You know, at some point, everyone can use a pickup truck. For most households, the so-called half ton or light duty truck is more than enough. But, for those that really work their trucks, a heavy duty pickup is their only choice. In the last year, both Ram and Ford have unveiled their new HDs. Now, just as the economy is looking up, GM weighs in with a new Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD. So, let’s see if this new HD design can get us all worked up.

For truck lovers the Silverado and Sierra HD pickups are a big deal indeed.  Peel away the HD’s totally evolutionary sheetmetal and feast your eyes on what make these real heavy duties: a new fully-boxed frame that’s five times stiffer than last year.

Also new for 2011 is a beefed-up independent front suspension with a Gross Axle Weight Rating of 6,000 pounds. Add the plow-prep package and all of the new HD 4X4s are blizzard-ready.

The rear axle now rides on anti-windup asymmetrical three-inch leaf springs; two-stage on 2500 models, and three-stage on 3500s.

Larger disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power too. On single rear-wheel axle HDs, stability control, trailer-sway control, and hill-start assist all come standard.

Base power is a carryover 6-liter Vortec V8, rated at 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. GM’s six-speed Hydra Matic auto is the sole gearbox.

Our test GMC Sierra’s optional 6.6-liter Duramax turbocharged V8 is all-new and B20 Biodiesel capable. Power is best-in-class, at 397 horsepower and a whopping 765 lb-ft of torque, on tap at just 1,600 rpm.

That wall of torque channels through a new Allison 1000 transmission, a six-speed automatic engineered just for the new Duramax.

New urea injection cleans up diesel tailpipe nitrous oxide emissions by over 60 percent compared to last year.

Tow ratings are overall best in class. Maximum tow for a 3500 Duramax dually with a conventional ball hitch is 17,000 lbs, 4,000 pounds more than 2010. With a fifth wheel, it jumps to 21,700 lbs, edging the Ford Super Duty out slightly, and the Ram HD by two tons.

For the HD’s class best maximum payload of 6,635 lbs, again, opt for the dually.

The Duramax HD joins the Ram HD and Super Duty with a diesel exhaust brake. Unlike the loud jake brake that 18-wheelers use, the HD’s exhaust brake matches downshifts with a slight change in turbo vane geometry. Press the exhaust brake control, tap the brakes, and the truck will quietly hold a steady speed downhill. It’s also fully integrated with the cruise control.

New steering hardware is also heavier-duty, but still delivers a relatively crisp feel, with less slack on center than the Ford Super Duty.

Ride control is very smooth considering the Silverado/Sierra’s workaholic nature, and only improved as we loaded down the bed.

The GMC Sierra pulls away from Chevy with its upscale Denali trim level. It dresses the exterior in maximum chrome, including 20-inch wheels. Inside is brushed aluminum trim, adjustable pedals, and a Bose sound system.

Otherwise, the HD’s intelligent interiors remain much the same as last year.

That includes seats. They’re plenty comfortable, if a little lacking in lateral support. The wide, comfy, rear bench seat in our CrewCab folds up with one hand for cargo.

GM’s Autonet WiFi is a tech-savvy job-site tool, providing Internet access within 150 feet of the truck.

Our SLT came with satellite navigation and rear seat entertainment. OnStar is standard on all but work trucks.

The optional back-up camera made hitching up to an industrial compressor a cinch.

Fuel economy for the Duramax is up 11 percent from last year, even with gobs more power and torque. GM estimates Duramax Highway mileage at about 19 MPG.

Base pricing for Silverado and Sierra are nearly identical. At GMC, the base Sierra 2500 HD work truck starts at $28,960. Add $840 for 3500. The Duramax/Allison drivetrain is an $8,395 option. Add trim and options and stickers easily crest fifty grand.

We’re glad to see GM making improvements where they count- to the 2011 HD’s frame, suspension, and drivetrain.

With class-leading towing, hauling, and power, plus better fuel economy, and a more refined ride, the new GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado three-quarter- and one-ton pickups don’t need a toothy new grille to make a statement. A heavy duty pickup has to prove its worth everyday. And for GM’s new HDs it’s a bright new dawn.



  • Base Engine: 6-Liter Vortec V8
  • Horsepower: 360
  • Torque: 380 Lb Feet