There used to be a sharper delineation between pickup truck classes.
Compact and mid-size models offered trucker-wannabe style, econo affordability with a smallish cargo box to boot. Popular, full-size half-ton 1500 models added more utility, more box room, infinite trim choices and enough hauling hubris to tow trailers and toys, haul a half cord of firewood home, drag junk to the dump or just soldier on in daily commuting.
And then there were the big boys, HD models that were longer, wider, taller and heavier, rough and ready for anything, more about carrying cargo than creature comforts. “Large and in charge” you might say, work trucks usually boasting a big thumping diesel with enough muscle for any potential payload, tow or hauling situation. In other words, not your everyday pickups.
“Regular pickups are for people who want a truck,” the saying goes. “Heavy duty pickups are for people who actually NEED a truck.”
But those lines have blurred with a continuing evolution of heavy-duty lineups that have added more mod cons, more new tech and enough sumptuous luxury choices to please even upscale customers. Like, for example, this top-of-the-line 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4WD Crew Cab High Country.
A bigger, better and stronger Silverado HD debuted a couple of years ago with a thorough selection of Regular Cab, Double Cab and Crew Cab layouts, in 2WD or 4WD, mounting Standard or Long cargo boxes spread through five trim levels – WT (Work Truck), Custom, LT, LTZ or High Country – for a total of 22 different cab, bed, chassis and driveline configurations ranging in price from around $45K – $100K. And because of that recent revision for 2020, not much has changed in this 2021 test version or in the newly-arriving 2022 models.
The Silverado HD offers two 6.6-litre V8 engines – one gas-powered and one diesel. The standard 6.6-litre V8 gasoline engine makes 401 hp at 5200 rpm and 464 lb-ft at 4000 rpm and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s enough grunt to get the job done with a 8,391 kg (18,500 lb) tow rating.
Now, some might say, wait a minute, I can save some serious dough dialing back to a Silverado 1500 regular pickup with an almost same-size 6.2-litre EcoTec3 gas V8 hooked up to a more sophisticated 10-speed tranny and making similar power ratings – 420 hp at 5600 rpm and 460 lb-ft at 4100 rpm. But, yeah, while those power numbers seem almost identical, the half-ton pickup tow limit comes in at about half of the HD rating – 4,128 kg (9,100 lb).
So let’s get back to the Silverado HD and let’s also go whole hog with the muscular but pricey 6.6-litre Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine ($11,005) mated to a Allison 10-speed automatic and making 445 hp at 2800 rpm and a stump-pulling 910 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm. The diesel may have the same 8,391 kg (18,500 lb) tow rating as the gas engine but there’s an uptick in payload and weight ratings. And, jeepers, just look at how soon the peak torque level comes in, barely past idle at 1600 rpm. This motor was engineered for hauling. Push this engine with some strenuous towing and it will even restart on its own after shutdown, idling until it decides it’s cooled down enough.
This class of work truck is built for freight hauling not frugality so it is not rated for fuel economy. But the Silverado HD will cruise effortlessly at 1,300 rpm at highway speed, barely ticking over to the tune of an observed 10L/100km on long freeway stretches, with my real world mixed driving results averaging out to 14.2L/100km (comb).
Silverado HD styling sets an over-the-top precedent with a chrome cliff for a front end, in this High Country case more subtly marked by the Chevy bowtie instead of the standard “Chevrolet” badge carved out into the grille. The rest of the styling does not venture far from traditional truckiness. Box steps in front of the rear wheel wells and rear corner steps add handy access points to the pickup bed.
Enhancements to our tester included power-retractable running boards ($1,265) and a Tri-Fold hard tonneau cover ($1,460) complementing the HD’s 1,968 litre spray-lined standard DuraBed with 12 fixed tie down rings, load separation slots, 120V electrical outlet and Power Up/Down tailgate.
Inside, the Silverado HD sticks with the traditional styling theme, with all the expected knobs and dials in all the expected places. The interior seems an uninspired copy of the regular Silverado pickup, the touch screen is smallish and I’m crossing my fingers for a refreshed, more ballsy interior treatment in the next-gen model, probably slated for 2024.
But the truck is loaded with all the expected conveniences and driver-assist techs that you could hope for at this price level and the roomy cabin offers comfortable accommodation in both seating rows.
We didn’t really do justice to this 2021 Silverado HD tester, using it mainly for shuttling around and for a few fully loaded runs to the recycling centre after moving house. But the big torque and horsepower also shows up in off-the-line acceleration. It pulls, baby, with enough giddy-up to surprise sports cars when the stoplights turned green. And for all its hefty hauling power, the 6.6-litre diesel is surprisingly refined, with only muted diesel clatter, a nice complement to smooth riding suspension and EPS systems.
Which, on a snow-frosted morning return run to GM, translated into serenely sailing into the morning sunrise, feeling securely invincible with all that iron acreage around, elegantly cruising with a second-storey view in a very powerful and very capable Silverado HD.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.