Silverado, Sierra HD: GM's Big Gamers

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 8th, 2014

It's "game on" at Chevrolet. Not contented with the coronation of its 2014 Silverado 1500 pickup as Truck of the Year by an independent panel of automotive journalists, Chevy has rolled out its 2015 heavy duty models.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are engineered to be stronger and smarter, delivering the capability heavy-duty truck customers demand, along with greater refinement and control for more comfort and confidence on the job and on the road
Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are engineered to be stronger and smarter, delivering the capability heavy-duty truck customers demand, along with greater refinement and control for more comfort and confidence on the job and on the road

Full-size pickup trucks are the most profitable and competitive in the motoring world. About one-fourth of them are heavy-duty versions, all from U.S. brands, which have fiercely loyal customers. The Tundra and Titan, from Japanese companies, are distant also-rans.

From an outside perspective, differences among the heavy-duty Ford F-Series, Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram are marginal. All four perform well at hauling up to a ton of cargo and towing loads that weigh 10 tons or more.

So it's a matter of chipping away at the margins to determine which truck is better for you. That's what Chevrolet and GMC did at the introduction of the 2015 heavy-duty diesel and gasoline models.

strong>There were two comparisons: a downhill run to demonstrate steady-speed towing with the cruise control engaged, and an uphill race to demonstrate the power of the trucks' diesel engines.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are engineered to be stronger and smarter, delivering the capability heavy-duty truck customers demand, along with greater refinement and control for more comfort and confidence on the job and on the road

With each towing 10,000 pounds, the Silverado beat the Ford and Ram slightly uphill. However, the results were not conclusive because the three vehicles were equipped with different final-drive axle ratios.

On downhill runs, the Silverado did the best job of holding the set speed while the Ford and Ram ran away. The idea was to show that the Silverado would be the least harrowing on a long trip. Experiencing how the cruise control integrated with exhaust braking keep speed under control was impressive. Buy the Chevy or GMC if you do lots of long-distance towing.

Diesel engines are the Incredible Hulks of power plants, delivering not only horsepower but also stupefying torque, or twisting muscle. For example, General Motors' 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax diesel delivers 397 horsepower and also 765 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to tow a trailer that weighs up to 11 tons, depending on the setup.

Also, diesels deliver superior fuel economy, though not like a hybrid or diesel automobile. The U.S. government does not require fuel economy ratings for heavy-duty trucks, so customers must rely on manufacturers' numbers.

Estimates for the Silverado 2500 three-quarter ton pickup tested here run from the low teens around town to a bit more than 20 mpg on the highway, with a 17 mpg rating for combined city/highway driving. Of course, mileage depends on the load and speed.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are engineered to be stronger and smarter, delivering the capability heavy-duty truck customers demand, along with greater refinement and control for more comfort and confidence on the job and on the road

The new 2015 Silverado and GMC HD pickups also are state-of-the-art in the modern pickup idiom: luxury and comfort. You can buy base work models, but even contractors, ranchers, and tradesmen often opt for the premium versions.

The tested 2015 Silverado 2500 LTZ with all-wheel drive was such a comfortable model, with a base price of $49,325 and, with all the goodies, a sticker of $61,695. (Base price for Silverado HD starts at $31,310).

Even more plush was the diesel GMC Sierra Denali 3500 crew cab model with four-wheel drive and dual rear wheels -- about as macho a pickup truck as anyone might imagine. With a $67,505 price, it was equipped as well as any luxury car, with a rear-seat entertainment system, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, remote starting, navigation, motorized sunroof, and a host of other performance and comfort features. (Sierra HD base pricing is $32,420).

On the road, the "dually" drove small, felt composed, was almost eerily silent, and featured a comfortable ride that belied its load-carrying rear leaf springs and four rear tires. In a straight line on a trip, it's hard to beat. On the other hand, drivers must be careful negotiating curves, corners, and parking lots lest they annihilate some lesser vehicle.

Modern pickup trucks are night and day different from their predecessors of only a decade ago. They are gigantic, comfortable as a hotel's presidential suite, and offer power and fuel economy, especially with diesels, that could only be imagined before.

2018 Ford F-150: Fresh Face Pickups with Powertrain Changes

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2018 Ford F-150: Fresh Face Pickups with Powertrain Changes

Ford is well-satisfied with the design and engineering of its new-generation aluminum-alloy-bodied F-150 pickups, launched for the 2015 model year. This is reflected with its new batch of 2018 models, which for the most part are carryover vehicles. Mid-cycle changes mainly consist of cosmetic exterior treatments, and a short list of powertrain upgrades that heighten the lineup's efficiency.

2018 Ram: Western Spirit in Longhorn Southfork Edition

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2018 Ram: Western Spirit in Longhorn Southfork Edition

A proven method of corralling the emotions of a large segment of luxury-pickup buyers is to create an appealing Western-theme design. Ram has had a long-running success with its Longhorn Edition, and has upped the ante by injecting even more Western spirit into the new 2018 Laramie Longhorn Southfork Edition.

Chevrolet: Celebrating 100 Years of Trucks

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Chevrolet: Celebrating 100 Years of Trucks

Chevrolet is celebrating its 100th anniversary of building trucks. I recently spoke with design and marketing executives to highlight iconic past Chevy truck designs, and was on hand when they introduced the new special-edition and medium-duty pickups.

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