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Don Adair: Chevy’s Silverado 2500HD turns the truck life into the good life

Generally speaking, people buy trucks to move stuff from one place to another. Could be a boat, a travel trailer or a load for the dump.

As a rule of thumb, pickups are available in four categories; compact, midsize; full-size (or light-duty); and heavy-duty. 

Light-duty trucks satisfy the vast majority of buyers, including most who tow boats and travel trailers. But a big fifth-wheel, a horse trailer or a weighty farm implement can demand more firepower. 

Making big-load towing safe, trouble-free
With their fortified frames, robust suspensions and powerful engines, heavy-duty trucks make towing big loads safe and trouble-free.

Their dimensions make them impractical and awkward in town. But in rural Eastern Washington, with its hobby ranches, horse stables and large-scale farming operations, heavy-duty trucks are a way of life.

Those rural buyers may be relatively few in number, but they spur serious competition. Every year, manufacturers labor to squeeze more capacity from their big rigs.

Chevy’s turn to shine
This year, it’s Chevy’s turn. For 2017, it optionally outfits its Silverado 2500HD with an updated version of its turbocharged 6.6-liter diesel V-8. Rated at 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque, it easily bests last year’s 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft.

Mated with a six-speed Allison automatic transmission, the Duramax turbodiesel boasts an 18,100-pound tow capacity, enough to haul a 42-foot sailboat, a Howitzer artillery piece or the world’s largest chocolate sculpture.

(That replica of the Mayan Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, was created in 2012. We assume it has long been consumed.)

Highly rated base V-8
The diesel option added $9,340 to the window sticker on our 4WD LTZ Double Cab tester ($43,795). It, along with a slug of related options — a mix of comfort, convenience and functional add-ons — boosted the Silverado’s out-the-door price to $62,080.

The base engine, a 6.0-liter V-8 good for 360 hp and 380 lb-ft, is tow-rated to a not-trivial 14,800 lb. 

With its new engine, Chevy didn’t set out to unseat the reigning heavy-duty tow champ — that honor still goes to Ford’s F-250 Super Duty and its 16-ton rating — but aims instead to make the truck life a good one.

The Silverado HD targets the market’s great midrange, where owners are likely to tow between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds. They often drive their trucks unhitched and unloaded, when ride quality tends to deteriorate and trucks become hard to handle. 

Goodbye, diesel clatter
The big Silverado is meant to double as a daily driver, with high levels of refinement, comfort and drivability.

The traditional diesel clatter is lulled here to near silence. At idle, cabin noise registers 45 decibels; at 70 mph, it rises to 67 dB, or luxury-car territory.

Upper-trim cabins are finished in durable, high-grade materials. Our tester’s fit-and-finish far surpassed what would have been expected from a heavy-duty truck only a handful of years ago. 

There’s little wasted space in the roomy cabin, which is littered with casual storage opportunities. Climbing in and out of the Silverado is made easy by a seat height that’s inches shorter than the competitions’.

Unique front suspension
Unique among heavy-duty pickups, Silverado HD models run an independent front suspension. The setup contributes to a ride that is stable and forgiving, even with an empty bed, and helps produce a responsive and natural-feeling steering system. As expected of a large truck, steering feel is heavy, but an available digital steering-assist feature eases parking-lot maneuvers and improves high-speed stability.

Despite its tall profile, the Silverado HD flows easily through high-speed bends. 

Not that it should matter in a rig this size, but the turbodiesel Silverado is sports-car quick, turning the 0-60 sprint in just 6.2 seconds. It produces 90 percent of its torque at just 1,550 rpm and sustains it through 2,850 rpm.

Power delivery is seamless and seemingly inexhaustible and the Allison transmission eagerly drops gears when conditions demand. The turbodiesel’s deep well of torque manhandles mountainous terrain, and auxiliary exhaust brakes help ease the 6,100-lb rig down from speed.

The EPA doesn’t rate heavy-duty pickups but, with an unloaded truck, diesel owners should average 14-15 mpg combined, and as much as 19 mpg at freeway speeds.

Big rigs once made big demands on their owners. The 2017 Silverado 2500HD brings the good life to the heavy-duty truck segment.

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Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD LT Double Cab
Vehicle base price: $37,095
Trim level base price: $43,795
As tested: $62,080
Options included 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8; 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels; heated front seats; power-adjustable pedals; power sliding rear window; tubular running boards; gooseneck trailering package; LED cargo-box lighting; spray-on bedlinen; upgraded audio system.
Tow rating: 18,100 pounds
EPA rating: N/A
Diesel fuel required

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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.