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2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD
It's a numbers game, but it's important not to overlook the ride

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Silverado HDWhen it comes to heavy-duty haulers, you can always expect a scrap between General Motors, Ford and Dodge as to which brand has the most power, offers the biggest payload and can haul the biggest yacht.

The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD appears determined to assume the lead when it makes its summer debut.

In this category, the vast majority of buyers depend on these trucks for their livelihoods, while a relatively small minority use them to tow massive fifth-wheel travel trailers. It's really a numbers game for both groups of people, who carefully consider cab configurations, payload ratings, towing capacities, box sizes and powertrain output before investing a sizeable chunk of their cash.

Chevrolet thinks is has the right stuff to attract the Heavy Duty crowd with a host of new features and technologies plus a superior level of bar-raising muscle.

Structurally, the Silverado's variety of uses necessitates no fewer than 11 frame assemblies, all of which have been significantly stiffened to resist bending and twisting. The engine and transmission mounts have been enlarged and hydraulic body mounts are used on extended-cab and crew-cab models to isolate the passenger compartment from powertrain and road vibrations.

The steering has been upgraded and the redesigned front suspension can now better support more weight. According to Chevrolet, these changes improve ride and handling and make the HD better able to function with a snow plow on all cab models with four-wheel-drive.

2011 Silverado HDThe rear leaf springs have also been beefed up and now feature a 2,820-kilogramgross rear axle rating on the 2500 (three-quarter-ton) HD series, up from the the previous 2,765-kg mark. The rear axle ratings on the 3500 (one-ton) HD single and dual rear-wheel models have also increased.

The HD can now trailer up to 7,270 kg (previously 5,910 kg) using a conventional ball hitch, or up to 9,090 kg with a fifth-wheel hitch, up from 8,410 kg.

The base 6.0-litre pushrod V8's remains unchanged at 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. By comparison, the upcoming 2011 Ford Super Duty will arrive with 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque produced by its new 6.2-litre V8, while Chrysler's Ram HD's 5.7-litre V8 generates 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.

The real game-changer is the Silverado's optional (and very popular) 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 that retains the outgoing motor's displacement, but now puts out 397 horsepower and an earth-shaking 765 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the Ford SD's 390 horses and 735 pound-feet of torque emanating from its 6.7-litre V8 turbo-diesel, or the Ram's optional 6.7-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel that's worth 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet torque. All are capable of just about any task you can dole out, so, yes, this is a bit of a numbers game, but one that Chevy is probably happy to be winning.
Both base and optional engines employ six-speed automatic transmissions: a GM-developed Hydramatic comes with the 6.0, while the turbo-diesel employs an Allison-built unit.

2011 Silverado HDChevy has added its "smart exhaust brake system" to the turbo-diesel for 2011. When coasting, compressed exhaust gasses are contained inside the engine's cylinders, forcing it to turn more slowly, which in turn slows down the truck without touching the brakes. The result is less wear and tear on the brake hardware and greater control for the driver, especially when hauling or towing heavy loads downhill.

Included is a stability program that reduces the trailer's tendency to wiggle around, while hill-start assist prevents the HD from rolling backward when on an incline.

The list of standard HD equipment on the WT (Work Truck), LT and LTZ trim levels is tremendous, as is the options list. You can, quite literally, outfit the HD from bare-bones basic to over-the-edge luxury.

Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but the starting point will likely be around $35,000. That's actually a reasonable sum for a pickup that, unlike dogs or people, continues to improve with age.

What you should know: 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Type: Two- /four-door full-size heavy duty pickup
Engines (hp): 6.0-litre OHV V8 (360); 6.6-litre OHV V8 (397)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Market position: The Silverado strives to lead its heavy-duty Ford and Chrysler (Ram) competitors with its more powerful diesel engine option, wide array of cab and chassis picks and technological upgrades.
Points: Brawnier turbo-diesel engine gives Silverado an edge, but new Ford Super Duty remains a force; Exhaust braking, similar to Ford, Ram trucks, important safety feature; Exterior changes provide more muscular appearance; Claimed 11 per cent better turbo-diesel highway fuel economy, which, given the volume of fuel the truck uses, is significant.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags (opt.); side-curtain airbags (opt.); anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
Base price (incl. destination): $35,000 (est.)

By comparison    

Base price: $35,500
2011 edition increases both power and payload and features new styling.

Base price: $31,500
Updated pickup packs a punch with both base and optional engines.

GMC Sierra HD
Base price: $35,000 (est.)
Similar to new Silverado, but unique Denali edition adds premium content.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted June 14, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM


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