First Drives Years

The HD pickup truck market segment is growing.  Recreational vehicles keep growing and the needs of for-business owner/operators demand increased HD capacity. Rest assured Detroit is listening.

The builders are all responding to these new needs – and among them is Chevrolet with its newest next-gen Silverado HD that today speaks to all these customer wants.

Here are the high-notes:  Capacity-wise the 2020 Silverado HD will offer best-in-class towing of up to 35,500 lb. Its traditional 6.6L Duramax turbo-diesel will now make 445hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.  This year it’s matched to a segment-first 10-speed automatic transmission, built by Allison.  Completely new for 2020 is a gas engine option – a 6.6L V8 that makes 401hp and 464 lb-ft of torque and is much cheaper to buy than then the diesel.

The new Silverado HD has beefed up its axles, locking rear differential, the prop shaft, U-joints and also added a 12-inch ring gear. Hauling big weight also means generating big heat. So to cool the turbo-diesel a new functional hood vent has been added, along with a 28-inch cooling fan and a run-after- engine- off function.

The test drive of the new HD took place in the high-desert region of central Oregon. This area combines flat altitudes in excess of 5,000 feet with long grades on the eastern side of the Cascades Mountains.  This area was ideal to feel the strength and control of these trucks – particularly while towing up to 20,000 lb.

 Starting with the Duramax equipped HD 3500, the power of the diesel under load, even accelerating uphill was very noticeable. The Duramax pushes its power through the new Allison 10-speed transmission.  

The road test allowed for a complete test of the new tow packages. Among them, the Auto Park Brake that holds the truck in place will hooking up. There is also Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.  Controlling speed on hills is also a function of the Auto Grade Brake and the Diesel Exhaust Brake. Enhanced Digital Variable Steering assists the driver at highway speeds as well as during low-speed parking lot maneuvers.  

And speaking of parking lots; when towing any trailer that is where every trip starts and ends.  It’s also where problems occur and driver anxiety can be at its highest while reversing. Chevy has an answer for these stresses.  The new Silverado HD comes with an advanced camera system that offers 15 different views – all seen on the centre stack consol screen.  The various camera angles cover off all sides of the truck and offer views that traditional mirrors simply cannot – some come up automatically – others can be chosen by the driver as needed.  These include off the nose of truck, a hitch-view, in-bed view and a camera mounted at the rear of trailer that creates a view called “Transparent Trailer” – yes, you can see exactly what’s behind your trailer, on screen, in what otherwise has always been a blind-spot.

Other new electronic driver-assist features address trailers specifically.  The computer can store information on up to five different trailers, including length and optimal trailer brake gain settings. Once programmed the driver can call up any trailer profile and start it with a single push of a button.  There is also a one-person trailer light test and trailer light diagnostics settings.  Everything is aimed at making one-man operations easy.  Another electronic feature extends coverage to the trailer and includes trailer-tire pressure and temperature monitoring right in the truck cab.

The HD also sports a new mirror design. The new glass area is larger, the arm moves further out and it incorporates a great new convex mirror that eliminates a lot more of the traditional blind spots.  Consider all these features together and you’ll experience a much safer, more relaxed and precise hooking, backing and towing experience.

The cargo bed on this Silverado has also been updated (much of these improvements have gravitated from the refresh of the 1500-series last year) Each HD cargo bed now comes with 12 fixed tie-down points and 9 moveable points.  Also, by recessing the box into the sidewalls the new HD offers segment-leading cargo volume. The bed has also upgraded its lighting options and now offers a 120V outlet.

For access Silverado has increased the size of its corner bumper step cutouts which will now fit size 13 boots in addition to going one step further. GM has added a cut-out to each side of the truck-body that gives the customer a leg up at the front of the box as well.  As for more power options - for the first time this HD can be ordered with a power up-and-down tailgate.  

As the majority of HD trucks are ordered with the diesel engine option it’s a big deal that the necessary DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) system has received three significant updates. 

First, the DEF tank itself has been relocated to inside the frame rails. Its prior position left it vulnerable to rough road impact.

Second, the under-hood filler port has been relocated to beside the fuel port inside the filler door.  This is so much easier to use. Third, a DEF gauge has been added to the instrument cluster.  The previously used low-DEF fluid warning lights often came as a surprise and never at a convenient time.  Now, being able to glance at a gauge anytime means never being “surprised” again.

Cold-weather improvements have been made on the truck, including a redesigned front fascia that accepts snowplows (no cutting needed) and a fixed integrated block heater plug-in. No more dangling cords through the grille.   Also new is a factory installed PTO option that GM warranties.

Also noteworthy is the VIN-specific trailer weight label that GM puts on the doorjamb of every truck.  This is something only they do and it is wonderful.  The numbers on the label are for your truck specifically – no generalizations.  The limits listed there are determined by the unique build of your truck – you will never have to “guess” what you can tow again.

Lastly, GM is heavily investing in driver-assist systems. The camera system in particular reduces stress and will surely eliminate many of the low-speed minor bangs and scraps that we’ve all had because mirrors are just not perfect. These new systems are going a long way to creating an informed, calmer driver - which is the greatest safety feature of all.

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