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BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS LARGE

GMSV CHEVROLET SILVERADO 2500
This US-sourced large ute is ideal for towing.

 

The Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LTZ Premium was upgraded for 2024, with a refreshed look and even more grunt from its Duramax V8 turbo-diesel engine.

 

 

The Silverado 2500 range is at variance with the accepted US nomenclature for pickups: a ‘1500’ has around 1500 pounds (700kg) payload capacity, including people and fuel; a ‘2500’ has around 2500 pounds (1100kg) payload capacity and a ‘3500’ has 3500 pounds (1600kg) payload.

However, the Silverado 2500 has only 733kg payload capacity at its standard car-licence GVM of 4495kg, with towing capacity  up to 4.5 tonnes.

An optional GVM of 5200kg is available, taking payload to a more respectable 1386kg, but a light-truck licence is needed to drive it. Trailer capacity at this higher-GVM rating remains 4.5 tonnes.

The MY24 Silverado 2500 HD came with new front-end appearance, incorporating new headlights and body colour front and rear bumpers and grille, with black hood vent, skid plate, door handles and belt-line mouldings. 

 

 

Tow hooks, 100mm black tubular side steps, side bed step, rear bumper corner step, Durabed cargo tub with power tailgate and tie down points added to the practicality and functionality of the new ute. 

Z71 badging adorned the front, rear and both sides of the ute, which rode on 20-inch gloss black wheels, shod with Goodyear Wrangler Trailrunner All-Terrain tyres. 

The redesigned and more refined interior incorporated two large driver information and entertainment screens: a 13.4-inch colour touchscreen and a 12.3-inch multi-colour configurable Driver Information Centre. The screens were complemented by a configurable colour head-up display. 

 

 

Black leather-appointed heated seats were fitted to both rows and the two front ones had ventilation and 10-way power adjustment. 

A Bose Premium seven-speaker sound system with RichbassTM was standard, along with wireless phone charging; Apple Car Play and Android Auto; front and rear USB ports; dual zone automatic climate control and a 60/40 split folding rear seat with storage package. 

Power windows, power sunroof and power sliding rear window were part of the package and a column-mounted gear shift allowed for significantly more storage area in the centre console, when compared with a centre-mounted alternative.

As with previous Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD models, there were four different tonneau cover options available:  soft, hard rolling, trifold and electric-retractable.

 

 

The 2024 6.6-litre Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 delivered even more power and torque – 350kW and 1332Nm – up from 332kW and 1234Nm in the previous model. Towing ability was enhanced by the carry-over engine exhaust brake that greatly improved retardation. 

Paired with the upgraded engine was a 10-speed automatic transmission and revised final drive ratios to enhance steep grade performance. The transmission had closer gear ratios than the previous six-speed and was tuned for quicker downshifts. 

Standard was an automatically-locking rear differential and off-road suspension with RanchoTM twin-tube shockers. 

The two-speed transfer case allowed two-wheel drive to 4WD to be done on the fly and transitioning to low range could be done when the vehicle was stationary. Hill Descent Control was standard. 

 

 

A new feature on the MY24 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD was adaptive cruise control with camera (ACC). ACC was calibrated to account for additional drag and extra weight behind the vehicle when towing.

Additional new safety features included Trailer Side Blind Zone Alert (TSBZA) and Gross Combined Mass Alert (GCMA). TSBZA extended the blind zone area when towing, while the GCMA warned the driver if the vehicle and trailer weight exceed the vehicle’s Gross Combined mass (GCM).

These new safety features were added as standard to the existing: six airbags; 360 Degree HD camera with up to 14 views; head-up display; Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Alert; Lane Departure Warning; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Forward Collision Alert with Low Speed AEB; IntelliBeam High Beam Assist; Front and Rear Park Assist; Rear Camera Mirror and StabiliTrakTM Electronic Stability Control System with Traction Control.

The HD came with integrated towing technologies, including: Hitch Guidance with Hitch View; Electric Parking Brake hook-up assist; Integrated Trailer Brake Controller; Trailer Theft Alert; Customised trailer profiles; Pre-departure checklists; Trailer lighting diagnostics; Trailer tyre pressure/temperature monitoring; StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control; Hill Start Assist; Tow/Haul mode; Auto Grade Braking; 12-pin Wiring Harness; Trailering Information Label; Jack-Knife Alert; Bed View with Cargo Bed Zoom; Bed Hitch Guidance and Transparent Trailer View.

The recommended retail price of $163,000 for the MY24 Chevrolet Silverado carried over from the model it replaced, plus statutory charges and dealer delivery fees. 

 

 

On and off road

 

 

Our test vehicle was a ‘standard’ specification 2500HD LTZ Premium model. Although OTA testers have truck licences, we evaluated the Silverado as a car-licence vehicle, because we believe that’s what most potential buyers have. That meant we kept payload – people, freight, fuel and towball weight – to around 700kg. (Truck licence owners can lift that to nearly 1400kg.)

