The voice crackles over the walkie-talkie as we clip along highway 87 just outside of Payson, Arizona: “Allright now, line ‘em up at the mirrors….hold it…one, two, three, go!” And with that, the pedal is put to the metal and it’s an old-fashioned drag race….with a slight twist. Instead of fire-breathing street racers, what we’ve got here are full-size 4WD heavy-duty pickup trucks, powered by massive turbo-diesel engines and pulling 4536 kilogram (10,000-pound) trailers. Up one of the steepest inclines in the state.
Needless to say, there are no imports in this contest, and it’s Ford against Chevy against Dodge, and to Mopar and Fomoco fans everywhere, apologies, but, under these circumstances, you’ll get your butts handed to you by the Chev Silverado Duramax 2500. Three times in succession, from a rolling start at about 70 km/h, the Silverado left both the Ram 2500 and Ford Powerstroke 2500 in its dust. Not even close. All three vehicles were towing identical trailers, and were roughly the same in terms of specs and powertrain combinations. The Ram, with its Cummins engine, in particular, took an ass-kicking; both the Chev and Ford were dramatically quicker, not to mention being much smoother in operation. This also applies to the full-size GMC Sierra models, which are essentially the same trucks with cosmetic differences.
As well as offering up massive amounts of raw torque and horsepower, one of the biggest factors was in the transmission shifting points; the Silverado just held its power in the lower gears longer, which made all the difference. Having a massive 765 foot-pounds of torque at your disposal doesn’t hurt either, although, that said, both the Ford and Ram have more…. at least on paper.
Now displacing 6.6 litres, this iteration of the Duramax puts out 397 horsepower and is mated to an Allison six-speed automatic. This is a trailer-hauling, load carrying rig, specifically built to handle the big stuff. “Diesels account for two-thirds of our heavy duty truck sales,” adds chief engineer, Jeff Luke, “and customers are willing to pay more for it.” For non-diesel aficionados, a 6.0 litre gas V8 is also available, and all told, there are some 150 variations of the Silverado, including Compressed Natural Gas and Flex-Fuel versions.
There is also another side to these kinds of trucks that gets little attention: they are quiet. For example, at 100 km/h, the engine is ticking over at a leisurely 1300-1500 rpms….barely above idling speed, and there is virtually no road or drivetrain noise in the cabin. You can easily carry on a conversation without having to raise your voice, and it’d be interesting to compare decibel levels of the Silverado/Sierra turbo-diesel – and the Ram and Ford, for that matter – against some upscale models. I’ve personally driven BMWs, for example, that are louder on the highway.
Like its competitors, the 2500 Duramax also has an exhaust brake feature. In a nutshell, this alters the vane geometry of the turbocharger to provide decompression when going down a steep hill. GM introduced it in 2008, and it’s been standard equipment in the big rigs – 18 wheelers – for years, albeit in a different form. If you’re hauling the aforementioned 4536 kilogram trailing downhill, you need all the braking help you can get and for serious truckers, this feature is a godsend.
A few other notes. Trucks of this size tend to have choppy rides, due to their stiff suspension and heavy construction. GM has managed to soften this up a bit and compared to the Ram 2500, for example, it offers a more civilized ride, with less drivetrain noise and road racket. In this department, it’s on equal footing with the Ford 2500. And for those who keep an eye on these things, average fuel economy of my test Silverado 2500 was about 10.6 L/100 km while cruising at between 100 – 120 km/h.
The 2015 Silverado / Sierra also sport revised exterior cues…a massive new chrome grille, for example, which provides increased air flow to the engine bay, according to Jeff Luke, and “better air intake”.
All of which combine to make a pretty formidable piece of kit, with a price tag to match. Before extras and options, you can count on spending at least $55,000 for one of these babies….add a few goodies, like upgraded interior trim, a trailer towing package, running board, etc, etc, and you’ll be up and over 70 large before you know what hit you.
Built in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Flint Michigan, the 2015 Silverado is available right about now.
2015 Chev Silverado Duramax 2500
Price Range: $47,000 – $77,600
Engine: 6.6 litre Turbo-diesel V8
Horsepower: 397 hp @ 300 rpm
Torque: 765 ft. lb. @ 1600 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: RWD / 4WD
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 10.6 L / 100 km (estimated combined rating)
Alternatives: Dodge Ram 2500, Ford Powerstroke 2500