I had the opportunity recently to go to a local Chevrolet dealer’s Meet the Designers get together. This event allowed for test drives of some of the most popular and newest models from Chevrolet in a no-pressure atmosphere, with a ride along absolute non-salesmen who worked for GM. I landed an engineer as my co-pilot for my test drives and immediately felt comfortable with him as well as the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup that I chose to test drive that day. The particular pickup model they had available in the HD line was a loaded 3500 LTZ. It was a crew cab model with a standard bed and was equipped with the Duramax 6.6L Turbo Diesel as well as the Allison 6-speed automatic transmission. I was thoroughly impressed, all around, with the vehicle. I suppose I should be with any vehicle that has an MSRP of $55,700 but even looking past that, the “new GM” is one that I can really get on board with.
The new 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup is big. From a distance, you can’t really tell it is the HD model when it is sitting next to the 1500 series pickup but once you get up close you can tell it’s a bigger truck. However, there is no doubt it is a Chevy pickup, keeping plenty of styling cues that date back some twenty years. It’s big, it’s square and it is unapologetic about its aerodynamics. The biggest distinction that gives away the HD from the 1500 series is the black plastic on part of the hood of all the HD models, plus badges on the doors.
After I was handed the keys, I opened the driver’s side door and was blown away with how nice the interior of this truck is. There are memory settings for the power seats, pedals and side mirrors, something typically reserved for luxury cars. The leather seats were very nice and the entire interior seemed well put together. Soft touch plastics were used everywhere, there are no shiny plastics or rough edges and no noticeable gaps in the interior pieces. All of the buttons felt solid, as did the turn signal and rotary switches for the four wheel drive and headlights. All in all, the interior was a place I would happily spend a lot of time and I could see why these trucks are so popular with hot shot drivers.
I started up the truck and let it idle as I was taking in the amazing interior. The diesel engine is so quiet and smooth that you truly can’t tell it is a diesel with the windows rolled up. I’ll admit I am a bit of a diesel geek and enjoy the sound of a diesel engine at work; however, the lack of a lumpy idle and the ting, ting of diesel idle was not really missed. I got my mirrors adjusted, tested out reverse to discover the integrated backup camera that replaced the navigation screen, then put it into drive to pull out of my parking spot.
Handling and Safety
Before I could get to the ability of this truck to move quickly and comfortably, I had to first navigate it out of a parking lot, a car dealer parking lot no less. The turning radius, something that many pickups get complaints about, was pretty impressive. On top of a good turning radius, the unapologetic square nose on this truck made it very easy to judge where the front of the truck was located, making it much easier to gauge whether I was close or too close to a vehicle that I was near as I was navigating the parking lot.
Handling seemed very steady throughout the test drive. Thankfully, I had no emergencies that required me to push the boundaries of this pickup but I did take a under the overpass U-turn with a little speed and found the truck handled this very well. Braking feel was excellent but I can’t comment on exactly how well the brakes will slow this truck down from speed. There is an exhaust brake as well, though documentation was not on hand to say when it kicked in. At three tons, there is a lot of weight to manage in all aspects of this vehicle’s dynamics. Never once though in my test drive did the 2011 Silverado HD pickup ever feel ponderous in its driving dynamics.
There are standard 4-wheel disk brakes and traction/stability control to keep the truck safely going where it should and there are standard airbags for the frontal impacts, with available airbags for side impact, with a total of six available in total. OnStar emergency services are included for the first year as well and are a welcome thing to have should you find yourself stranded or in an accident and is a GM exclusive piece of technology.
During the entire drive, which was mostly freeway, with a couple side streets thrown in, I was aware that I was driving a truck because of how high off the ground I was but the entire experience from a driving perspective was excellent. Bumps were well absorbed and there was very good damping of body movements as well as body lean during a spirited turn. On top of having an excellent suspension setup, the truck was quiet. Frankly, almost too quiet. You could faintly hear the excellent diesel sound during acceleration but otherwise, you never knew it was a diesel. In fact, I’ve driven so-called luxury cars that had more wind, tire and engine noise on the freeway.
Being a diesel geek means I walked in aware that the diesel engine in the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup was a potent one. In general, diesels are more efficient: they make more power on less fuel than their gas powered rivals. I know because I owned a 2001 Golf TDI and I regularly got 45-50 miles per gallon with modifications that also had it making more horsepower than the standard gas engine and quite a bit more torque. The diesel in the 2011 Silverado HD, called the Duramax, makes 397hp at 3000rpm (redline is 4500rpms) and 765 lb-ft of torque, at only 1600 rpm’s. That’s right, barely off idle, the engine is making its peak torque. Unlike the European diesels being sold in this country, the Duramax has been tested and is compatible with diesel fuel that is up to 20% biodiesel. The European diesels can only run at 5 or 10% biodiesel, which is unfortunate because biodiesel is actually more realistically sustainable than the other common biofuel everyone talks about, ethanol.
Considering the size of the vehicle, I was truly amazed with the acceleration that this truck had. Almost four hundred horsepower can get lost when being tasked to move over 6,000 pounds of truck, not to mention the air of the big front end but the nearly 800 foot pounds of torque more than made up for the weight and chunky aerodynamics. The Allison built transmission does a great job, for the most part, with shifts. There was a couple times that a “normal” Chevrolet transmission would have kicked down quicker but with all that torque, acceleration was still happening until the transmission kicked down. My only gripe is that Chevrolet has not seen it fit to offer a manual transmission to go with either the gas or diesel engines in any of their pickup line. While 1500 series drivers would almostnever choose it, hot shot drivers with Dually, HD pickups would appreciate the option of a six speed manual and many would choose it if it was offered.
Before I started my pre-determined, mostly freeway route, I did make a point to go through the trip computer and bring up the average mileage and clear it out for my drive. Because of the weight and class of the vehicle, there are no EPA mileage estimates for it. During my brief drive, which included two pedal to the metal 0-70 pulls, a bit of city driving and a few miles on the freeway, the fuel consumption, according to the computer, equaled 22 miles per gallon. My dad’s four cylinder Toyota Tacoma gets that in real world driving, can’t haul or tow a fraction of what the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD can and would easily lose a drag race to it as well.
Model Info: 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD
MSRP: $27,965-over $50,000. As tested: $56,395
Warranty: 3 years/ 36,000 miles Bumper to Bumper, 5 years/100,000 miles Power Train.
Highs: Luxury Car interior, amazing engine
Lows: Luxury car price, no manual option in any range of the 2011 Silverado HD
Final Word: A great vehicle that even at three tons gets better gas mileage than some luxury cars at this price point and can tow a house.
2011 Chevy Silverado 3500HD, Chevrolet.