First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
When word came around that Chevrolet was set to make an announcement at the 2016 State Fair of Texas we got excited. And when the rumors started swirling that it was going to involve a new Duramax diesel engine, we ran around the office flapping our arms, giggling like schoolgirls who just found out about a field trip to Chuck-E-Cheese. Seriously, there’s security camera footage floating around the Internet somewhere, it was that exciting. It should come as no surprise, then, that when the day came and the new L5P Duramax was officially unveiled we were suitably impressed.
Packing 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, the ’17 Silverado’s new Duramax gets a significant bump in power from the previous generation’s 397 hp and 765 lb-ft. For those playing along at home, 445 hp is best in class, topping Ford and its Power Stroke’s 440 hp. However, the torque crown, 925 lb-ft, still remains in Ford’s palace, for now. What stood out to us more than anything was the fact that GM is seeming to take the stance that they just want to build the best pickup possible and aren’t interested in playing the claims game. Could they have pulled another 16 lb-ft from the new engine? Sure! But that wasn’t the point, according to GM’s engineers anyway.
That theme carries over into towing capacity as well. Maximum tow rating for the ’17 Silverado 3500HD in single-cab dual-rear-wheel four-wheel-drive configuration checks in at 23,300 pounds. When comparing to Ram’s 31,200 and Ford’s 31,700 pounds that number may seem low. However, GM has done extensive research and found that their truck’s tow ratings target the heart of the market, so they made the decision not to engage in the class warfare going on between the competition. For comparison, a four-wheel drive dual-rear-wheel ’17 Silverado 3500HD Crew Cab with the 6.6L Duramax engine and 3.73:1 axle gears can tow 22,700 pounds. A similar ’17 Ram 3500 is rated at 18,660 pounds, and Ford’s ’17 F-350 gets a rating of 27,300 pounds. For those wanting something a bit smaller, a ’17 Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab short box, four-wheel drive, is rated for conventional towing of up to 13,000 pounds. A Ford F-250 of the same configuration is rated at 14,100, and Ram doesn’t publish conventional towing figures; only gooseneck/fifth-wheel. This places the General’s offerings square in the middle of the competition. GMC fans, don’t fret: specs are the same for the Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD trucks as well.
Way back at the State Fair of Texas, we were treated to a very brief taste of this impressive new powerplant. A 2-mile drive around the apron at Texas Motor Speedway and a short slalom course was all we got. What a tease it was. Fast forward four agonizing months, and the wait was finally over: we were tossed the keys to a shiny new Silverado 2500HD and told to have fun. And fun is what we had.
While the engine is all new, and bits of the transmission and driveline have been upgraded to handle the increased power, the rest of the cab and chassis are largely carryover from the previous year. The big tell that a Silverado (or Sierra for that matter) is equipped with the Duramax diesel engine is the new hood scoop. Patent-pending, the new hood scoop is fully functional and is used to draw in the cold, dense air needed to produce the Duramax’s enormous power. Built into the hood is a unique water separator, which ensures that no moisture reaches the air filter, no matter how torrential the storm.
We spent two weeks with the truck, covering almost 1,000 miles, with a trailer in tow for most of it. Our particular trailer tipped the scale at just shy of 10,000 pounds, making it a good test of what an average 2500HD owner might lug around on the regular. From the moment you slip into the driver seat, it’s easy to tell that the truck was built with towing in mind. The Silverado HD’s tow mirrors are among the best in the industry and don’t create a huge blind spot like others on the market. And GM’s new optional trailering camera system adds another level of visibility when a trailer is in tow. Cameras are mounted under each mirror, in the center high-mount stoplight, and on the tailgate handle, with an extra wireless camera that can be mounted wherever. While we love the idea of the trailering camera system and its functionality during the day, it’s not without fault. At night the headlights of other vehicles easily blow out the camera’s images, rendering them useless. And we’d love to see the option to disable the system when a trailer isn’t in tow. As it is now it can be turned off, but the system reactivates each time the truck is started.
The Duramax engine is the real star of the show, as one would expect. Tugging the load up hills was effortless, with the engine rarely even shifting down a gear thanks to its immense torque. Pulling away from a stop with any sort of moisture on the ground resulted in the rear tires spinning in place with little in the way of forward movement, which again made us giggle like schoolgirls. Thankfully, the Silverado HD is equipped with a standard automatic locking rear differential, which helps provide traction when the road gets slick or dusty.
Speeding down the highway is one thing, but the Silverado also packs a punch when it’s time to slow the load as well. With the flip of the dash-mounted switch, the Silverado’s exhaust brake becomes active. Improved for ’17, the exhaust brake, utilizing the turbocharger’s exhaust-side variable-geometry veins, restricts the flow of exhaust gasses out of the engine when the driver lets up on the throttle. This builds up backpressure in the engine, in turn slowing the pickup without use of the service brakes. The Silverado’s exhaust brake also works in conjunction with Tow/Haul mode, cruise control, and auto grade braking. With our load of 10,000 pounds, the exhaust brake would slow the truck so well that we often time found ourselves losing speed to the point of needing to accelerate downhill. We see this being a very helpful feature when towing at maximum capacity.
From the driver seat, the ’17 Silverado 2500HD is incredibly civilized. The truck is among the quietest we’ve driven in recent history, both at idle and highway speed. Except for a slight knock at idle and whistle on acceleration, it’s nearly impossible to identify as a diesel, especially to the untrained ear. Under heavy load, such as towing up a steep 7-percent grade, we did notice a very faint drone that sounded like it was coming from the hood scoop. However, it was such a light tone that it was difficult to discern exactly where it was coming from. Along with being whisper-quiet, we also received compliments about the truck’s ride quality. Make no mistake, it’s still a 3/4-ton, but the ride from the Silverado’s independent front suspension was second to none. Ram’s link-coil rear suspension still holds the crown for best riding rear suspension on a 3/4-ton, but as a whole package, we’d rank both trucks as equals.
One of the least talked-about features—and one of our favorites—is GM’s new Digital Steering Assist. Introduced for the ’15 model year to little fanfare, this feature allows for greater low-speed maneuverability, high-speed stability, and road-holding response. When cruising parking lots and performing other low-speed maneuvers, the steering box provides a lighter steering feel, firming up at high-speeds for increased directional stability with large and small loads alike. We also enjoy its ability to compensate for aggressive road crowns and stiff crosswinds.
We’re at a crossroads in history, a period of time where it’s truly difficult to find a bad pickup. The bar is continually being raised, one notch at a time, with each new model year that passes. Chevrolet has done their part with the ’17 Silverado HD and it’s impressive new Duramax diesel engine. With comfort and capability at a point where HD trucks are now luxury-car comfortable and semi-truck capable, we’re truly excited to see where Chevrolet, and the industry as a whole, goes from here.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HDVehicle type: 5-passanger, 3/4-ton pickup
Base price: $43,795
Price as tested: $62,080
Engine: 6.6L Duramax diesel V-8
Transmission: Allison 1000 six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 445 @ 2,800 rpm
Torque: 910 @ 1,600 rpm
Curb weight: 6,382 lbs (double cab)
GVWR: 10,000 lbs
Towing capacity: 14,440 lbs (double cab, four-wheel drive, short bed)
EPA mileage rating: N/A
Tested mileage: 13.05 mpg (empty, mixed driving) / 12.06 mpg (towing, highway)