Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

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Aug 21, 2014

This heavy-duty Chevy can tow till your heart’s content. A big-rig underscore is provided by the6.6 liter Duramax diesel and stout Allison 1000 transmission. Take off from a stop, and the variable-vane turbocharger goes “tweeeeeee” just like a mini Kenworth, and those vanes can also close down and act like an exhaust brake. With modern emissions controls, the diesel powertrain is clean, too. At least until some knucklehead makes it belch clouds of particulates.

This isn’t the only heavy-duty diesel pickup, everyone’s got one, but for now it’s the newest. Technology and engineering advances have given us 700 hp ponycars that are housecat tameand four-wheel-drive pickups with impressive press-release talking points.

  • 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque.
  • Allison 1000 6-speed automatic
  • 19,600 lbs towing capacity on the factory hitch
  • 23,200 lbs fifth-wheel capacity
  • 7,374 lbs maximum payload
  • Integral exhaust brake and trailer brake controller

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The Silverado 2500HD is a big slab of pickup. That’s no surprise, you expect a heavy-duty pickup truck to be rugged and capable; they always have been. The biggest surprise is how little it makes you pay for the ability to tow that 45-foot New Horizons Majestic you’ve had your eye on.

The Silverado HD will lighten your wallet efficiently. There it was on the sticker, a $60,000 bottom line. That’s not even fully-loaded, but a crew cab 2LT with some options including MyLink, navigation, and Bose audio. The four-wheel drive system is the kinder, gentler kind, actuated by electronic minions engaged by a knob on the dashboard. Refinement is also not new  to heavy-duty pickups, but the 2014 Silverado HD elevates the practice.

No matter how many phone calls I started with “hey, you know that car/trailer/scrap metal you need to move…?” I didn’t stand a chance of stressing the high payload or tow rating. The spray-in bedliner, soft-opening tailgate, hydroformed frame, factory tow hitch, front suspension made up of forged steel and cast iron control arms and all the other big-muscle details were forlorn and lonely. Instead, I basked in the way this truck serves as a refuge. Shut the door and the clamor of the jobsite is effectively sealed from the cabin. There is no transfer case lever protruding from the floor, the seats are ventilated and upholstered in perforated leather. An enormous center console with a row of USB ports and a 120-volt AC outlet sits in between the very comfortable power front buckets. The pedals power-adjust to meet you. A man could get used to this.

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Instead of pounding the kidney stones out of you, the ride is benign, even riding high on the jacked-up Z71 heavy-duty suspension. It’s a truck and you know it, but these things used to churn milk into butter. The easy way I could chew highway and achieve fuel economy around 20mpg has done nothing to blunt the dream of hauling some of Murilee’s highly-restorable Junkyard Finds back to the rust belt for fun and profit. Long miles pass beneath the Silverado 2500 HD without penalty. The 6.6 liter Duramax is strong, but feels laggy. You need to be firm with it if you need all the power, and the peak torque number trails the Ford and Ram offerings. The Allison transmission, on the other hand, is very smooth.

One area where the Silverado lets you down are the electronic extras. The audio system is slow to respond to the hard-to-find controls that are on the back of the steering wheel spokes. It’s a nice idea cribbed from Chrysler, but it’s not done as well here. It’s also a long reach to the tuning knob. The climate system has a bunch of small buttons with pictograms arrayed around the fan knob. It takes a second to figure out which one will give you what you want, and I have my doubts that it’ll be easy to operate with gloves. I also kept setting the alarm off when opening the door with the key. Weird.

It’s easy to get hung up on the facts and figures, or become offended by the idea of leather and navigation in a working truck, especially when the final tally pushes $60,000. There’s more configurability and choice in the truck market than anywhere else in all of autodom, and Chevrolet says the Silverado is the king of having it your way. You can configure this thing a zillion different ways, and the price drops to around $50,000 if you skip most of the options. Go for the gas engine instead of  the diesel and you’ll save over $7,000, putting you around $43,000 before the astounding incentives start. The Duramax is one expensive steroid, but have you seen the kinds of deals they’re making on anything with wheels lately?

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No wonder sales are juiced beyond belief. Get in on it now, before it totally collapses. If you do pull the trigger on a Silverado HD, you’ll get a brawny truck that can mix it up on the commute with surprising ease. You’ve got to take some care with the following distance and braking, but that’s because the Silverado 2500HD is so docile otherwise. It’s big, sure, but other than that, there’s little difference between driving a Malibu and this truck. That agreeable nature coupled with the quiet cabin and smoothed-over ride put the Silverado HD right in the middle of the field. A Ram 2500 Laramie with the 6.7 liter Cummins can be dressed up with an interior that feels more luxurious for around the same price. The Ford F250 Super Duty Lariat gets to diesel 4×4 with leather upholstery territory a few thousand dollars sooner, but it feels dated and cheap inside.

If all you want is a work truck from one of the leading brands, just throw a dart. They’ll all pull their guts out and get the job done. On the other hand, if you want something that straddles the line between burly mechanicals and baroque cabin luxury, the differences become more clear. On that measure, the Chevy is firmly in the middle of the road for the class.

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