It's strange to jump into a heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado after coming out of a long weekend in a Mazda Miata. Even if I hadn't just spent the previous four nights in one of the smallest cars this side of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, driving a heavy-duty pickup requires a separate mindset from our day-to-day evaluations of sedans, crossovers, and SUVs. A heavy-duty truck can't be judged on the same standards for ride quality, handling, and passing acceleration. In top-spec trim with a crew cab and a long bed, the Silverado HD measures in at 259.1 inches long--or more than 21 feet. To truly evaluate a heavy-duty truck, you need to push it towards its limits with 5906 pounds of payload or a 13,200-pound trailer. Having just one night with the Silverado HD 3500, I didn't have a chance to load it up with anything more than a tandem bike, which was easily swallowed by the swimming-pool-sized bed.
Ford and Chevy seem to be done with their powertrain one-upping game, but both players would benefit from a battle over interior improvements. The Silverado is marked by its tired dash plastics and a seriously dated navigation system with itty bitty buttons. There's also room for major improvement with the steering that has all of the tactile feel and feedback of video-game controller. The effort is extremely light and the effort build-up unusually slow just off-center. No one expects a heavy-duty truck to steer with the precision and delight of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but addressing the Silverado's power assist would deliver a big dose of confidence in piloting this truck down the highway. When it comes to the powertrain, though, I have nothing but respect for this Silverado HD 3500. The optional 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V-8 is responsive and powerful at any speed, making light work of the truck's 7000-plus pounds. It's aided by a smart six-speed automatic that manages all 765 pound-feet of torque without punishing passengers.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor