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  • First Drive: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD

First Drive: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD

The All-New Silverado HD

Aug 2, 2019
If you've been paying any attention to the automotive news cycle lately, there shouldn't be a shred of doubt that pickups are hot. And from the look of things, 2019 is geared up to be the warmest on record for the heaviest hitters in the lineup. Ram struck first, introducing the company's all-new 2019 2500 and 3500 models in early January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Ram wowed the crowd by showing off an available high-output Cummins diesel engine, which now churns out 1,000 lb-ft of torque, while upping its maximum tow rating to 35,100 pounds.
A week later, in San Diego, California, GMC pulled back the sheets on its new Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD pickups. Details were slim, as Chevy had yet to tip its hand, but it was revealed that the new truck would tow "in excess of 30,000 pounds," which, for GM, was a big deal. It was also noted that an all-new gasoline engine was in the works.
Never one to be left out of a party, Ford held a private unveiling a few days after GMC, showing off the redesigned styling of its 2020 Super Duty lineup. No performance figures were given at the time, but Ford did mention there were big upgrades to the 6.7L Power Stroke V-8's fuel system and turbocharger, along with a coming 10-speed transmission. Ford also announced the addition of an all-new 7.3L gasoline engine to the lineup. The rumor mill is saying all will be revealed this fall, so stay tuned.
Photo 2/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 105
 
Finally, a week later at the company's Flint, Michigan, assembly plant, Chevrolet unveiled the all-new Silverado HD lineup and announced it would be taking the crown for best-in-class towing at an astonishing 35,500 pounds. The new engine to which GMC alluded was a 6.6L direct-injected gas V-8. And the proven L5P Duramax diesel engine would now be backed by a GM-exclusive Allison 10-speed transmission.
Within the span of five weeks, all four of the country's big truck players had announced either all-new or significantly refreshed - and 1-ton models. Keeping up the quick cadence, Ram let us sample its new trucks a few weeks later followed by Chevy shortly after. And by the time you read this, pickups from Ram, Chevy, and GMC will be on sale at local dealers. We'd also venture a guess the new Fords will arrive on lots before 2019 comes to a close.
Eager to show off the all-new Silverado HD, Chevy flew us up to Redmond, Oregon, for two days of towing and hauling with the full lineup of new Silverados.
Photo 3/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd Lead
Is It Really All-New?
In short, yes. The 2020 Silverado HD is all-new from the ground up, with the only significant carryover coming from the proven L5P Duramax diesel engine. The new truck is larger in nearly every dimension. It's longer, taller, and wider. The standard bed length increased by 3 inches, as did the crew cab. Even the cooling fan and hood scoop (on Duramax-equipped models) have increased in size.
Interiors are largely taken from the all-new 2019 Silverado 1500, but that's where the similarities between 1500 and 2500HD/3500HD end (sheetmetal-wise, only the roof panel is shared between light- and heavy-duty platforms.) This is quite the departure from previous generations, and GM's engineering and marketing teams believe HD buyers will appreciate this new differentiation.
The trucks also feature a stronger frame, improved independent front suspension, a new transfer case for four-wheel-drive models, and an all-new Allison 10-speed transmission, which will back the Duramax diesel. New towing mirrors are larger, more useful, and now standard. The diesel exhaust fluid fill point is relocated next to the fuel filler, the tank is within the framerails, and there's an actual gauge now. Oh, and we can't forget about the new 6.6L gasoline engine.
So yes, from top to bottom, front to back, and everywhere in between, the 2020 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are new trucks.
Photo 4/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 131
About That New Gas Engine
The first truck we drove was a 2500HD in a mid-level LT trim. All the available test vehicles were crew cab models with four-wheel drive. Powering this pickup was the all-new direct-injected 6.6L gasoline V-8 engine, which churns out 401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque. This new mill replaces the 6.0L Vortec V-8 that has powered GM's HD trucks for almost two decades.
Our time with the gasser started with the truck unloaded, winding through city streets before taking on miles of twisty two-lane mountain roads. We found the engine to be incredibly responsive and never lacking power, despite the task of propelling a nearly 8,000-pound pickup down the road. Backing the engine is GM's tried-and-true 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission. However, it's been retuned for this application. Out of obligation, we feel the need to suggest that an 8- or 10-speed transmission might be a better fit, however, the reality is the 6L90 is a perfectly adequate unit for this application. It's also worth noting that all gas-powered HDs receive 3.73:1 axle gears.
Photo 5/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 139
 
