It's been said you can never be too rich or too thin.
In America, we can add one more item to that refrain: You can never have too many power tools. Ah, the power tool. It feels substantial in your hand. There's a promise implicit in its steely mass. Whatever situation presents itself, whatever challenge arises, the tool has the wherewithal to get the job done. Turn it on: There's a presence, a measured, pulsating readiness that says, "Bring it on."
The full-size pickup has become the power tool of choice. The bigger and stronger, the better. General Motors was the last among Detroit's Big Three to develop a clearly defined big-pickup persona. In the early '90s, Dodge rattled the status quo with its Big-Rig-Look Ram and Cummins turbodiesel might. Ford countered in the late '90s with its line of supersize Super Duty Pickups above and beyond its regular F-Series. Both Ford and Dodge edged toward the work-truck side of the equation, offering ever higher payload, GVW, and tow ratings.
For the '01 model year, GMC and Chevrolet answered the call with distinct heavy-duty pickup lines of their own. The HD models were built truck tough from the wheels up. Available in 2500 (three-quarter-ton) and 3500 (one-ton) dualie models, the HD trucks start out with beefier, thicker, and stronger three-piece frames, higher-capacity axles, springs, brakes and spindles, and exclusive heavy-duty engines and transmissions.
The North American market immediately embraced the GM heavy-duty pickups, enough to tip overall sales leadership in trucks to Chevrolet, which beat out Ford for the first time in many years. Healthy truck sales also helped General Motors stay profitable, while a post 9/11 slump plunged DaimlerChrysler and Ford deeply into red-ink territory. Part of the phenomenon behind the HD-pickup-sales boom was attributable to personal-use buyers entering the market. Besides the traditional workers and tradespeople who needed a heavy-duty truck, white-collar business people and professionals were trading up for personal use in much the same way they opted for stainless-steel commercial kitchen appliances and customized component electronics.
We also embraced the Silverado HD pickup, naming it Motor Trend's 2001 Truck of the Year. The Silverado HD was recognized for its class-leading power, high refinement levels, everyday comfort, and good value.
Where an automotive wave is afoot, MT likes to be out in front of it, so we ordered up a fully kitted three-quarter-ton Silverado for a One-Year Test. The $40,000 range may seem a bit rich for a pickup truck these days, but our Dark Carmine Red Metallic Silverado 2500HD Extended Cab came with 4WD, LT trim, and just about every accessory and piece of hardware in GM's heavy-duty pickup portfolio. LT Decor includes air-conditioning, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, remote keyless entry, polished forged-aluminum wheels, cruise control, push-button transfer-case controls, OnStar satellite communications, leather seat trim, six-way power driver's seat with heat and memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel, foglamps, deep-tint glass, dual power-heated outside mirrors, and so on. The base price before options came to $34,165.
The major portion of our long-term 2500HD's option load was occupied by the $4810 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel and $1200 Allison five-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission. A $240 tonneau cover, $285 locking rear differential, $190 trailering package, and $95 skidplate package rounded out the Silverado's equipment tally, totalling $41,705.
From the get-go, editors commented on how substantial the Silverado HD felt, attributable to the large-section, fully boxed ladder frame with hydroformed front section. But much of that "all of one piece" feel came from the strong Duramax motor. This 6.6-liter turbodiesel was designed and developed by diesel-expert and General Motors partner Isuzu Motors. The Duramax employs the latest in diesel technology, including highly efficient, low-emissions direct injection with a high-pressure common rail. Lightweight aluminum heads with four valves per cylinder facilitate top-end breathing, and a cast-aluminum sump and ribbed cast-iron block reduce noise/vibration/harshness. Charge-air cooling promotes turbocharger efficiency by increasing the density of the intake air. An electronic throttle eliminates any direct noise path from the engine to the cabin. The result is near-Viper-like gobs of grunt (520 lb-ft at 1800 rpm), more than ample to coax a 5631-pound truck to speed. Senior Road Test Editor Chris Walton effused, "It amazes me how quick this truck is, as it does other drivers who hear the diesel and assume they'll beat it from the stop sign--not!" Added Executive Editor Matt Stone, "Man, what a torque curve. The mid-range passing acceleration offers confidence not many diesels can match."
The other player in this dynamic drivetrain duo is the Allison 1000-series automatic transmission. This gearbox, normally associated with medium-duty big rigs, offers electronic shift-timing control and quiet-running helical planetary gearsets. There are two operating modes, normal and Tow/Haul. In the latter mode, the transmission will automatically downshift every time the driver taps the brakes when descending long, steep grades--a big help when hauling heavy loads. Stone concluded, "The Allison automatic deserves the Nobel Prize for greatness in the truck-transmission category."
