Mountain Wheels: Chevy’s Silverado family goes gigantic with its 2500 HD
Like them (or loathe them), full-sized pickup trucks rule an increasingly chaotic America, with the big three domestic automakers striving for more outrageous output and capacity — and raking in tons of cash at the same time.
Today, let us address two members of the Chevy Silverado family, which has undergone some impressive transformations in and out over the past couple of years. Whether you are searching for the practically house-towing capabilities of the 2500 or 3500 Heavy Duty models — the most fully equipped Duramax turbodiesel version of the latter that can now tow up to 35,500 pounds — or a more standard 1500 pickup, you have some big choices.
The 2500 HD Custom Crew I had was something of an anomaly as it had all the external looks, bountiful brawn and capability of its higher-end variants but was about as austere on the inside as possible. This made it a super-gargantuan work or fleet truck that was sticker priced at $48,420, strangely sort of a bargain considering its omnipotent grandeur. Mine was actually level two of five grades of build and one of 22 configurations of engine, bed and cabs, topping out with a super-leathery and likely much more expensive High Country edition.
The 2500 HD test truck’s pricing included a fifth-wheel trailer setup and human torso-sized, split level trailering mirrors, possibly the largest I’ve ever seen, complete with integrated, rear-facing LED spotlights that I’m sure could be used to boost the Silverado’s occasionally sociopathic demeanor.
Proportions here are more like a diesel locomotive than a traditional automobile, and in the 4×4, it gets an even higher off-the-road lift, requiring actual climbing skills to get into the cabin — skid-proof, full-cabin running boards help in that effort, plus built-in bed-access steps both fore and aft of the rear wheel.
Overall length has grown nearly 10 inches from the 2019 model, and you are left to contend with a vehicle that is almost 250 inches long, nearly 82 inches wide and featuring a 158.9-inch-long wheelbase, another nearly five-inch increase, which once again creates rear seating with more leg room than a stretch limo.
I hoped for that 910 pound-feet diesel but was still pretty happy with a 6.6-liter V-8 offering 401 horsepower and 464 foot-pounds of torque, those numbers up 11% and 22%, respectively, from previous offerings. Despite the size, it was running between 16 and 17 mpg during regular unladen use, which I suppose is not terrible.
It’s one of the few vehicles I’ve driven that is so genuinely humungous that you really do have to pay attention to lane integrity and the pure physics of cornering, especially on curvy roads. When I see other drivers totally hauling their heavy-duty half-tons like nobody’s business, I now know that’s purely irresponsible behavior. This thing was indeed tall and heavily weighted on curves, and required due care and attention.
Design has gone from imposing to totally menacing, with a slightly unconventional two-level setup that sees smaller Camaro-styled horizontal LED running lamps on top and ultra-gigantic, box-sized headlamps below — all designed to help keep smaller vehicles out of your way, I suppose.
Trailering is absolutely central here and on better-equipped models (mine had a super-sparse radio head unit and almost nothing else in the cabin) you can get a sophisticated trailer viewing system, with up to 15 views and the option of a remote camera to help you see what’s really behind you.
Contrast this all with a further drive I had a while back with the updated standard Silverado 1500, this one a chromed-out LT-trim double-cab model featuring the new 2.7-liter turbo engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Note to self: When doing some fall-season driveway camping after a Summit Daily News staff reunion party in Buena Vista, my game-time decision to sleep in the double-cab rear seat meant room more like the Apollo command module than the acres of floor space found in crew-cab land. Ouch.
Nonetheless, the smaller Silverado is still a sturdy and capable machine — priced more than the 2500 HD, oddly, with a $49,365 price tag that had leather seats, a bed protection package and 18-inch wheels.
That four-cylinder engine setup still provided comfortably middle-of-the-road power compared to the three V-8, single V-6 or turbodiesel options available: I experienced up to 24 mpg highway even in a 4WD configuration, with 310 horsepower and some 348 foot-pounds of quick-to-get-moving torque.
Like its larger sibling, Silverado is still burly and robust in its style, but its driving character was completely different. It’s easy going and simple to handle, with a smooth, almost car-like ride.
Far back, the soft-drop tailgate is helpful and trailering accessories in the rear meant you could haul 6,700 pounds in this particular configuration. Other 1500 models can handle as much as 13,400 pounds.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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