So what's new?
At this point you're probably wondering what Chevy and GMC did to these trucks that warrants a new review. As it happens, these trucks are virtually all-new below the skin: A revised Duramax 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged diesel V-8 now produces 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque. There's a totally new frame and suspension that increase capability in every measurable way. And the whole package works much, much better than last year's truck. The 6.0-liter gasoline V-8 is essentially carried over from 2010, but it has a new camshaft and remains a very solid engine choice for those who don't need (or can't afford) a diesel.
Money where it matters
You may recall GM's slight financial problems that were in the news at this time last year. Obviously, the heavy duty truck program was given a finite budget, but what's important is that entire budget was used to make the trucks work harder and become more capable. Yes, the engineering team would have loved to roll out an all-new design and a plush interior, but reality says none of that would have increased sales or benefitted the customer like an all-new chassis and upgraded powertrains can.
Duramax conquers all
The heart of any modern heavy duty truck is the optional diesel engine. Although costly to order, diesel engines offer incredible power and better fuel economy than the standard gas engines in this segment. For 2011, GM's 6.6-liter Duramax twin-turbocharged diesel V-8 trumps the competition with 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque. For reference, Ford coaxes 390 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque from the new turbocharged 6.7 Power Stroke V-8, and Ram lags behind with a mere 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque offered by its Cummins-sourced 6.7-liter turbo-diesel I-6.
GM engineers tell us the increased power does not compromise longevity since a variety of changes to the Duramax keep internal stress at the same level of last year's engine, which produced only 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. Better yet, the 2011 Duramax is estimated to be 11-percent more fuel efficient than before, and can now run on B20 biodiesel. We also noticed the Duramax was quieter and more refined than ever during our drive.