When we arrived at the high point of our drive, the Mount Bachelor ski resort, we hitched the truck to a Big Tex flatbed trailer with a mini-excavator on board totaling 12,000 pounds. Once situated, we took the load for a spin along a mountain road route with a decent bit of elevation loss and gain. Naturally, the truck handled the task with ease and we never found ourselves wanting for more power. With tow/haul mode engaged, the transmission seemed to always be in the correct gear for the situation, and we never observed it to be hunting. On steeper uphill grades, the truck quickly shifted to a low gear and allowed the engine to rev high into its powerband, and on downhill runs it acted similarly, allowing for engine braking to aid in slowing the rig.
We found suspension tuning to be spot on. The new chassis managed inputs received from the trailer and load superbly. This translates into a more comfortable and safer towing experience for both driver and occupants. Driver fatigue can be a big issue, and reducing trailer induced sway, bounce, and shake can help keep the person behind the wheel fresher longer. Steering is fantastic as well, with this generation building on the Digital Steering Assist feature that we've loved so much since its introduction a few years back. The truck is easy to maneuver, with just the right amount of weight and feedback.
Photo 6/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 110
Tell Us About the Duramax Already
With our spin in the new gas-powered 2500HD complete, we headed back to the ski resort and traded up to a Duramax-powered High Country. This truck was hitched up to a 14,000-pound enclosed trailer. It was but a modest bump in weight considering the increase in capability the Duramax diesel engine brings with it.
We headed out on the same loop we had just driven the gas truck on, and, as you would expect, the diesel-powered truck pulled the heavier trailer with less fuss than its gasoline counterpart. Thanks in part to the Duramax engine's 910 lb-ft of torque, the truck really didn't even know there was a trailer attached. And thanks to Chevy's new trailering camera system, which features up to 15 different views, we couldn't tell the trailer was there, either. Most impressive was the invisible trailer feature. This piece of advanced tech uses a camera mounted to the rear of the trailer along with those on the truck to stitch together an image that looks as if there's no trailer at all. This easily shows vehicles behind and around the trailer that would otherwise not be visible. We loved using this view when merging onto the highway since it made watching for oncoming cars easier. However, once the turn indicator was engaged, signaling our intent to merge into traffic, the screen view changed and we lost our advantage.
The same great chassis tuning carries over to the diesel-powered trucks, though the added weight (almost 50 percent more) on the nose relative to the gas engine is noticeable. May we even be as bold to say that with a trailer in tow, the new Silverado 2500HD rides better than a certain competitor that has ditched leaf springs altogether. Yeah, those are fighting words, and we're ready to dance.
Photo 7/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 114
How Good is the New Allison?
One word: amazing. We went into our drive with high hopes for this new transmission, and we were immediately impressed. Our first sampling came with the previously mentioned 14,000-pound trailer in tow. Worth noting is the new Allison 10L1000 only utilizes its ultra-low 4.54:1 first gear when tow/haul mode is engaged. The benefits of the additional ratios and the closeness they bring were immediately noticeable. With loads of torque available low in the rpm range, the L5P Duramax engine is a towing champ in its own right, however, with the addition of the new transmission it's able to stay right in the heart of its powerband longer. This keeps the engine from either lugging or over-revving while towing up steep grades, as we've seen from diesel-powered HDs with six-speed transmissions.
The additional ratios also improve the driving experience when it comes to engine braking. The transmission works in tandem with the turbocharger, which provides exhaust braking by building backpressure with the variable-geometry turbo veins, to help slow the truck and trailer when descending grades. We've previously recognized the Duramax engine's exhaust braking ability as being the best of the Big Three, and we'd argue that with this iteration, it remains at the top. With 14,000 pounds in tow, we were able to not just maintain downhill speed but actually come nearly to a stop on exhaust and transmission braking alone.
Photo 8/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 134
With the truck unloaded, the transmission is even more amazing. We recently spent a year with our 2018 Pickup Truck of the Year-winning 2018 GMC Sierra 2500HD, which was equipped with the L5P Duramax engine and six-speed Allison transmission. We adored this truck and its drivetrain. Our time behind the wheel of the previous-generation pickup made us really appreciate the improvements made by the new Allison 10-speed (the L5P Duramax is a direct carryover from 2019). Where there used to be a touch of turbo lag, it's now seemingly gone. Because the engine is able to stay in its powerband longer—thanks to the closer gear ratios—it can keep the boost from falling off during shifts. This makes the truck feel more like a sports car than an HD pickup. Shifts fire off with lightning speed, both up and down, and are as smooth as they can be behind a turbocharged diesel. It's also worth mentioning that unlike the 10-speed in the light-duty pickup, the Allison 10-speed doesn't skip gears (except for starting in Second).
Another fun benefit of the new transmission is the ability to apply all 910 lb-ft of torque in First gear. Why is this a big deal, you ask? Most manufacturers limit torque delivery in lower gears as a means of protecting driveline parts from damage. Thanks to the new Allison, Chevy is able to take full advantage of all the Duramax engine's power. In testing performed by Chevy, the 2020 Silverado 3500HD dually was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds and plow through the quarter-mile in just 15.8 seconds at 90.4 mph.
 
