Test Drive: Heavy-duty silverado has torque to burn

Test Drive: Heavy-duty silverado has torque to burn

August 23rd, 2014 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

Chevrolet's Silverado 2500 heavy duty truck has all the towing power most truck owners will ever need.

Photo by Mark Kennedy/Times Free Press.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Crew Cab

* Exterior color: Victory Red

* Interior color: Jet Black

* Engine: 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel

* Horsepower: 397

* Torque: 765 pound-feet

* Transmission: Allison six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy (estimated): 19 mpg highway, 14 mpg city

* Dealer: Walter Jackson Chevrolet, Ringgold, Ga.

* Price (as tested): $57,410

Once upon a time - before the Great Recession spread darkness across the land - some guys bought three-quarter ton pickup trucks just because they look cool. They were the automotive equivalent of a belt buckle the size of a hubcap.

These drivers didn't necessarily need the extra cargo or towing capacity; they just liked the idea that heavy-duty trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 were bigger and badder than mere half-ton pickups like the Ford F-150 or the GM 1500-series pickups.

In the new economy, though, heavy-duty trucks are back to their original mission - accomplishing real, broad-shouldered tasks like hauling raw materials to work sites or pulling horse trailers over Monteagle Mountain.

With its updated-for-2015 Silverado 2500, Chevrolet has set a new standard for drivers who need mountain muscle. Equipped with an available 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine mated to an excellent Allison six-speed automatic transmission, the 2015 Silverado 2500 HD becomes a beast, bristling with 765 pound-feet of torque.

This week, our test vehicle is a diesel Silverado 2500 crew cab provided by Bob Lollar, sales manager at Walter Jackson Chevrolet in Ringgold, Ga. Lollar says the trick to selling trucks is to match a customer's needs to the correct vehicle - whether that need be transporting an occasional load of mulch to the cul-de-sac or pulling a baby bulldozer. If the latter task sounds like something you do with regularity, give the Silverado 2500 a look. Base pricing, before options, ranges from $31,310 for a basic 2500 work truck to $42,655 for an LT four-wheel-drive model like our tester. With options, including the $7,195 Duramax diesel engine upgrade and Allison transmission ($1,200), our test truck has an MSRP of $57,410.

STYLING AND FEATURES

OK, let's stipulate that styling is not priority No. 1 if you're buying a work truck that will eventually have a scrape and/or dent on every body panel. Still, there's nothing wrong with a good-looking truck, and a Silverado 2500 in Victory Red like our tester is sure to turn heads.

The three-quarter ton Silverado with its massive grille and bow-tie badge is a menacing sight in someone's rear-view mirror. On a short test drive on I-75 recently, even 18-wheelers gave wide berth to our Big Red Dog of a pickup. Meanwhile, I assumed I was poking along at 50 miles per hour and looked down at the speedometer to find that, shockingly, I had crested 70 miles per hour. If you don't drive pickups regularly they typically feel as if they're going faster than their actual speed, not slower. The Silverad0 2500 is almost sedan quite. Opting for the crew-cab set-up makes it a true, five-passenger vehicle that could be a workhorse by day and a family hauler on nights and weekends.

Chevrolet has improved the interior of the Silverado 2500-series trucks. Unless you opt for base trim - basically a bare-bones work truck - the interior is nicely furnished with plenty of boxes to check if you're willing to open up your checkbook. Our four-wheel-drive test truck in LT trim added power seats, fog lamps, AC with dual climate control, remote start, an 8-inch digital touch screen, rear-view camera and 110-volt power outlet. Among the a la carte options on the sticker are 18-inch polished aluminum wheels ($545), a towing package ($905) including hitch and auto-locking rear differential. Chrome assist steps are a $750 goody.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

One of the first things heavy-duty truck buyers will want to know is: How much does it tow? In the case of our 2500HD test truck, the answer is 17,100 pounds. For scale, that's the weight of two female African elephants - not that we recommend hauling around circus animals just to show off. The point is that this truck can pull just about anything that'll fit in your driveway.

The key to the towing capacity is the 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine mated to the sweet Allison transmission. Working together they deliver about 765 pound-feet of torque, about twice as much grunt as the gasoline V-8 also available on the 2500 HD. The moral: If you need the diesel, get it. If you don't, pocket the savings and go with the 6.0-liter gas-powered V-8, which has more than enough muscle for most suburbanites.

Either way, the driving experience may startle you if you haven't driven a full-size truck lately. The use of high-strength steel throughout, Chevy says "offers a smoother ride, confident handling, and helps create a quiet cabin." To that assessment, we say, "Amen." Cabin isolation in the big Chevy is remarkable, and acceleration is brisk, even in a vehicle with a curb weight of over three tons.

BOTTOM LINE

The new 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500 is a significantly upgraded product, with improvements both to its muscle and its drivability. If you determine that you need a workhorse truck with near bottomless towing capacity, you can't go wrong with the Duramax turbo diesel. The Silverado 2500 turbo-diesel is so new that the government hasn't gotten around to providing fuel economy estimates. We think 16-17 mpg in combined city and highway driving sounds about right.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.