2020 Chevy Silverado 2500 review: For needs, not wants
SUVs aren't the only ever-growing cars consumers are obsessed with -- pickup trucks are a part of that fray, too. But a heavy-duty truck, like the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 at the center of this review, is not a truck you buy for stuff like that. This is the pickup you pick up when you need to live the real-deal truck-stuff life, pulling horse trailers or assembling lumber to raise a whole barn. If in the course of your cowboy cosplay, you decide you want to move beyond the 1500s and up to this tier of truck without actually needing to, you'll be doing yourself -- and everyone around you on the road -- a disservice.
All about that truck stuff
Equipped with my tester's 6.6-liter V8, which puts out 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque, the Silverado 2500 can pull up to 17,400 pounds. Upgrade to the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8, which puts out 445 hp and 910 lb-ft, and that figure will rise to a whopping 35,500 pounds. The first time we drove the truck, former reviews editor Jon Wong praised the Duramax's effortless hauling ability, but he pointed out that the 6.6-liter gas V8 really had to huff to keep the pace. As it turns out, GM estimates some 70% of buyers will drop the coin on the diesel, so my tester's V8 will largely end up with fleet purchasers and not single consumers, making this not that big of an issue.
Chevrolet also has a bunch of new tech reinforcing the Silverado HD's newfound capabilities. Equipped in the right way, the Silverado HD can show up to 15 different camera angles on the infotainment screen, including an "invisible trailer" mode that stitches camera feeds together to show the driver what's happening behind the trailer itself. An additional trailering app can monitor tire pressures and lights for trailers or water tank levels and HVAC for recreational vehicles.
The 2020 Chevy Silverado HD has presence in spades. It's so freaking big that it can be seen across a parking lot relatively easily, not that this is an excuse to buy a truck larger than most San Francisco apartments. Put it on the road, and it's disturbingly larger than just about everything around it. While it's nice to be able to see through a sea of SUVs and other pickups, the 2500 is so giant that I can see the roofs of those vehicles, which means I'm easily blotting out the sun (and the road ahead) for anyone in a smaller ride.
Driving something the size of a house means parking something the size of a house, and it's not easy. My tester is pretty bare-bones, coming equipped with a federally mandated backup camera and little else in the way of scratch-preventing tech, so even something as straightforward as a trip to the grocery store becomes a Herculean effort. The Silverado 2500 doesn't fit into parking spots very well, which means I spend most of my time at the store walking from the extreme back end of the lot to the front door.
If you need to open the hood, I hope you brought a step stool. Even at 6 feet tall, I can barely see into the engine bay once the hood is open, and I have to grab for anything I can get my hands on to close the darn thing again. Getting up into the truck itself is also an exercise, with shorter drivers and passengers making good use of the many steps and grab handles available, like some twisted version of an elementary school playground.
The Silverado 2500's interior is hit or miss. On the positive side, it's monstrous, with the crew cab gaining more than 3 inches of length in 2020, and every inch of that spaciousness is immediately noticeable -- you could host a family get-together in this thing. On the negative side, Chevrolet barely gave the interior any attention in the truck's makeover, leaving it with a design that looks old and loads up on mediocre plastics, and the build quality isn't as good as it is on competitors like the Ram 2500 . You can, however, fold up the center console so the first row acts as a bench seat, which is a fun touch on lower trims.
The dynamics of a brick
Given the Silverado 2500's residential dimensions, it shouldn't come as a surprise when I say the thing drives like a house, too. My tester's Custom trim is just above the ultra-basic WT (Work Truck) spec, and while uplevel trucks are apparently cushy according to my colleagues, this bare-bones setup is a fair bit choppier. Bumps produce traditional body-on-frame wobbles, and my truck's 20-inch wheels do nothing to absorb or otherwise mitigate on-road nastiness. The steering requires a whole lot of input, too. At no point am I unaware that I'm driving something the size of two parking spaces; it feels every bit as heavy as it is.
The 6.6-liter gas engine is the weaker of the two V8s on offer, and even when the truck is unladen, the Silverado 2500 doesn't exactly hustle. The V8 makes a nice little noise as it pushes pounds over pavement, but you don't get any sort of authoritative acceleration you do on Duramax-equipped variants. The six-speed automatic transmission doesn't attempt to hide its shifts, as upshifts arrive with an obvious thud and downshifts include both that aforementioned clunk and a waiting period for everything to occur.
The brake pedal doesn't inspire much confidence, either. After a half-inch of travel, the pedal firms up immensely, making smooth modulation a little tricky. My colleagues who've towed with the Silverado say the brake pedal feels confident in these situations, but in everyday use it's not that spectacular.
But that's kind of the point: None of the above matters as much when you're doing real-deal work like towing or hauling. If you only do that once every six months and treat the Silverado 2500 like any other car between those periods, you're going to have a bad time.
Solid truck tech
In addition to all the truck-specific tech I touched on when discussing the Silverado 2500's actual capabilities, Chevrolet made sure to throw in some of its latest passenger-car technology, and you don't even need to shell out the big bucks for it.
Every Silverado HD comes with a 7-inch touchscreen running Chevrolet's Infotainment 3 system, a recent reskin that boosts responsiveness and gives the aesthetics a thorough modernization. It's a good system, and it includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto , in addition to GM's optional OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. A single USB port is standard, which is on the low side, and it's the regular ol' Type-A port so it won't charge your device as fast as a Type-C port might. Navigation and an 8-inch screen are upgrades on higher trims, but the 7-incher will do pretty much everything you need it to do.
From there, though, the creature comforts can get a little depressing. For its $46,300 starting price, my Silverado 2500 tester is depressingly devoid of options. Heck, I don't even get standard steering wheel controls for the radio on my Custom trim, and there's a big ol' blank panel where the heated seats should be. I know GM likes to offer its customers value by keeping base trims relatively stripped down, but some of these features are standard on cars starting under $20,000. You can't tell me that all the extra cost of this truck went into the steel in its frame.
The way GM options go, you can't really tack all the good stuff onto lower trims, so you really have to shell out to equip this truck like you might any other car. Move up to higher trims, though, and you get access to extra safety features like parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, a head-up display and blind-spot monitoring.
How I'd spec it
My tester's Custom trim is the second lowest on offer, and with four-wheel drive included, it starts at $43,600 before destination. Throw in a couple options packages (a custom equipment package and one for gooseneck towing), and the price balloons to $48,420, despite being pretty light on kit. Let's see what I can cook up instead.
Since I like my cars to feel a little less sparse, I'll start with the LTZ trim, which adds things like keyless entry, heated seats and automatic climate control. The only problem is that it immediately shoots my price up to $54,895 ($64,785 with the Duramax diesel V8). The issue deepens when I realize that I can get just about everything I want -- the bigger infotainment screen, active and passive safety systems, all that good stuff -- but it's contained in a single $6,805 package. Thus, in order to have a Silverado 2500 equipped with all the tech I want, I'll be paying $61,700 after destination. Yikes.
Down to brass tacks
There are three trucks in the heavy-duty space, and they're all pretty comparably capable. The Ram Heavy Duty and Ford Super Duty boast nearly the same towing capability, so it really just boils down to picking the truck that you think looks the best and contains all the features you're after. The Silverado HD is the only one with the "invisible trailer" tech, for example, so for towing aficionados that might be a game changer.
If you actually need a heavy-duty truck, the Silverado 2500 is mighty capable, but it's not without its downsides in the build-quality, aesthetics and options departments. If you are only buying a truck to use very occasionally (or just drive for the lifestyle points), I would highly recommend sticking with light-duty variants for more user friendliness.