. When coasting, compressed exhaust gasses are contained inside the engine’s cylinders, forcing it to turn more slowly, which in turn slows down the truck without touching the brakes. The result is less wear and tear on the brake hardware and greater control for the driver, especially when hauling or towing heavy loads downhill.
Included is a stability program that reduces the trailer’s tendency to wiggle around, while hill-start assist prevents the HD from rolling backward when on an incline.The list of standard HD equipment on the WT (Work Truck), LT and LTZ trim levels is tremendous, as is the options list. You can, quite literally, outfit the HD from bare-bones basic to over-the-edge luxury.
Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but the starting point will likely be around $30,000. That’s actually a reasonable sum for a pickup that, unlike dogs or people, continues to improve with age.