POSTED: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 5:35pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 1:23pm
For years the Chevy and GMC heavy duty trucks were the 90-pound weaklings getting sand kicked in their face regularly on the sales charts. That was largely due to the puny in-house diesel engine they used. When Ford and Dodge had wisely gone off the reservation to outside manufacturers for better diesels, GM stuck with it’s puny homebuilt. That changed a few years ago when corporate partner Isuzu presented them with the gift that keeps on giving, the Duramax turbo-diesel. Not since Rudolf invented the darned thing have diesel fans had it so good.
And this is a truck truly worthy of the beast. In honor of that, the Duramax is even brawnier. For now, if you have to haul 17,000 pounds of anything around, the Duramax is the only game in town. The new 6.6-liter version of the GM oiler serves up 397 horsepower and 765 ft.lbs. of torque. The Ford Powerstroke 6.7-liter rates at 735 ft. lbs., and the Dodge 6.7-liter Cummins produces 650. Both of those trucks are rated to tow about from 1-5000 pounds less.
Yes, like the goofy horsepower wars of the 1960’s where every pony under the hood and every 10th of a second less to 60 miles-per-hour were somehow worthy of Gibralter-sized bragging rights, every extra foot-pound and ounce of towing capacity is a huge deal for truck guys. So for now, the GM engine is king of the hill. How about the truck?
The New Silverado half-ton has won deserved praise as the cream of the pickup crop for now. I know, I keep qualifying it that way, but the pickup wars have been so volatile and have so many new entries these days, that anyone wearing the crown is looking over their shoulder. But the new Silverado and its stablemate the GMC Sierra, set new standards for fit, finish, solidity and quality that has everyone playing catch up.
The look is no-nonsense. The HD looks like the half-ton on steroids. The fender flares a bit more pronounced and the grill taller. The look is essentially very much in the family tree, and inside, there’s more room than the average New York apartment. Although real trees weren’t used for the wood-grained dash, the fakes ones aren’t bad.
Our LTZ version had a ton of luxury options including leather 6-way seats, navigation system, satellite radio and a bunch of other things that have no business on a working truck, but do make it awfully nice. But the $13,000 or so in options was dominated by the $7200 Duramax and the $1200 Allison 6-speed transmission. Together they provide enough grunt to defy gravity.
Driving the Silverado HD is pretty much what you expect…from a half-ton. Although it’s tall, it isn’t unwieldy. I didn’t take it far off road, but judging from the climb up into the cab, which is only a little less than difficult than climbing on to a Clydesdale, ground clearance is adequate.
The new Silverado HD crew cab pickup is a formidable competitor and now the league leader among the big boys. Starting at $45,200 our truck was optioned up to just at $61K. I’d take the diesel and leave the rest. At $45,000, with a more workmanlike interior, this heavy hauler makes more sense to me. Either way though, it is the new bogey everyone will be shooting at. Good hunting, guys.