CHEVY’S NEW 2020 SILVERADO HD
GM’s latest entries offer excellent performance and towing capabilities with fivestar features for work or play.
The anvil towered 10 m (32 ft) above the trailer with a bright orange 35,500 splashed across the base. Chevy was trying to impress us with the towing capability of the 2020 Silverado 3500 HD dually. We weren’t yet. When it comes to towing ‘could’ isn’t as important as ‘should.’
Cindy slipped behind the wheel. She was the inexperienced tow driver that Chevy requested attend the event. Trail, track, two wheels or four, that lights her fire. Tow a trailer? Not so much. Chevy had rented a good portion of the airport in Bend, Oregon so we could
test the towing capabilities and trailering features without breaking any state or federal laws requiring special licenses to drive these behemoths.
Slipping behind the wheel and a little nervous about the test, she put the engine in Drive and slowly hit the gas. A couple of laps around the helipad had her saying, ‘this is a big truck that drives like a little truck.’ In other words, the Silverado HD towed, turned and braked effortlessly and with complete control using the tweaked Duramax 6.6L engine mated to the brand new 10-speed Alison transmission.
The GCVW (gross combined vehicle weight) for truck and trailer was more than 19,050 kg (42,000 lbs.). When a person who is used to riding dirt bikes, sport bikes and driving a Jeep Wrangler JKU says controlling this kind of weight is easy – that’s impressive.
I followed suit with a couple of faster laps looking for the telltale danger signs in control and effort in acceleration, only to discover there weren’t any, driving at speeds that you shouldn’t replicate on the street. Acceleration is excellent for all the highway on-ramp merges and turning the load didn’t result in any sway.
The truck was planted with a confident, inspiring feel that a novice could call safe. You can bet the trailer was perfectly balanced, and brake controls accurately set but isn’t that how we should be towing our trailers?
Chevy had another set of tests for our novice driver to complete. Their goal was to showcase the new 15-camera system and trailering software features accessible through the dash screen and the Chevy app for your phone. A driver experienced with towing on a regular (daily or weekly) basis will do well through a challenge course whether you provide him or her with cameras or not. But, an individual with no experience is bound to destroy enough orange cones to sustain a landfill. Especially when driving a 2500 HD truck with a 40’ trailer and 2,721 kg (6,000 lb) load.
Using the cameras, Cindy was able to navigate a tight course including a slalom section, tight turning radius test, coming within inches of the centre target as requested, driving forward and stopping with the bumper impossibly close to the cones, and finally backing up in a straight line and stopping within inches of the target. All without a spotter, and I repeat no experience or desire to ever tow a trailer.
Virtually any driver can confidently tow a sizable trailer, and the passenger can rest easily knowing how easy the cameras make the process – because the passenger can watch everything that is happening as well.
The final demonstration was equally impressive from a trailering perspective – pun intended. A backup camera visually describes your path to the trailer ball and a hitch camera provides a top down close up view as you bullseye the ball to the hitch. Putting the truck in Park automatically engages an electronic parking brake that keeps the truck in place. No rolling backward or forward after you’ve achieved the perfect hitch point. There is nothing that hinders the experienced driver and everything to inspire confidence in safer driving while towing.
Our on-road tests included the 2500 HD with the brand new 6.6L gas engine mated to a six-speed transmission while towing a 5,669 kg (12,500 lbs.) load – a backhoe on an open trailer. While it can get the job done, no one who tows regularly and can afford the diesel upgrade would choose this option. Compared to the Duramax, the gas engine had poor acceleration, the transmission continually searching for a gear to provide adequate power or dropping to improve fuel economy.
We had to wonder if Chevy was intentionally handicapping the poor gas engine in the test. The trailer was lighter but aerodynamically inferior to the enclosed 6,803 kg (15,000 lbs.) trailer towed by the 6.6L Duramax, which also had the new 10-speed transmission. Perhaps more impressively, the gas engine in the Silverado HD has a higher final drive ratio of 3.73, while the Duramax has a final drive ratio of 3.42. A lower final drive ratio means the truck is geared for less torque. The diesel is actually an even more impressive tow vehicle than the driving test suggests.
The interior quality of the Silverado HD’s was universally excellent – no vibrations or odd noises coming from the interior, fit and finish was good across trim levels, with the materials and options in the upper end High Country simply superb – from the leather and sound system, to the heads up display. One complaint from all the testers — the hard seats. I noticed it initially in the LT trim I tested after just 10 minutes, and was then surprised to find a similarly hard seat, albeit in leather, in the High Country.
We liked the fact that the excellent power and towing capability is available across all trim levels. If you need a work truck without the astronomical price – you got it. If your budget will allow five-star luxury on the highway with Schwarzenegger strength – you can have that too.
Silverado HD 6.6L Gas Horsepower (kW/hp): 299/401 @5200 rpm Torque (Nm/lb-ft): 629/464 @4000 rpm
Silverado HD 6.6L Diesel Horsepower (kW/hp): 332/445 @2800 rpm Torque (Nm/lb-ft): 1234/910 @1600