The Silverado's exceptional performance overshadows polarizing looks.
While beauty is surely in the eye of the beholder, there's more to a heavy-duty pickup truck than looks alone. It also has to be able to perform when an owner needs to get work done, which is part of the reason why the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD boasts best-in-class towing and sci-fi levels of tech. But does that make this new pickup worthy of your well-earned truck dollars? Chevy shipped us to Bend, Oregon so we could drive it and find out.
Late last year, we were given a sneak peek of the 2020 Silverado HD before it was revealed. When the door opened to show the foam model, the room remained relatively silent. It was certainly an imposing truck, but the front end wasn't what one would describe as "pretty." And while questionable looks have made it to the production version, at least there are a few ways to fix the front end.
As with the light-duty Silverado 1500, the Heavy Duty comes in various trim levels, each with its own unique grille. The High Country grille, with a bow tie on the front, is the most appealing, and the more we see the truck out doing work in the wild, the more we've become accustomed to the new design.
The Heavy Duty can be equipped with LED exterior lighting, including the taillights. The company's Durabed is on board, maximizing cargo volume and providing tie-down points and bed lighting. There's even a new sidestep to make it easy to get stuff in and out of the bed from the side of the truck.
The other major light-duty innovation that has made its way over to the bigger truck is the power-operated tailgate. When equipped, the tailgate can both open and close automatically. While ultimately, we are not sold on the exterior design - we prefer the GMC Sierra HD's front end more - Chevrolet should be commended on the design because though it can be polarizing to some, it gets people talking about the truck. At the very least, the new Silverado HD is not a cookie-cutter pickup with "meh" styling.
Two engines are available on the new Silverado HD. The base engine is a 6.6-liter gasoline V-8 engine making 401 horsepower and 464 lb-ft of torque. That's attached to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The upgraded diesel engine is a 6.6-liter Duramax making 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to a new Allison 10-speed automatic. In max towing guise, the Silverado HD boasts current best-in-class towing at 35,500 pounds, which is 400 pounds more than the best Ram currently offers, and it does it with 90 less lb-ft of torque.
The trucks are also available with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive setups. Maximum tow ratings depend on the trim of the truck, equipment, and other factors. But it should be noted that all versions of the dual-rear-wheel Silverado with the diesel can tow 30,000 pounds or more. Manufacturers aren't required to test their heavy-duty trucks for EPA fuel economy numbers, but expect slightly better mileage with the 10-speed Allison over the previous-generation six-speed Allison unit.
Silverado HD's interior puts functionality first. While Ram's Heavy Duty interior is the more attractive of the two, especially in premium trims, there are some things that the Silverado gets right over the fancier Ram. There are physical buttons for nearly every control, including the heated and ventilated seats. On the Rams with the 12-inch display, those become soft touch buttons on the touch screen. The gear shifter is also column-mounted on both the gas and diesel versions, whereas in the Ram it becomes a rotary shifter on gas models.
Chevrolet's infotainment screen is as advanced as ever, with support for Android Auto and Apple car Play. Additionally, built-in OnStar means there's a 10-device wireless hotspot to help get work done while on the road. While the screen itself isn't as big as some of the competitors, the graphics are crisp, and the setup is easy to use.
The Silverado HD has some standout features, too. In some configurations, you can get up to 15 different cameras on the truck, and most are accessible through the infotainment display, including the killer "Invisible Trailer" view. One of the cameras is part of an optional digital rearview mirror, too.
Silverado also has a segment-exclusive optional heads up display. It shows speed limit information, navigation instructions and even has an off-road mode. While not strictly necessary, it is nice to have that information projected where it can be seen without taking your eyes off the road, especially when you're towing.
The Silverado HD is available with either a short bed or a full eight-foot long bed. Since all versions of the bed are of the new Durabed design, they have more cargo volume than ever. The Silverado HD has 83.5 cubic feet of capacity in the long bed, which is an increase of 9.5%.
Interior space is up, too, meaning the Crew Cab is simply huge inside. Chevrolet doesn't provide interior volume numbers, but there are 43.4-inches of legroom in the rear. Space is plentiful for five adults and there is additional storage under the seats. The rear seats also have storage built into the seat backs.
The 10-speed Allison transmissions is brilliant. By running more gears in the transmission, Chevrolet was able to lower the final drive from 4.10 to 3.42 and still hit max tow. This means that on the highway, the truck is quiet and doesn't feel like it's working hard.
It also improves acceleration, keeping the engine in the sweet spot for power and torque to provide maximum performance. Even with 35,500 pounds attached to the rear, the Silverado HD feels a generation newer than even the new Ram when it comes to confidence while towing. Nearly all of that comes down to the new transmission.
At around 6,000 feet, we compared the diesel and gas back-to-back up a steep grade and were blown away by how good the diesel is. The transmission always seemed to be in the right gear for maximum performance.
While we didn't expect the gas motor to be brilliant at that altitude, performance is still solid. The biggest hindrance is the six-speed auto. Where the 10-speed would shift to find the right amount of power, the six-speed didn't have that option on the same grade. It made the truck feel a bit anemic and didn't inspire confidence like the diesel did. Without a doubt, we'd order our Silverado HD with the Duramax.
Unloaded ride quality is significantly improved on the new Silverado. Chevrolet switched to a short/long-arm suspension on the HD truck, which improves ride quality without sacrificing payload or towing numbers. While it doesn't ride as well as a half-ton truck, it's better than it ever has been. Chevrolet claims that its camera systems make towing less stressful, and they are absolutely correct. There are tons of different views to assist with backing up and hooking up a trailer. There are even cameras that can even be mounted inside your trailer so you can check on your precious cargo.
The game changer is the transparent trailer view function. It stitches together the view from a camera mounted to the rear of the trailer with the side camera views to provide you with a complete view of what is behind, even if you're towing a massive box trailer. Seasoned pros are used to not being able to see what is behind the trailer directly, which is why they are experts at setting up their side mirrors. While physical mirrors should always be set up properly, most people don't realize how much less information our brain processes when it can't see directly behind. The transparent trailer view gives that information back.
Thanks to changes in the law, the transparent trailer view can be on all the time while towing. It's also intuitive because if you start turning to the right, the camera mode automatically switches to the right camera trailer view, so you can easily see the corner and won't curb the trailer or hit something. In terms of the driving and towing experience, this is the best heavy-duty truck we've driven so far.
As with all new trucks, there's an inherent risk of teething issues. The changes to the engines are minimal, so there's unlikely to be any issues. Allison and General Motors have also extensively tested the new 10-speed transmission, though it is the first time a transmission with that many gears has made its way into a heavy-duty pickup.
There are six trims available on the new Silverado HD. The base Work Truck 2500 starts at$35,695. The Custom starts at $40,595 and isn't available with a regular cab. The LT starts at $39,595. The LTZ is $50,295 and doesn't come in regular cab. The High Country is a crew cab only and starts at $62,695. All prices include the $1,595 destination and delivery charge.
For the 3500, prices start at $36,895 for the Work Tuck, there is no Custom trim, $40,795 for the LT, $53,295 for the LTZ and $63,895 for the High Country. All prices include destination.
The 2020 Silverado HD might have polarizing looks and it doesn't have the best-looking interior, but it is functional and durable, and the performance feels generations ahead of the competition. Towing confidence is second-to-none, which makes it great for beginners who might just be buying it to tow horses, RVs or other toys. Plus, it'll get work done on the farm or wherever else you need it.
Until we get a chance to drive the new Ford Super Duty, the Chevrolet Silverado HD is the heavy-duty truck to get.
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