2015 Silverado, Sierra Heavy-Duties: Endowed Performance

By Sue Mead, March 8th, 2014

Many viewers enjoy the Super Bowl for its commercials as much as for the big game itself. One of my favorites this year was the spot featuring a modern-day cowboy and his 2015 Chevy Silverado HD truck.

Tagged "Romance," the ad uses farmhands and bulls to pull at the heartstrings of truck buyers. But its steamy sound track, "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, also tickles the funny bone as a well-groomed bull is towed in a trailer to check out the "ladies" on the range.

Truth is, General Motors is also eyeing the ladies as it updates its heavy-duty truck line -- the Silverado and Sierra -- with all-new new sheet metal, more technology and comfort inside the cabin, as well as tough-truck engineering upgrades that make the new pickups safer and better endowed with increased towing capacity.

Starting at $32,405, the 2015 Heavy Duties come in 2500 and 3500 sizes, in 2WD and 4WD versions, and appeal to women more than ever. Some female buyers pull horses, tow motorhomes, and some own businesses that require the smart technologies plus the refined power of today's big trucks.

Fresh on the heels of updating its award-winning 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500, GM redesigns its work-horse, or "HD" models, giving the duo new exteriors, advanced chassis controls, better-connected interiors, and improved fuel economy.

Engineering tweaks to powertrains bring greater payload and towing ratings than the previous models: GM says its new work trucks have the segment's highest payload of 7,374 pounds (up from 7,222 lbs.) -- and the highest conventional trailering rating at 19,600 pounds (up from 18,000 lbs.). Meanwhile, the maximum fifth-wheel/gooseneck trailering rating increases to 23,200 pounds (up from 22,500 lbs.).

The HD trucks are powered by a choice of 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel boasting 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque or a 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 that produces 360 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque; bi-fuel and CNG versions are also available.

Both Chevy and GMC brands offer these trucks in more than 150 combinations of cabs, bed lengths, powertrains, drivetrains, and axle ratios, allowing customers to "right-size" their trucks for personal towing and hauling needs.

Silverado models include Work Truck (WT), LT and LTZ trims; they can be ordered in regular, double, and crew cab configurations. Dual-rear-wheel configurations are also available on 3500 HDs. A new double cab model replaces the extended cab; its forward-hinged rear doors allow easier access in tight parking spaces.

Think likewise, but with different styling and personality for the GMC Sierra HD offerings: trims include a base model, SLE, SLT, and the top-flight Denali edition with a collection of truly upscale interior amenities.

Updated to be stronger are 6-foot, 6-inch and 8-foot cargo boxes, with standard CornerStep bumpers, EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgates, as well as other features that make cargo handling easier. Among the updates to both truck brands are exterior styling changes that enhance airflow, thereby improving quietness and increasing fuel economy.

We drove a collection of the new models on a day-long ride and drive in the Valley of the Sun region of Arizona that's used by truck makers for durability and performance testing, due to its high elevation and steep grades that demonstrate the capability and handling of trucks pulling heavy loads.

From the outside, the HDs wear bold and eye-catching sheet metal and lights; while trims vary, all are beset with enormous grilles. Roof and tailgate spoilers have been tuned in a wind tunnel to smooth airflow, which reduces noise and improves aerodynamic efficiency for better fuel economy.

Inside, we immediately took note of the impressive quietness that comes as a result of inlaid, triple-seal doors, which fit snugly into recesses in the body sides to reduce turbulence and wind rush. New are an upright instrument panel that puts important controls within easy reach, a six-gauge instrument cluster with a driver information center, plus multiple storage options designed specifically for truck customers. Controls are large and easy-to-operate while wearing work gloves.

GM has made a significant leap forward in the ride-and-drive characteristics of the new trucks. We drove both Silverado and Sierra HD pickups in varying sizes and pulled trailers with large loads, and also used a goose-neck setup to tow a motorhome. While comparable in handling quality to the 1500s, the HD models are big and heavy, yet they drive like much smaller trucks, with little-to-no truck-like feeling.

The engines offer great power on demand, the brakes are strong and competent brakes, and the suspension provides flat cornering. The diesel powerplant has some noise, but it is relatively low volume and not intrusive. The trucks ride on a specially engineered, independent front suspension; at the rear, an asymmetrical leaf-spring set-up minimizes axle hop and enhances traction control.

Other confidence-inspiring features are cruise control, auto grade braking, and diesel exhaust brake (on diesel models). This suite of features helps maintain a set speed both up and down grades, even when towing a heavy trailer in mountainous terrain, as we experienced.

Premium materials, upscale details and trim, and purposeful technologies are found throughout the passenger space that is designed to be a productive, easy-to-use environment.

Specifications

Base price $32,405 (as tested: $35,875)
Curb weight 6,044 lbs.
Displacement 6.0-liter
Epa mileage rating NA
Fuel capacity 36.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 360 at 5400 rpm
Motor type OHV Vortec V-8 w/SFI
Overall length 224.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 380 at 4200 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 2/3-passenger 4WD full-size pickup
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