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Heavy-duty pickup trucks don't get any better than the heavy-duty Silverado line. General Motors completely re-engineered its heavy-duty pickups last year. Based on our driving experience, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra appear to be the best heavy-duty pickups on the market.
That's a strong statement, but they boast the most power, the heftiest gross vehicle weight rating and the highest gross combined vehicle weight rating available. More noticeable on a daily basis is their superior refinement. They offer excellent handling, the smoothest ride and the most up-to-date interiors.
Two monster engines are available in addition to the standard 6.0-liter V8: an 8.1-liter Vortec V8 that develops 455 foot-pounds of torque, and the mighty new Duramax 6600 diesel V8 that generates 520 foot-pounds of torque. Each is available with the truly impressive Allison five-speed automatic transmission.
Heavy-duty Silverado pickups are broadly divided into the 2500 HD series and the 3500 series. "Half-ton," "3/4-ton" and "one-ton" are outdated terms because modern trucks haul far more than 1000-2000 pounds. Many of us, however, still tend to refer to the Silverado 1500 and 2500 series as the half-ton trucks (see separate nctd.com review of the Silverado 1500 and 2500 light-duty trucks).
2500 HD pickups are what we generically call 3/4-ton trucks. All Chevy 2500 HD trucks come with single rear wheels.
3500-series trucks all come with dual rear wheels; these so-called one-ton trucks are often called "duallies."
Regular Cab, Extended Cab and Crew Cab bodies are available with 6.5-foot short beds or 8-foot long beds. Wheelbases run 133, 143.5, 153.0, 157.5, and 167 inches long on 2500 HD pickups; wheelbases are available in 133, 157.5, 161.5, and 167.5 inches on 3500 duallies. All use the standard Fleetside-style body.
Three trim levels are offered: base, LS and LT.
Engine choices: 6.0-liter Vortec V8, 8.1-liter Vortec V8, and 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel.
Just as important are the transmission choices: five-speed manual, six-speed manual, four-speed automatic ($1095 on base and LS, standard on LT), and an exciting new Allison five-speed automatic ($1200 on LT, $2295 on base or LS models). And, of course, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
Retail prices range from less than $23,000 for a 2500HD 2WD Regular Cab to more than $43,000 for a fully loaded 4WD Crew Cab with the Duramax diesel and Allison automatic.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering - which improves low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability - will be extended to several more GM full-size trucks during 2002. The system, first introduced exclusively on the GMC Sierra Denali, will be offered this calendar year as a regular production option on properly equipped 2002 GMC Sierra Wideside and Chevrolet Silverado Fleetside 2WD and 4WD extended cab short-box pickups.
Chevy's heavy-duty Silverados offer excellent ride quality and lots of power with the capability of carrying big loads and pulling heavy trailers.
Whether 2WD or 4WD, the ride quality is nice. These trucks ride much smoother than GM's pre-2001 heavy-duty trucks and better than Ford's Super Duty trucks. Handling is surprisingly good for such a big truck. They can cover ground quickly, even on winding rural roads. A hydroformed front frame let GM's engineers to tune the suspension more precisely for a better ride and handling. Front suspensions use torsion bars for durability. The front axles are designed to take up to 4800 pounds, while the rear axles can handle up to 8600 pounds.
Four-wheel disc brakes have reduced stopping distances and give the driver a solid pedal feel, a huge improvement over GM's previous-generation trucks. Bigger front rotors, larger brake pads, improved linings offer better stopping power and longer pad life. Dynamic rear proportioning shortens stopping distances by transferring front and rear brake bias to the tires with the best grip.
The base engine is the Vortec 6000, a 6.0-liter V8 (366 cubic inches) that generates 300 horsepower and 360 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. Introduced for 1999, it's designed for a 200,000-mile operating life with 10,000-mile oil change intervals. Its aluminum cylinder head is similar to that of the L56 Corvette. It comes with a choice of a heavy-duty five-speed manual and GM's optional 4L80-E four-speed electronically controlled automatic, which features the Tow/Haul mode.
Want more power? The big Vortec 8100 V8 delivers 455 pounds-feet of peak torque at 3200 rpm. Torque is that force that propels the truck off the line and this 8.1-liter, 496 cubic-inch V8 has gobs of it. It generates 400 lbs.-ft. at just 1600 rpm. Don't expect neck-snapping acceleration, however. Quicker acceleration performance when towing is the objective. And it does this very well. Introduced last year, this 8.1-liter V8 replaces GM's 7.4-liter V8. It has advanced features such as an engine oil life monitor and a limp-home mode.
The new Duramax 6600 diesel is smooth, quiet, and powerful. It punches out an amazing 520 lbs.-ft. of torque at just 1800 rpm. GM's Duramax diesel engine is built in Moraine, Ohio, but was developed with Isuzu, one of the world's largest manufacturers of diesel engines. The new 6.6-liter Duramax offers improved fuel economy over the old 6.5-liter GM diesel it replaced. The Duramax was designed for a 200,000-mile operating life, according to GM engineers, and for easy serviceability. Half of heavy-duty truck pickups are sold with diesel engines.
The Duramax and Vortec 8100 offer a choice of a ZF six-speed manual or optional Allison 1000 five-speed automatic. Both have close-ratio gearing, which provides exceptional launch, hill climbing, and towing capability and economy. Their heavy-duty components are stronger than those typically found in one-ton truck transmissions, providing exceptional durability.
The ZF six-speed manual is easy to shift and is fully synchronized in all gears with dual-cone synchronizers in second and third. A convenient shift pattern allows the shift lever to be moved forward for reverse and straight back for first, making it easier to maneuver quickly in tight spaces. Second gear works well for taking off with a light load; first is a creeper gear.
As good as the six-speed manual is, the optional Allison five-speed automatic is one of the most impressive features of these trucks. We highly recommend it for its responsive performance. Available for the Vortec 8100 and Duramax engines, the Allison is designed to last 200,000 miles; GM engineers said it's "over-designed," meaning it's heavier duty than it needs to be. But it's also sophisticated and keeps in close contact with the driver and the engine with full electronic control. It adjusts shifting according to driving style. The Tow/Haul mode keeps the transmission in ge
Heavy-duty trucks have never been better than the Chevy Silverado. About one-third of all full-size pickup buyers opt for heavy-duty models, and they couldn't go wrong with the Silverado 2500 HD or 3500. These are great trucks.
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