Car Reviews Truck of the Year

Review: The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is Good on Paper, But…

Chevy’s heavy-duty truck returns to Truck of the Year as a 2020 finalist

Chevy’s heavy-duty truck returns to Truck of the Year as a 2020 finalist

Pros:

  • Diesel engine/10A transmission combo
  • Endless trailering features
  • Big payload and towing limits

Cons:

  • Gas engine/6A transmission combo
  • Stiff ride even for an HD
  • Middling interior

How well a vehicle performs on paper depends entirely on which piece of paper you’re looking at. Check the new Chevrolet Silverado HD’s spec sheet, and you’ll see a strongly competitive new truck. Check our test data, though, and not everything lines up.

Lay out the Silverado HD’s powertrain, payload, trailering, and pricing numbers next to those from Ford and Ram, and things look pretty good. Chevrolet invested its money where it matters most, underneath the sheetmetal. A stronger frame increases payload and tow ratings for every model, an all-new gas engine finally makes competitive numbers, an all-new 10-speed automatic makes the most of the already potent diesel engine, and an unmatched suite of trailering apps and cameras makes a strong workhorse stronger.

Read about Car, SUV, and Truck of the Year contenders and finalists HERE.

Push the press release aside, though, and take a look at the test results. They’re a mixed bag, to say the least. Starting with the good news, the diesel-powered 3500 (represented here by the GMC Sierra 3500 HD) is substantially quicker both while empty and pulling 20,000 pounds (9,072 kg) than the equally new Ram 3500 HD diesel. Likewise, it stops shorter from 60 mph unladen and is more nimble in an emergency lane change. Most crucially, it needs less time and distance to accelerate from 35 mph to 55 mph (56 km/h to 88 km/h) uphill while towing 17,730 pounds (8,042 kg). If you’re like most dually buyers and towing is an integral part of your job, these are critical differences.

They’re counterbalanced, however, by the lack of performance from the gas-powered Silverado 2500 HD. Any way you look at it, the 6.6-liter gas V-8 2500 is just slow. Whether empty, with a 10,500-pound (4,763-kg) trailer on flat ground, or accelerating uphill from 35 mph to 55 mph (56 km/h to 88 km/h) with a 10,150-pound (4,604-kg) trailer, the truck always feels like it’s struggling.

This comes in stark contrast to the Ram 2500 HD Power Wagon and its 6.4-liter gas V-8, which makes slightly more power but way less torque. Despite outweighing the Silverado, the Ram is noticeably quicker. What’s more, being a Power Wagon, the Ram’s max tow rating is compromised by its off-road suspension. Whereas the Chevy was towing 75 percent of its maximum, the Ram was at its limit and still quicker.

Blame likely falls at the feet of the mildly updated six-speed automatic. Why Chevy chose to pair this transmission with its all-new gas V-8 instead of opting for the hot new Allison 10-speed automatic the diesel gets is beyond us. We’ve been waiting 20 years for Chevy to replace the 6.0-liter gas V-8, only to have it hobbled. With the Ram 2500 already outperforming it and the just-announced Ford F-250 Super Duty coming with its own all-new gas V-8 and 10-speed automatic, the gas-powered Silverado 2500 is DOA competitively.

We also have to acknowledge that the Silverado HD shares the lackluster interior of the Silverado 1500 we lambasted last year. Although all the same criticisms still apply, from the uncomfortable seats to the cheap materials and the barely updated design, guest judge and former Truck Trend editor-in-chief Mark Williams is quick to point out heavy-duty truck buyers are more than willing to trade opulent interiors for capability when it comes time to work.

Underwhelming performance from one half of the powertrain department is bad enough in a truck meant for work first and coddling second. Add in an uncomfortable and outclassed interior, and you’re saddled with a truck that’ll only attract the most faithful customers. We expect open-minded shoppers likely will float away to Ram and Ford, where the compromises are far less evident.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Custom (CrewCab 4WD 6.6L)
Base Price/As tested $45,195/$48,695
Power (SAE net) 401 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 464 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.5 sec
Accel, 0-60 mph (loaded)* Not tested
Accel, 0-60 mph (towing)** 17.0 sec
Quarter-mile 15.9 sec @ 89.8 mph
Quarter-mile (loaded)* Not tested
Quarter-mile (towing)** 21.4 sec @ 66.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 135 ft
Braking, 60-0 mph (loaded)* Not tested
Double Lane Change Score 3.92
Davis Dam Frustration*** 21.2 sec @ 1,405 ft
Cruise Control 65-mph overrun 5.3 mph
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Exempt from testing
* NA-lb payload | ** 10,500-lb trailer
*** 35-55-mph uphill acceleration with 10,150-lb trailer