2008 Finalist: Chevrolet Silverado HD
The Heavy-Hauler's Dream Machine
by Edward Loh

The last time we did this, Chevy's completely redesigned Silverado 1500 walked away with the TOTY calipers. Now that the Silverado Heavy Duty versions have received a similar extreme makeover, is the General poised for a repeat?

Chevy makes a strong case with a broad and deep HD lineup, consisting of a three-quarter-ton 2500HD and one-ton 3500HD. Both are available in WT, LT, and LTZ trim and an impressive range of configurations, including three cab styles, three cargo-box styles, and five wheelbase lengths. Inside, two interior styles are offered--"Pure Pickup" and "Luxury Styled"--as well as two seating configurations, front bucket seats or a 40/20/40 split bench.

The base engine is a 6.0-liter gas V-8 making 353 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque, good enough to tow up to 12,900 pounds in a single-rear-wheel configuration. Since manual transmissions are no longer offered for any of the HDs, the only transmission available with the gas engine is the new 6L90 six-speed, manually selectable, automatic.

While the Blue Oval boys have the bigger dually, nobody beats the General when it comes to overall engine output. Though the big-block Vortec 8.1-liter gas V-8 has been dropped, GM's optional Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8 continues to lead the segment with 365 horsepower and a staggering 660 pound-feet of torque. With a fifth-wheel hitch and the Allison 1000 six-speed, manually shiftable automatic, that's good for a maximum towing capacity of 16,700 pounds.

While not new, the Duramax is substantially upgraded, with such features as a filtration system that helps provide a 90-percent reduction in particulates and a 50-percent reduction in NOx compared with pre-2007 standards. In addition, 2008 fleet trucks with Duramax engines can fuel up with B20 biodiesel.

With wide chrome crossbar grilles and headlights pushed way out to the corners, it's clear the HDs maintain a visual link with the 1500 Silverado, while remaining distinct from the GMC Sierra line. Though mechanical bits are shared, lamps and trim vary as do the fenders, boxes, and hoods.

Chiseled fenders and a broad stance accentuate the HD's burliness--a look that's more than skin deep. Mounted atop the cross-brace-reinforced ladder frame are pickup boxes that feature a one-piece wheelhouse and inner box side for added strength and a smoother appearance. Duallys have hydroformed steel boxes with integrated overfenders. About the only knock on the design is the massive gap between the fender and tire, particularly on the dual rear wheels--though it does show off the impressive girth of the HD frame rails.

For 2008, GM addresses this issue by giving duallys larger 17-inch wheels. In addition, all Silverado HDs feature standard XM Satellite Radio, an available power-adjustable driver's seat on regular cab models with a bench seat, and two new exterior colors: Dark Cherry Metallic and Deep Ruby Metallic.

For our testing, we borrowed two 4x4 Silverado HDs--one in single-rear-wheel configuration, the other a dually. The former came in LT trim with the gas V-8 and Z71 suspension package, while the 3500 LT came powered by the Duramax turbodiesel.

Consistent and compelling characterized both Silverados' performance at the test track--the 2500HD finished behind only the speedy Tundra in the dynamic tests, while the 3500HD's prowess with the 10,000-pound trailer was bested only by the massive Ford F-450. The Chevy was considered one of the best duallys in the dirt, too. Massive torque and six churning wheels meant it was no problem hustling this wide-hipper through the deep sand.

But the Silverados scored the most points out on the pavement, where the combination of a buttoned-down chassis, smooth-shifting six-speeds, and powerful engines drew strong praise. "Remarkably tight and free of rattles and squeaks," noted one juror. Our voters also rated the Silverado interiors highest--particularly the limolike black-on-black cabin of the 3500HD.

So why no calipers for the Chevy HDs? It isn't because they fall behind Ford in towing capacity. The Chevy (and GMC) HDs are so much more refined and fun to drive that they edge out the Fords for overall class superiority. Chevy also makes a strong value statement, with a regular cab Silverado HD starting in the low to mid-$20,000s. The issue boiled down to significance. It was close, but this year's winner makes a stronger statement in its class and to the truck market as a whole.

What They Did Right
Just about everything. Styling inside and out makes these the most handsome HDs yet, while the Duramax diesel and Allison transmission combo--660 pound-feet of torque and a shiftable six-speed--are a heavy-hauler's dream.

Room for Improvement
Class-leading torque is great, but it's time for the General to lead the way on big-truck fuel economy. How about bringing a heavy-duty version of the two-mode hybrid system to the HD lineup?

2008 Chevrolet Silverado HD
Base price range $24,860-$41,420
Model Tested Silverado 2500HD Z71 LT Silverado 3500HD LT DRW
Price as tested $39,124 $54,875
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup
Engine 6.0L/353-hp*/373-lb-ft* OHV 16-valve V-8 6.6L/365-hp/660-lb-ft turbodiesel OHV 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Curb weight, lb (f/r dist, %) 6068 (57/43) 7572 (57/43)
Wheelbase, in 167 167
Length x width x height, in 258.7 x 95.9 x 76.1 258.7 x 95.9 x 76.1
Actual payload capacity, lb 3132 3828
Max towing capacity, lb 9800/9800/9800** 13,000/13,000/15,900 lb
0-60 mph, sec 7.7/18.2*** 8.5/20.2***
Quarter mile, sec @ mph 15.9 @ 88.0/21.3 @ 64.2*** 16.6 @ 82.8/22.0 @ 62.3***
Braking, 60-0 mph, ft 160 156
EPA city/hwy fuel econ, mp N/A N/A
CO2 emissions, lb/mile N/A N/A
VALUE ****
SUM UP The Fords may be bigger, flashier, and able to tow more, but for work or play, Chevy's Silverado HDs are better lookers, drivers, and day-to-day truckers.
* SAE certified
** Conventional hitch/weight distributing hitch/fifth-wheel
*** Towing 7500-pound (2500) or 10,000-pound (3500) trailer