Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD first drive: reporting for (heavy) duty

David Linklater
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There's big and then there's big. Cow included for scale.

Chevrolet Silverado lead development engineer Shawn Norwood made the trip from Detroit to Twin Waters on Australia’s Sunshine Coast this month, to help talk through the key features of the new HD model with media.

Chevrolet Silverado HD.
Lead development engineer Shawn Norwood.

A snippet from Norwood’s presentation: “Where we believe we lead the industry is integrating the truck with the trailer. [For example, in the infotainment screen] we have a Trailer App, so you can go in there and set profiles for each of your trailers; that’ll track your mileage, you can put maintenance reminders in there, you can even add tyre pressure sensors.”

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this small insight into the world of Silverado HD ownership. Not trailer; trailers, plural. You typically own multiple enormous things that you hook on the back, and swap between them often.

HD means “heavy duty” of course, making this the big boy of the Silverado lineup for New Zealand. This generation of Silverado was launched back in 2020, and we’ve had updated versions of the standard (aka 1500-series) LTZ Premium and more off-road-oriented ZR2 since about this time last year.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
Upgrades for 2024 include more grunty engine (was that needed?) and styling tweaks.

The HD LTZ Premium (aka 2500-series) is a whole other thing, though. Brawnier, swapping out the standard trucks’ puny 312kW/624Nm 6.2-litre petrol V8 for a monster 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 (naturally) that makes 350kW and an outrageous 1322Nm. The 10-speed dual-range transmission is by Allison, the company that makes gearboxes for actual trucks. The tough suspension set-up (with an independent front, though) is unique to HD.

This truck is designed to carry large payloads and haul large trailers, and do it in way where you won’t be stressed out.

It's bigger, too: at 6387mm in length, 450mm clear of the baby Silverados. It’s big. Really, really big. Makes those 20-inch wheels look tiny.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
HD occupies a lot of real estate, but it's packed full of driver assists.

“This truck is designed to carry large payloads and haul large trailers, and do it in way where you won’t be stressed out,” says Norwood.

HD means 'heavy duty' of course, making this the big boy of the Silverado lineup for New Zealand.

Payload and tow ratings are more dictated by local laws and licensing than the actual ability of the vehicle, but the HD can take a maximum of 1383kg in the tray (a useful increase on “one tonne” utes like Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux) and tow up to 4500kg braked (ditto) in NZ.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
GM would argue a bowtie works for multiple occasions.

The HD payload is a near-600kg increase on the smaller Silverados, although the tow rating is the same. So you might wonder why buy the bigger vehicle?

The HD comes in one fully kitted-up specification for NZ. Not dressed just for work, either.

Norwood reminds that the HD is actually capable of hauling 20 tonnes, and he said that with a totally straight face so it must be true. But the related and more relevant point is that the HD is the one you’d choose for maximum durability, strength and stability at open-road speeds, and of course the effortless performance from that big V8 turbo-diesel. More range, too, with a massive 136-litre tank.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
Standard 1500 (front) versus 2500 HD (rear): note lower wellside height for the big fella.

Even the body is configured for maximum practicality. It looks similar to the smaller Silverados, but note the massive split-level side mirrors, different door shapes and even a slightly lower wellside height, to allow for those supersized trailers and caravans that get mounted directly onto the tray.

The HD comes in one fully kitted-up specification for NZ. Not dressed just for work, either. The LTZ Premium trim line brings a fair bit of exterior decoration, there's the Z71 off-road suspension package with 251mm ground clearance (which is sort of about work, but also play) and a truly luxurious interior with digital-everything, 13.5in infotainment display, high-quality sound system and leather everywhere. Up to 14 camera views covering 360 degrees, which really helps with parking and towing.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
Living high: luxury trim and digital everything in cabin.

It’s a nice place to feel a bit stressed out for us non-truck-folk. Not stressed out about towing, we take your point there Shawn; but this is still an enormous machine to be piloting on narrow, wet backroads, even with a clever automatic AWD system that takes care of the power delivery according to the conditions.

But still, what a machine! On 60-80km/h Aussie roads the big V8 seldom exceeds 1500rpm and while you feel like you’re responsible for a lot of real estate, the Silverado’s powertrain and comprehensive active safety systems ease everything along nicely. Once you get used to it all.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
Maximum tow rating for NZ is 4.5 tonnes. It can handle a lot more.

Adaptive cruise control is now standard on the HD and it can even take your trailer load into account, adjusting following distance according to how much you’re hauling. But if you don’t need or want that (some tow experts don’t, apparently), you can also have conventional cruise.

Seasoned Silveradoists will scoff at our mild anxiety of course, because it's all just another day at the office. We didn’t tow any diggers or anything (more’s the pity), although GMSV did provide a selection of medium-sized caravans at one stop, which hardly seemed worth the effort. It is attached, is it not? Hard to say, the HD is performing just the same.

Chevrolet Silverado HD LTZ Premium.
HD carries a $30k premium over smaller Silverado. But it's the toughest of the tough.

The Silverado HD seems rather niche to us Kiwis, especially at $175,000; the mini-Silverado LTZ Premium is $146,500, by the way. But it’s worth remembering that GM sold more than half a million Silverados in the US last year. It’s really good at this kind of thing, there are different trucks for different jobs and the HD is really good at handling the heavier stuff (just ask Niwa). Hence the name.

ENGINE: 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 POWER: 350kW/1322Nm GEARBOX: 10-speed automatic with part-time 4WD, auto AWD and low-range transfer CONSUMPTION: n/a right now, but seriously PRICE: $175,000.

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