This is one serious workhorse. There are 397 workhorses of power to be exact. Chevy says the 2011 version of its dual-rear-wheel truck has an improved powertrain, suspension, fuel economy and fully boxed frame. The overhaul has worked: The Silverado 3500 Heavy Duty won this year's MotorTrend Truck of the Year honors.
Appearance: Compared with its fellow heavy-duty competition — Dodge and Ford — the Chevy struck us as understated. The truck's dominant feature is its wide-set headlights, which flank the two-part, Chevy-bow-tie-dominated grille. There is chrome on the bumpers and around the grille, but not too much. The rear-wheel fenders are integrated with the body (repairs might be more costly than with a separate piece). Our tester had 17-inch wheels, but 20-inchers are available as an option.
Performance: If you are a city slicker like Peter, you'll feel like you're behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler when trying to park this truck in many a space. We both encountered challenging parking situations. Lyra, who tows frequently, didn't get a chance to hook up the 3500 to her trailer for a personal test, but Chevy's published numbers are impressive: payload capacity of up to 5,700 pounds and towing for up to 17,000 pounds. Of course, there are dual rear wheels to handle the extra load. We found the Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel surprisingly quiet for a large truck, and the Allison 6-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly. The tow/haul mode adjusts shift patterns to reduce "shift-cycling" when towing. That also gives you better performance and vehicle control. Some other trailering goodies include transmission cooler, integrated trailer brake-control system and trailer sway control. Chevy redesigned the front suspension with an independent torsion bar setup, and we found the truck's on-the-road ride smoother than some of the other big pickups we've driven.
Interior: Chevy probably focused more on the mechanics than the interior of the cab. Although we found good fit and finish inside, and comfortable leather seats, it seems to lag behind the competition in the looks department. That said, most buyers of heavy-duty trucks probably don't place a priority on interior refinement. And all the user-friendly amenities are here: power sunroof, pedal adjust (Lyra's favorite), parking assist and rearview camera (much needed), storage nooks, Bose sound system and USB/Bluetooth. For passengers (probably younger ones), there is a rear entertainment system. We both liked that the rear seats fold up for additional storage space. The large side mirrors offer double views and are trailer-ready.
Our 3 favorites
Looks: I appreciate the simple lines of the sheet metal compared with its macho competition.
Noise: Both the engine and cabin were quieter than I expected.
Tailgate: It's EZ-Lift and locking.
Ready to tow: Duramax power, auto-grade braking, integrated electronic brakes, sway control, 29,200-pound combined weight limit.
Workspace: The center armrest is large enough to be a little desk.
Ride: Smooth, stable for a truck.
The bottom line: This Silverado is refined with all the performance features you'll need for the job site or for heavy towing. It's not a daily driver, unless it's your work vehicle, but it has been engineered for some serious labor.