As you've surely seen by now, the new 2011 Silverado HD lineup looks a lot like the old one. But don't let that fool you-Chevrolet made several significant changes to its heavy-duty line of trucks, which make the pickups run cleaner, tow more, and allows them to be more capable. The new Silverado 3500HD can tow as much as 21,700 pounds with a payload capacity of 6635 pounds. GM also redesigned the independent front suspension, increasing the front axle weight rating and making all 4WD models snowplow-ready. And with all of the performance, ride, and capability changes for the 2011 model year, we were eager to find out how the new pickups perform. Chevrolet provided us with a four-wheel-drive 2500HD LT extended cab with the 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 and a rear-drive 3500HD LT crew cab dualie with the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel.

The first thing we noticed was how much quieter the cabin was than in past models. Part of that is thanks to the use of hydraulic body mounts under the cab, and part is due to the use of new fully boxed frames. The frames also use more crossmembers, with hydroformed front frame segments. These changes increased bending, torsional, and beaming stiffness and helped reduce vibrations. Another benefit was how much better ride comfort and handling are in the new model. Both trucks have nicely weighted steering, too, making the 2500 and 3500 ride and drive like smaller trucks. However, the cabins of both trucks were definitely less luxury-biased than other heavy-duty models on the market. Styling was pretty boring inside, which is fine for most truck people. For the big-belt-buckle crowd, though, the conservative cabins may prove too bland.

While the 6.0-liter gas engine didn't change all that much (it remains a 360-horsepower, 380-pound-foot V-8), new regulations required a reduction in diesel emissions. GM integrated a selective catalytic reduction aftertreatment system in diesel-powered trucks, which squirts a urea/distilled water mix into the exhaust. The chemical reactions that occur there reduce NOx emissions by 63 percent over those of the 2010 Duramax. GM also increased the 6.6-liter's horsepower to 397 and torque to 765, up by 32 and 105, respectively. These numbers are big improvements, but not as good as the Ford Super Duty's 400 and 800.