December 2, 2023

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Chevy Out Tows Ford, Ram

MT. BACHELOR, Oregon — The claws are out at Chevrolet. The bow-tie brand has had about enough shade thrown at its new Silverado pickups by fans of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickups. It’s got a few choice words for traditional archrival Ford F-series, too.

Rolling out the 2020 Silverado 2500 and 3500 HD pickups — max towing 35,500 pounds, suckas — Chevy’s in the mood to take names and kick tailgates. Its big new pickups boast power, refined, quiet operation and a brand new 6.6L gasoline V8 to complement Silverado’s stalwart Duramax diesel.

“Dust ‘em,” my navigator said of the 45-mph Dodge Caravan minivan slouching along ahead of us when a straightaway opened on a long uphill run as we climbed to the 6,000-foot base camp where a 28-foot trailer awaited us.

Nobody in their right mind buys a diesel medium-duty pickup for show-off passing power, but anybody sane would appreciate the 910 pound-feet of torque  pouring through the 10-speed Allison heavy-duty automatic transmission as the laggard vanished behind us.

The 6.6L diesel’s power also shone through pulling the 14,000-pound trailer on narrow, twisting logging roads and up and down hills later that day.

The roomy crew cab was comfortable and quiet throughout. Chevy still hasn’t nailed an interior look and feel worthy of the pickups that are the brand’s true top-of-the-line vehicles, though.

For my next trick, I’ll make a trailer disappear

The Silverado HD pickups use the latest electronics to keep trailers stable, manage braking, even adjust steering feel. I had to remind myself the trailer was there repeatedly in two days’ driving that included secondary roads, sweeping highways, unpaved surfaces, long hills and declines and tricky towing exercises.

Chevy’s 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel — big brother to the I-6 3.0L Duramax debuting in the 2020 Silverado 1500 light-duty pickup — is quiet and smooth. It’s barely audible in the cabin, whether unladen at highway speed or towing a huge trailer to a worksite.

The 2500 and 3500 HDs — they’re legally classified as medium-duty trucks, but people often call ’em heavy duty for the same reason most of us overestimate our height and underestimate weight — offer eight digital cameras that provide every trailer view you can imagine, and some it took a room full of engineers to think of.

“Transparent trailer,” for instance, a view that fuses feeds from several cameras to show what’s next to and behind the trailer. The view adapts when you turn to show what’s alongside the trailer, making it easy to navigate tight spaces. The eight digital cameras provide a total of 15 views. That may seem excessive, but each has a purpose, like the camera inside the trailer to make sure horses or other livestock are safe.

It ain’t bragging if you can do it

That’s a nice list, but Chevy isn’t in a list-making mood. It watched Ram steal the coveted No. 2 spot in the pickup sales races — the Ford F-series is a runaway No. 1. That’s at least partly because Ram started building its new pickups first, and continues to sell the old model, too. Last year’s Ram 1500 and the Ram 2500 and 3500 launched earlier this year also look great, and the top models have luxurious interior trim and features.

In response, Chevy’s done with polite PowerPoint presentations. It’s ready to talk some trash.

Claims include the Silverado 3500 diesel:

  • Accelerating to 60 mph two seconds faster than the corresponding Ram.
  • Zero-60 mph 2.6 seconds quicker towing an 18,000-pound trailer.
  • 1  second quicker 40-60 mph, a useful gauge of passing.
  • 1.6 seconds quicker 25-60 mph, representative of entering a highway.

Chief engineer Tim Herrick saved some shade for Ford’s top-selling F-series Super Duty pickups, saying the Silverado HD’s gasoline V8’s towing capacity does not decline at higher altitudes, while Ford loses 2% for every 1,000 feet above sea level. Herrick credits Chevy’s superior cooling system for keeping the engine cool and copacetic despite thinner air.

Facts, figures and features

Towing capacity and cameras are the tip of an iceberg of features and first and bests Chevy claims for the 2020 Silverado HDs.

A partial list:

  • Every Silverado HD comes with a label that says exactly how much that specific truck can tow, another first.
  • 445 horsepower from the 6.6L diesel V8.
  • The first direct-injection gasoline engine in a medium duty pickup, a new 401-hp, 464 pound-feet of torque,  6.6L gasoline V8 from GM’s famous small block V8 family.
  • A new Allison heavy-duty 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Power-open and -closing tailgate.
  • The class’ biggest cargo box.
  • Max towing of 35,300 pounds isn’t just best in class, it’s up 52% from the old model.
  • The HDs don’t look like the light-duty 1500. The only body panel the they share with Li’l Bro is the roof.

The 2020 Silverado HDs are the first medium-duty pickups GM engineered separately from its light-duty 1500 models. That’s key to the performance leap. The upcoming GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 will offer the same features, plus a more luxurious look and feel to match the brand’s upscale image.

Sales begin shortly. After a year spent defending the Silverado 1500, Chevy thinks the shoe’s on the other foot now.



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