Mountain Wheels: Chevy Silverado serves up some American heavy metal |

Mountain Wheels: Chevy Silverado serves up some American heavy metal

The 2021 Chevy Silverado mixes things up with an expanded range of engines, including an available 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel that can push mileage to as much as 33 mpg.
General Motors/Courtesy photo

Chevrolet’s Silverado line offers a very wide range of options and price points to compete with Ram and Ford, and with an ultra-performance-oriented ZR2 off-road model on the horizon, there will also be choices to fight with monsters including the Raptor and Ram TRX.

In the meantime, let me focus on two 2021 Silverados I got to drive earlier this year, as the upgraded 2022 models are delayed a bit and will likely appear this spring — barring the kind of production delays that have challenged all carmakers.

I had a slightly unique build of the standard Silverado 1500, as it was customized with both the 3.0-liter Duramax inline-6 turbo-diesel engine and the current ZR1 off-road package. That included enhanced twin-tube shocks, skid plates and painted 20-inch aluminum wheels and off-road tires.

The engine, one of five available across the Silverado line for 2021 models, trades off a slightly sedate 277 horsepower figure with an impressive 460 pound-feet of torque, as much as you’ll find produced by the massive 6.2-liter V-8 option. And at the same time, it can generate as much as 33 mpg on the highway but still be capable of pulling as much as 9,500 pounds of trailer.

My $56,950 Crew Cab RST model with four-wheel drive promised up to 26 mpg on the highway but also crept close to 30 mpg at moments during a drive through Winter Park up to Granby. That diesel is relatively noticeable on startup, especially in cold weather, but that tangible extra uphill pull helped create an overall bulletproof experience. The upgraded suspension helped contribute to a feeling of stability and agility, even on corners, that was not at all indicative of the truck’s hugeness.

The 2021’s bold face, tall tail and generally brawny demeanor — which will get an even meaner look in the spring — compete nicely with the other domestic trucks. I was equally interested in what you did not get for nearly $57,000: stuff like a sunroof, phone-charging pad, navigation or around-view cameras. It does still aim toward a Denali-styled level of interior comfort, with glossy highlights in the cabin, chrome-styled accents and a tall, flat dash with tons of storage and an animal grain effect.

Accessing the four-wheel drive mode is made easy with controls on the upper left side of the dash. (I inadvertently left it in four-wheel drive during a lot of dry-road driving, but it’s very easily switchable.) A couple of USB, 120-volt and cigarette lighter power outlets round things out, plus dedicated trailer controls.

Other Silverado builds can include a new 2.7-liter gasoline turbo that pushes mileage into the 23 mpg range. A 4.3-liter V-6 and the 5.3-liter V-8 are other options.

For almost the same price, however, a Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab in LTZ trim plus another ultra-chunky ZL1 sport package absolutely escalated the experience. At $61,220, the 2500HD was powered by pleasantly monstrous 6.6-liter V-8, making 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque, and turning in a moderately embarrassing but big-truck-styled 14.5 mpg.

Heavy duty utility and towing is the name of the game here, and with the fifth-wheel trailer setup mine had, 2500HD can tow as much as 17,370 pounds. It can carry almost 4,000 pounds of payload in the bed, or yank up to 14,500 pounds of trailer with a regular hitch setup.

If that’s not enough for your needs, there’s also a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel with 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque, plus a 10-speed automatic transmission … and towing capacity topping out at 18,500 pounds.

Not unlike the Ford 2500 Tremor I wrote about a few weeks ago, Silverado’s 2500HD physique is massive and borders on the ungainly in some urban circumstances. It’s the only vehicle I’ve ever had whose box completely ate up a full-size mattress, no questions. And with the ZL1’s lift, off-road tires and 18-inch wheels and the power lift-and-drop tailgate still coming to my chest when lowered, the 2500HD’s bigness is kind of scary.

Luckily, seemingly 20-foot-long assist step running boards made it a little easier to settle into that tractor trailer-height cabin. Two-level trailering mirrors threatened every stop sign, and seven-point turns were common in any enclosed space, though a multiview rear camera will help folks, especially when handling trailer duty.

The mass also led to some tangible car sickness on bad and bouncy sections of freeway, but I was once again amazed how simple and versatile the big Silverado was once you hit smoother roads.

Andy Stonehouse

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