Doesn't It Tow 35,500 Pounds?
The bulk of our experience with the new 2020 Silverado HD was behind the wheel of 2500 model pickups. However, Chevy had one more surprise in store for us, and that was an opportunity to tow massive trailers with two of the most capable pickups in the lineup. The first was a single-cab two-wheel-drive dually with, you guessed it, a 35,500-pound trailer. The other was a crew-cab four-wheel-drive dually with a trailer weighing in at about 32,000 pounds. Fun fact: Every 3500 dually can tow more than 30,000 pounds, a claim only Chevy (and GMC) can make.
Photo 9/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 3500hd 160
Now, given these loads are well into commercial license territory, we were required to pilot these pickups on private property. The distance wasn't long, and we never got above about 40 mph, nonetheless we were able to get a good feel for how the trucks handle these massive loads. Acceleration was impressive for the amount of mass that required moving. Leaving a stoplight or merging onto the interstate, even at full load, shouldn't ever be an issue. The transmission is quick to downshift when the pedal is depressed while rolling and power comes on hard and fast, leading us to believe passing will also be a non-issue. On our short drive, we noticed the suspension felt a fair bit firmer than the 2500HD models, however, this was not unexpected and dare we say still less jarring than the current competition. Exhaust braking worked well, despite being on perfectly level roads, as did the service brakes. We'll have to wait until we can roll a full load at 70 mph down the interstate before really passing judgement, but if first impressions are anything, the 3500HD is certainly up to the task.
 
Our Final Thoughts
Overall, we feel Chevrolet has produced an outstanding product, and while it maybe hasn't raised the metaphorical bar, it has certainly put everyone else in the space on notice that Chevy is playing to win in the HD space. We didn't dive into the new interior because we've talked about it ad nauseam while discussing the all-new 2019 Silverado 1500, and it is carryover from that vehicle. We also feel Chevy left a lot on the table when it introduced this new interior. While it's growing on us, we're still not the biggest fans. The same can be said for exterior styling. There are a lot of outlets around that are quick to jump on the hate bandwagon, so we'd simply like to say Chevy's bold new exterior is still growing on us. We'll come around, but it's going to take some time.
The new trailering technology is amazing, and we'd love to dive deeper into the ins and outs of what Chevy has done to make towing safer, easier, and more enjoyable. This is an area where the company has hit a home run, and we are excited to get a truck into our hands to experience it further. What really does it for us are the drivetrains. The new 6.6L gasoline engine is fantastic, and the Allison 10L 1000 is phenomenal. And not only are the drivetrains great, but the truck is also significantly quieter, far smoother, and overall much more refined than any previous generation of Silverado HD. This truck is by far the best Silverado to date, and we can guarantee customers won't be disappointed.
Photo 10/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd 142
2020 Chevy Silverado 2500HD LT
Vehicle type: Six-passenger HD pickup
Base price: $44,600
Price as tested: $54,455
Engine: 6.6L gasoline V-8
Transmission: 6L90 six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 401 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 464 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb weight: 6,570 pounds
Towing capacity: 14,500 pounds (conventional), 16,900 pounds (gooseneck)
EPA mileage rating: N/A
Photo 11/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500hd Highcountry 035
2020 Chevy Silverado 2500HD High Country
Vehicle type: Five-passenger HD pickup
Base price: $62,695
Price as tested: $76,385
Engine: 6.6L Duramax diesel V-8
Transmission: Allison 10L 1000 10-speed automatic
Horsepower: 445 @ 2,800 rpm
Torque: 910 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Curb weight: 7,467 pounds
Towing capacity: 18,500 pounds (conventional or gooseneck)
EPA mileage rating: N/A
Photo 12/12   |   2020 Chevrolet Silverado 3500hd 162
2020 Chevy Silverado 3500HD WT
Vehicle type: Three-passenger HD pickup
Base price: $41,000 (est. )
Price as tested: $52,000 (est. )
Engine: 6.6L Duramax diesel V-8
Transmission: Allison 10L 1000 10-speed automatic
Horsepower: 445 @ 2,800 rpm
Torque: 910 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Curb weight: 7,445 pounds
Towing capacity: 20,000 pounds (conventional), 35,500 pounds (gooseneck)
EPA mileage rating: N/A

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