I skeptically looked at the trailer hooked up to the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500, loaded with a 7,000-pound John Deere skid-steer mini-dozer. The 18-foot trailer was almost as long as the 20-foot heavy-duty pickup truck towing it. This might be a bad idea, I thought.
I've towed a fair bit, but light loads, usually under 5,000 pounds. The Silverado 2500, with its available 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8, puts out 910 pound-feet of torque, more than enough to pull the nearly 10,000 pounds I'd be dragging behind me, but what about shifting or, more importantly, stopping?
I needn't have worried. Tow/Haul mode, activated by pushing a button at the end of the steering column mounted shifter, keeps the transmission from hunting gears, so the engine speed remains nice and high for maximum grunt. When I pressed the diesel exhaust brake button on the center stack, the engine did plenty of braking on its own. Add to that the Silverado's integrated braking system, which engages the truck and trailer brakes at the same time. No fishtailing, no panic stops, easy peasy.
The Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 3500 are Chevy's heavy-duty pickup trucks. Both are available in the base work truck WT, mid LT and LTZ, and the top-end High Country trims. You can also get either in two- or four-wheel drive with a variety of cab and bed sizes. They come standard with a 6.0-liter gas-powered V8 engine, and both are available with a fifth-wheel gooseneck trailering package.
So what's the difference? The Silverado 3500 is a bit bigger all around and comes with the option of dual rear wheels, all in the quest for more towing and payload capabilities. Here's a handy chart outlining the capabilities of the two trucks when equipped with the available turbodiesel engine.
Trailering (ball hitch)
Trailering (fifth wheel)
Those numbers are much higher than those for the Nissan Titan, Nissan Titan XD and Toyota Tundra, but you could give both the Ram 2500/3500 as well as the Ford F-250/350 a handicap of a Chevrolet Spark or two before the Silverados catch up.
I spent most of my time at a Chevrolet-sponsored press drive in Illinois in the Silverado 2500 before driving it to another event in Des Moines, Iowa. While the truck towed like a dream, tracking straight with hardly a peep from the diesel engine coming into the cabin, the truck lacks some of the driver's aids that make driving a large truck and trailer so much easier.
For example, the Silverado has no blind-spot monitoring. Keep in mind this is a truck that, depending on cab and bed size, can be up to 21 and a half feet long. Add an 18- or 20- or even 30-foot trailer, and blind-spot monitoring becomes a must-have. The Ford F-250 has it, and it even covers the length of the trailer to boot.
Adaptive cruise control is noticeably absent as well. While it's understandable one would not want the truck to control braking and acceleration when hauling heavy loads, there are plenty of times drivers will just be, you know, driving. Having the option of the truck following a lead car at a predetermined distance should at least be available.
There isn't a 360-degree camera to help when parking this big guy, but there are five different camera systems available as accessories from the dealer. And when it comes to backing up a trailer, well you're on your own there too. The cameras can help but there isn't anything like the Trailer Guidance system found on the Ford F-250, which gives steering guidance for those that need it.
A $450 Driver Alert Package adds lane departure warning to help keep you from drifting out of the lane without signaling. However, instead of an automatic steering or brake input to get the truck back in line, the Silverado gives an audible and visual alert and sends a buzz to the safety seat to say, "Yo, pay attention!" Yep, your butt gets a warning when you mess up.
The Chevy MyLink infotainment system comes standard on an 8-inch touchscreen on all but the WT trim, which gets a basic audio system on a 4.2-inch screen. I've always liked Chevy's dashboard technology as it's intuitive, offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Teen Driver, which keeps track of new drivers' antics behind the wheel and serves up a report card for parents.
Take away the trailer and the Silverado heavy duty truck makes a serviceable runaround. On my 3-hour road trip through the heartland of America, I found the Silverado to be a bit jumpy in the rear, as most heavy duty pick ups are. If you're looking for something a bit smoother, try the Ram 2500 with its rear coil-over suspension. The Silverado's steering feels precise, and while my driving was on the interstate, the truck exhibited minimal body roll on cloverleaf on-ramps.
The big news is the Duramax turbodiesel, which adds more horsepower and torque to the 2016 model year diesel output. Now pumping out 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque, it's got better numbers than the Cummins 6.7-liter diesel in the Ram 2500, but is just about right in line with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel in the Ford F-250. Power delivery is smooth and I'd be lying if I said I didn't chirp my rear wheels a few times when the light turned green.
Keeping the exhaust brake on even when not towing meant I could almost give up the brake pedal altogether and just let the engine slow itself down. The six-speed Allison automatic transmission doesn't call attention to itself, never searching for the correct gear or upshifting too quickly.
And the powerplant is just so darn quiet! Gone is the loud diesel rattle making its way into the large and comfortable cockpit. Instead, driver and passengers can have a deep conversation about the world's problems, all without yelling. Well, at least without yelling to be heard.
But, that diesel engine comes with one whopper of a price: $10,665. Chevrolet includes a few extra goodies in the Duramax Plus Package, like the LTZ Plus Package with power adjustable pedals, park assist and a heated steering wheel. Also included is navigation and the engine exhaust brake. When you add that package to my fully-loaded crew cab LTZ tester, the total options cost $18,520 and the final price is a whopping $71,090 including destination.
If you're the kind of person who doesn't care for driver's aids like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 3500 are a good choice, depending on how much you need to tow. Other heavy-duty trucks from the likes of Ford and Ram can haul more, but the Chevrolet stacks up well in terms of driveability, comfort and infotainment technology.
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