In the heavy-duty truck world, capability is most important. Folks like to brag about numbers -- horsepower, torque, and payload and towing capacity -- and talk about the monstrous things they can tow. Take, for example, the Chevrolet Silverado HD's 21,700-pound towing capacity. That means it can tow three other Silverado HDs, or 10 Lotus Evoras. Payload capacities in this category mean that each truck is rated to carry a half-ton pickup in its bed, if you crushed it small enough to fit. These are the trucks that haul horse trailers, massive boats, and huge construction equipment; the ones many people pooh-pooh as being too big and too environmentally unfriendly -- until they need to use one, of course. Styling isn't nearly as important in this category, so when the Great Recession hit and GM's development budget was cut, it prioritized function over form.
The new Silverado HD received a new hood, front bumper, and grille, plus optional 20-inch wheels, but that's about it on the styling side. The engineers focused more on three key attributes: powertrain, frame, and suspension. Improving that trio would provide more power with greatly reduced emissions, increased capability, and better ride and reduced noise levels in the cabin. The stronger, cleaner, and more comfortable Silverado HD was ready to take on its new-for-2011 foes.
For Motor Trend's 2011 Truck of the Year, we evaluated two Silverado HDs, one an extended-cab gas SRW and the other a crew-cab diesel dualie. This was one of the rare TOTY events where all the competitors were from the same market category, and we missed having all the heavy-duty competitors in the same year by mere months (the Ram was new for 2010). So we had the opportunity to test out three of the four in the segment, making what isn't supposed to be a straight competition into a straight competition. The editors had the chance to drive two Silverado HDs, two Super Duties, and two Sierra HDs back to back, to compare apples-to-apples gas and diesel models. We tested all of them with and without payload, on highway straights and on twisty roads, with and without trailers.