2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD — Review
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2013.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
In many parts of this country, a man's worth is measured — rightly or wrongly — by the capability of his pickup truck. Until recently, that meant the manly men who drove a Ford Super Duty were perceived to be more able than those who didn't, simply because Ford trucks outperform the competition in head-to-head comparisons. Chevy aims to change that perception with its 2011 redesign of the Silverado HD. The towing and hauling capacity of this new workhorse is as much as or more than the trucks from the Blue Oval, and it rides and handles better than any of its predecessors. Even though the Silverado HD might trail the Ford in the "cool tech" department, it can definitely work just as hard, which is where it counts, right?
Trim levels include WT (Work Truck), LT and LTZ. Standard equipment on the WT includes vinyl floors and upholstery, air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo, a trip computer, a 40/20/40 split front bench seat, a tilt steering wheel, a folding rear bench for extended cabs, a 60/40 split-folding rear bench for crew cabs and LT246/75R17 tires on steel wheels.
The LT version add carpeting with floor mats, cloth upholstery, a CD player, XM Satellite Radio, OnStar assistance with a 6-month subscription, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, a front seat fold-down armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and alloy wheels.
Top-level LTZ trims get leather upholstery, 10-way power adjustable front bucket seats with center console, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Bose audio system, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, a Bluetooth cell phone link, steering wheel audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview and driver's side mirrors, remote starting, a locking rear differential and an integrated brake controller. All 3500 iterations come with LT265/70R18 tires on alloy wheels, except for duallies (dual rear wheels, meaning two per side), which are outfitted with LT235/80R17 tires.
Standard safety features consist of dual front airbags, tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, and hill-start assist. All non-duallie models also get electronic stability control. Safety options include side-curtain airbags with rollover deployment, front side airbags, rear park assist and a rearview camera.
Under the Hood
An updated 6.6-liter Duramax turbocharged diesel V8 engine is optional in all trims. It produces 397 horsepower at 3000 rpm and a whopping 765 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm. It is mated to an Allison 6-speed automatic transmission, also with manual shift capability and a tow/haul feature.
As a heavy-duty truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 8,500 pounds, the Silverado HD is not subject to EPA fuel-economy ratings. However, Chevrolet says the diesel engine is 11 percent more efficient than last year and the range is 680 miles. It has a 36-gallon fuel tank, so highway fuel economy comes out to 18.9 mpg.
Towing in 2500 versions reaches 13,000 pounds. In the 3500 that number reaches 17,000 pounds. Maximum payload is 4,192 pounds in a 2500 trim, 4,632 pounds in a 3500 with single rear wheels, and 6,635 pounds in a 3500 duallie.
Chevy calls the HD the most expensive tool in its customers' toolboxes, and buyers can outfit their trucks to be Spartan workhorses or comfortable offices on wheels. Base WT trims are rather bare, with vinyl upholstery and floor covering. LT buyers get carpeting and cloth upholstery, and LTZ customers add leather. Amenities range from simple power accessories and air conditioning to Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, Bose audio and a rear DVD entertainment system.
Compared with recent updates from Ford and Ram, the Silverado falls down in terms of technology and an interior design that is contractor-friendly. GM would be wise to catch up.
On the Road
The stronger frame also improves durability and allows for finer and more comfortable suspension tuning. In addition, GM has used a hydraulic body mount for the rear of the cab. As a result, the 2011 Silverado HD rides much better, without as many of the up-and-down motions commonly associated with pickup trucks.
Steering, handling and braking are improved as well. The new steering is more direct, with less play on center, and the stiffer structure allows the Silverado HD to react quicker to steering inputs. The brakes are much more substantial with larger rotors and calipers, giving them less pedal travel and a firmer, more confident feel. If you've driven a Silverado HD or half-ton recently, you won't recognize the steering and braking of the new HD. It's much better.
Engine choices start with the 360-horsepower 6.0-liter gasoline V8. It offers plenty of pep when the truck isn't loaded. It's also pretty capable with a load. However, the gasoline engine is not the choice for ultimate capability.
Those looking for a true workhorse should opt for the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel. It's not much, if any, faster getting from zero to 60 mph, taking about nine seconds, but it has gobs of torque that allow it to pull much more.
The diesel also comes with a nifty new exhaust brake to help control speed on downhill runs. This brake uses back pressure in the turbocharger to create engine braking. We got to test it while hauling a 10,000-pound trailer. We put the truck in cruise control at about 55 mph and let the electronics do the work. On uphill grades, speed dropped to about 48 mph and downhill it increased to close to 65, but no more. All in all, the system worked fairly well, but it couldn't keep an exact speed.
The Duramax engine never felt overmatched while towing, though the drag was noticeable. Towing was mostly stable and worry-free, and we could feel the standard trailer-sway control help right the ship when the trailer started moving around at highway speeds.
Right for You?
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Chevrolet provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.