Heavy-duty pickups need heavy-duty springs to carry heavy-duty loads, and here the laws of physics catch up with reality. Many freeways and interstates are paved with concrete, and, in time, the sections buckle and warp due to heating and cooling cycles. When the 2500HD drives over these sections at freeway speeds, say 65 to 75 mph, the combination of a long wheelbase and undulating road surface sets up a sine-wave vertical oscillation in the cab that'll have your gizzard playing ping-pong with your gullet. The only alternatives are throwing considerable ballast into the bed, slowing down to obstructionist speeds, or finding another route. On normal roads, the ride quality is palpable. With a load, the 2500HD comes into its own. In a towing test with a 5000-pound boat, Senior Feature Editor Scott Mead noted, "The extra 275 pounds of tongue weight helped smooth the ride."
The Silverado got high marks for orthopedic-grade seat comfort and such nifty truck touches as an oil-life monitor and transmission-temperature gauge. While some editors were disappointed in the appearance quality of the plastics on the big Chevy's instrument panel, the meaty armrests came in for special praise. The Silverado Extended Cab has the widest-opening doors in its class, and the rear seatback is angled for comfort, something the F-150 and Tundra can't match with their church-pew upright rear seatbacks.
Chevy trucks are known for reliability, and our HD Silverado was no exception. It used less than a half quart of oil over 12,951 miles, and at the 15,000-mile service the brake linings checked out with more than 75-percent friction material remaining. As part of the $265.95 15,000-mile service, we changed the engine oil/filter and the rear differential synthetic fluid, rotated and balanced the tires, and lubed the chassis. The 2500HD was also the subject of one factory recall to check for a faulty brake-system warning light.
Executive Editor Stone summed up the year-long test: "It's amazing that GM can offer this truck, in all its Duramax/Allison/ 4WD leather-lined splendor, for the cost of a well-equipped Jaguar X-Type."
What's New, Changed, Different
In the continuing effort to make full-size pickups look even more substantial and menacing, the Silverado gets a new front "face" for '03. It's a look that made its debut in the '01 Avalanche sport/utility-truck hybrid and is quite different from the "big rig" appearance Dodge and Ford seem to be adopting. The new grille, headlamps, front bumper/fascia, hood, and fenders combine to form a squinty-eyed glower that's hard to ignore.
Inside, the Silverado 2500HD receives a revised instrument panel with improved-feel switchgear and dual-zone climate control, which permits the driver and front-seat passenger up to 30 degrees of divergence on what represents a comfortable temperature. New seats and a redesigned center console also enhance interior comfort. New options include a Panasonic DVD Passenger Entertainment System for Crew Cab models that includes a flip-down LCD screen, and XM Satellite Radio with 100 digital channels coast to coast.
For '03, Chevrolet offers 14 different HD models powered by the 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 that can run on CNG compressed natural gas or a bi-fuel CNG/gasoline mix. For this application, the valves are upgraded and the seats are hardened to handle the higher temperatures and lack of natural lubrication.
From the Logbook
"The Allison transmission in tow/haul mode does a spectacular job of engine braking and holding gears when slowing and climbing. With the Duramax, high altitude has no perceivable effect on performance. This rig delivers a comfortable 400-mile cruising range--better than just about anything out there."--Mark Williams
"There's nothing that'll make you feel more manly than the 2500HD, which would be considered a commercial-grade truck anywhere but here in the U.S. It delivers quite a bouncy, harsh ride unloaded, but that firm suspension also delivers surprisingly good handling characteristics." --Chris Walton
"This Chevrolet works great and drives well, with good space and comfort inside. But the [diesel] racket would wear me out."--Kevin Smith
"Gotta love that torque." --David Newhardt
"Consider my Kenworth fantasy satisfied. This is one heck of a hauler that makes child's play out of heavy loads and messy launch ramps." --Scott Mead
"This three-quarter-ton consumer truck will do everything the stark medium-duty haulers of a generation or so ago could do. The Duramax amazes me. It's quiet on the cruise and delivers good fuel mileage for such a large, heavy, 4WD truck. Off-road, the robust torque, easy-to-modulate throttle, excellent 4WD, and Allison tranny allow the HD to climb hills so steep you can see only sky and does it without working up a sweat. For weekend activities that include towing on a regular basis, I can't imagine a better tool to get the job done." --Matt Stone
|2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, 4wd|
|Engine type||V-8, turbodiesel, OHV, 4 valves/cyl, iron block, alum heads|
|Hp @ rpm||300 @ 3100|
|Torque @ rpm||520 @ 1800|
|Suspension, f; r||Independent upper & lower A-arms, torsion bars; live axle w/multi-stage longitudinal leaf springs|
|Brakes, f; r||12.8-in. vented disc; 12.8-in. solid disc, abs|
|Wheels||16x6.5, forged aluminum|
|Curb weight, lb||5631|
|Cargo capacity, cu ft||56.9|
|Fuel capacity, gal||26.0|
|0-60 mph, sec||8.8|
|1/4 mile, sec/mph||16.6/81.9|
|Braking, 60-0 mph, ft||148|
|600-ft slalom, mph||55.1|
|Avg test mpg||15.9|
|Price as tested||$41,705|
|Current value ||$24,010/$27,285 whlse/retail per Kelley Blue Book|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy||Not rated|
|Range, city/hwy, miles||NA|
|Basic warranty||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Recalls||Brake-system warning light check |