It used to be that 3/4- and one-ton trucks were tools. Long on anvil-like, workaday toughness. Short on creature comforts. Thirty years ago, you'd have been lucky to get sunvisors and an AM radio on a one-ton dualie-and those were options. Drive one every day? Not unless you're a tow-truck driver. Take one on vacation with your family or out to dinner with friends? Fughetaboudit! Leather seats and a six-CD changer? Stop it, already!
Today, things are different. Times have changed. Trucks have changed.
Although this year's field of candidates was widely varied in its makeup, the Chevrolet Silverado HD won us over with its do-it-all portfolio of power, passenger room, cargo capacity, feature levels, and towing prowess. Yet this bruiser drives beautifully, can be trimmed out as nicely as many luxury cars, and functions amazingly well as everyday personal (and family) transportation.
The Heavy Duty is the second stage in Chevy's Silverado model rollout that began with new light-duty 1500 and 2500 series trucks in '99-which themselves won MT's coveted Truck of the Year award. The HD platform means even stronger 3/4-ton (2500) models, plus the long-awaited one-ton (3500) trucks. Both are available in a dizzying array of body configurations: standard cab, four-door extended cab, or full four-door crew cab; long bed, short bed, or no bed in the form of cab-and-chassis models; single or dual rear wheels, the latter finally being officially named what everyone's been calling them for years-Big Dooley. Chevy counts 32 different cab/box/wheelbase variations, and we haven't even begun talking about different powertrains, the notion of 2WD/4WD, or trim levels.
Any great building must be constructed on a solid foundation, and the HD certainly is true to this principle. Its front frame rails are crafted using a high-tech hydroforming process. This fabrication method allows the metal to be bent in such a way as to preserve its grain structure; this as opposed to cutting and welding individual pieces, which doesn't achieve the same strength. The current (C5) Corvette chassis employs this same technology to great effect. Center- and rear-section rails are roll formed and drawn bent, employing high-strength, low-alloy steel to create their strong and structurally stiff C-shaped cross sections.
All Silverado HDs-even one-tons-are equipped with a heavy-duty short/long-arm independent front suspension system (no more rough-riding solid axles) to ensure better handling and a smoother ride than is often associated with trucks having this much capacity. Out back is a two- or three-stage leaf-spring system, depending upon weight-rating of the model. Extra engineering effort was spent in the braking department, as all Heavy Dutys offer beefy four-wheel disc brakes and four-wheel ABS as standard equipment.
Cab designs are essentially shared with the standard Silverado models, though the front-end styling is more aggressive to further complement the Heavy Duty's brawny nature. The hoodline is elevated, and the front bumper pads are thicker to accommodate the HD's higher body height.
To paraphrase Robert DeNiro's character in the movie "Taxi Driver": "You wanna talk power? Are you talking power ta me?" One of the Silverado HD's most impressive hallmarks is tons of trailer-towing, hill-climbing, load-hauling power. It comes in three forms, two of which are all new-and all of which are class leaders in terms of horsepower and torque output. Chevrolet's now-familiar 6.0L OHV Vortec 6000 V-8 serves well as the Heavy Duty's base engine. This powerplant also stems from the Corvette, and its 300-hp peak comes at 4400 rpm, while delivering 360 lb-ft of torque at 4000. Choose between a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. But that's just the start.
Big-inch gasoline-engine fans and hardcore-diesel fanatics have new engines to fawn over. Though the new Vortec 8100 V-8 is based on the architecture of the previous 7.4L (454-cu-in.) big block, nearly 80 percent of its parts are new or redesigned. It barely outsizes Dodge's impressive 8.0L V-10, yet handily outpowers it (see engine comparison chart): 340 hard-working horses show up at 4200 rpm, and there's 455 lb-ft of torque available at a user-friendly 3200 rpm. And talk about a flat torque curve: Fully 90 percent of its max torque output is available from 1700 rpm to 4300 revs-that's power and flexibility worth bragging about. The 8100 requires only oil and filter changes for the first 100,000 miles, and the Power Control Module even monitors oil condition and signals the owner when a change is required. Furthermore, the heads, valves, valve seats, and rings in Chevy's newest big block are engineered to run on propane or natural gas with no internal modifications required.