By Jil McIntosh, Driving.ca – In the world of truck advertising, torque and towing are kings. It’s an all-out war and there are some pretty impressive numbers out there, but there’s more to a truck than just pound-feet and how much it can pull.
Those biggest numbers belong to the heavy-duty trucks – three-quarter-ton (2500/250) and one-ton (3500/350) – and I had the Chevrolet Silverado 2500. The heavy-duty Silverado models, and their mechanically-identical GMC Sierra siblings, start with a 6.0-litre V8 gasoline engine making 360 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.
My chariot carried the optional Duramax 6.6-L V8 turbodiesel engine, which ups the ante to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque. It’s not a cheap upgrade; the engine is an additional $10,430 and it hooks exclusively to an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, priced separately at $1,445. The Silverado 2500 starts at $42,070 for the Regular Cab 4×2 in Work Truck trim, while my Crew Cab 4×4 LTZ tester began at $63,065 with gas engine.
Adding the optional diesel engine and transmission, along with such options as a Midnight Edition black-out accent package, power sunroof and Z71 off-road package, brought it to $80,005 before freight and taxes. In a nutshell, trucks ain’t cheap anymore.
An all-new Silverado 1500 half-ton is coming for 2019, completely redone from the tires up. The new heavy-duty versions usually lag at least a year or two behind, so expect the current-generation 2500 and 3500 to hang in for a while.
The Silverado’s 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque slots in between archrivals Ford F-250, with a 6.7L Power Stroke diesel that makes 450 hp and 935 lb-ft of torque, and the Ram 2500, with a 6.7-L Cummins engine that cranks out 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. That’s about it for your choices in this segment. Toyota doesn’t make a heavy-duty Tundra, while Nissan offers the Titan XD, a truck it says bridges the gap between half- and three-quarter-ton models, and with an available 5.0 L Cummins that makes 555 lb-ft of torque.
As for towing, turn off the TV when the oversized numbers start rolling up. Tow ratings are a complicated science, and whenever an automaker promises you’ll be able to haul an apartment building off its foundation, that’s the very top number for specific truck configurations with a specific type of hitch. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Buy the truck that best matches your trailer.
I recently towed and hauled with all of the Detroit Three heavy-duty trucks in back-to-back testing, and all of them get the job done without fuss, but I give the nod ahead to the Chevy. That Duramax-Allison combination is a match made in heaven; acceleration is smooth and linear with a heavy load, and braking is confidence inspiring. The Silverado’s exhaust brake sound is nowhere near as much fun as the Ram’s booming hey-good-buddy-we-got-a-convoy blatt, but it does a good job of slowing everything down on deceleration.
All of these big trucks are meant to look intimidating, and the Silverado plays the part with its huge domed hood and squared-off styling (beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I think the GMC Sierra is better looking). At the back, GM uses a simple step into the bumper ends that’s absolutely brilliant: Put your foot in, grab the handhold in the box side, and pull yourself up (and you need it, because trucks these days are needlessly oversized). Ford gives you a tailgate-mounted step that works well, but requires you to pull it out and set it up, while Ram offers nothing more than a sliver of rubber-topped bumper when the tailgate’s down, and I’m terrified that my toe will slip and my knee will slam into the edge on my way down.
Still, not everything on the Chevy seems as smart as its step. The front bumper is cut out to provide airflow for the intercooler, but without a protective mesh over it, it looks vulnerable to stones and debris. Meanwhile, the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank sits lot under the passenger-side rocker, waiting for a driver to bump over a tall curb. The stock mirrors are also too small for the truck’s size. Why make a fuss over what it can pull, and then expect customers to pay $450 for optional towing mirrors?
The interior is a nice place to be, and the Silverado features supportive seats, a roomy second row with fold-up seats for extra storage, large centre storage console, and controls that are easy to use, even when you’re wearing gloves. And unfortunately you are likely to have them on in this truck. While it sounds like a needless luxury, heated steering wheels are the new gotta-have-it feature, especially on a truck where the idea, at least in theory, involves some work outdoors in the cold. The top-trim High Country has one, but not this LTZ tester, and it’s a glaring omission on something that costs 80 grand.
Heavy-duty diesels are seldom an impulse buy, but if it’s your first one, remember that in addition to the engine’s initial stiff cost, it’s also more expensive to service. So ignore the big numbers in the ads and instead consider your needs, and buy appropriately.
Overview: Chevrolet’s entry in the tow-and-torque wars
Pros: Impressive engine and transmission combination, simple box step, nice interior
Cons: A few missing items, considering its trim level
Value for money: Good
What I would change: Give it bigger mirrors
How I would spec it: LT trim; it is one step below, but still lots of stuff