Under those conditions we judged the spring rates too high, resulting in a lumpy ride on rough surfaces: a situation not helped by very weak shock absorbers that don’t even look like they could damp a three-tonnes capacity, leaf-sprung axle. (GM’s Z71 performance suspension package used to contain Bilstein shock absorbers and we reckon they should go back to those quality dampers.)

Doubtless, with more than one tonne payload on board, the spring rates would be much more appropriate. Car-licence buyers can probably delete a leaf or two from the rear springs and fit some better dampers.

This lumpy ride on the rough stuff was our only complaint about the Silverado’s road manners. In all other dynamic respects it behaved flawlessly.

 

 

The Duramax V8 diesel engine has been with the Yanks now for around 20 years, having been developed with input from Isuzu, which used to be under GM control. Over time, the 6.6-litre has been tweaked from an original 224kW at 3100rpm and 705Nm at 1800rpm to a current 350kW at 2800rpm and 1322Nm at 1600rpm.

It’s now matched to an Allison 1000 Series 10-speed automatic transmission.

We noted that if left to its own ECU computer’s devices the engine/transmission combo sat around the 1400-1500rpm mark, when running at around 80-100km/h. Fuel consumption at these low cruising revs was surprisingly low – averaging 9.4L/100km up to 16.2L/100km, depending on trailer load. However, with the speed cranked up to a true 110km/h, the fuel consumption dropped to around 20L/100km.

Interestingly, the fuel flow computer showed a peak of 39.9L/100km at full accelerator pedal travel, but we don’t know if that’s its maximum read-out setting or the maximum pump-flow capacity into the engine.

 

 

All the while the big Chevy loped along the occupants experienced … serenity. Noise levels were luxury-sedan like, but it was possible to provoke some audible V8 throb with a poke on the right pedal.

The Silverado’s accommodation was judged first-class by our testers, who enjoyed the power-adjustable and ventilated front seats leather-faced front and rear seats – the latter having a 60:40 split seat, with storage underneath. Leg room front and rear was vast.

Reasonable touring range was provided by a 135-litre fuel tank and a 26.5-litre diesel exhaust fluid tank.

Obviously, the target market for this giant ute is the towing fraternity and we’ve never driven a light truck that could better meet expectations. Multiple camera locations and electrically-extendable towing mirrors made coupling up a breeze; side cameras gave a display view down the side of the combination whenever the turning indicators were flicked on, showing the position of the trailer wheels on the road; and the trailer was easily ‘length calibrated’ to extend the blind-side alert distance.

 

 

Other towing benefits were a hill sensitive downshift program in the auto box, that downshifted to maintain adaptive cruise control speed. On steep downhill grades the engine’s natural retardation was enhanced by engaging the exhaust brake that further increased exhaust back pressure.

All these driving aids supplemented the Silverado’s enormous power and torque that made overtaking a rapid, safe experience.

 

 

Once we were convinced of the big Chevy’s trailer aplomb, we checked it out as a solo machine on different road surfaces and some fire trails. Apart for the over-firm suspension reaction to sharp bumps it handled everything in its ample stride and that ‘ample stride’ restricted it from visiting some narrow-track destinations. Tracks formed through scrub by LandCruisers didn’t give enough scratch-free clearance for the Silverado’s expensive panels.

Also, overall dimensions of 6.4-metre length and 2.3-metre width, atop a four-metre wheelbase, don’t make for easy manoeuvrability on narrow, winding tracks and in tight spaces. The big Chevy felt quite out of place in suburban carparks, where it drew critical looks from drivers of lesser machinery. However, in rural expanses it was quite at home.

 

 

On trails where the Chevy’s width wasn’t an issue it climbed and descended like the best of them, thanks to the additional ground clearance of the ‘Z’ specification, electronic stability control, traction control and an auto-locking rear diff. It hardly needed the 2.72:1 deep reduction in its two-speed transfer case.

Other parts of the ‘Z’ rating were proper off-road Goodyear Wrangler A/T tyres, in 275/65R20 sizing, with 126/123S load and speed rating. Oddly, though, the full size spare was a 275/70R18 Michelin.

 

 

The two-metre x 1.8 metre ute tub was protectively coated, covered by an electrically powered roller shutter and powered tailgate, and accessed by four footsteps at the front and back of the tray. There was a wide, 1300mm space between the wheel arches and 12 tie-down points.

We reckon the Silverado’s appeal to tradies – who might want to tow a van or boat on weekends – might be limited by its restricted payload, unless said tradies have truck licences and can opt for the optional 5148kg GVM rating, instead of the standard 4495kg GVM. There’s also the discouragement of a near-170 grand RRP ask!

 

 

 

Previous models

 

Released in mid-2018 the GMSV-modified Chevrolet Silverado 2500 range came with truck-diesel grunt.

 

All crew cab vehicles in this range had the same powertrain: an Isuzu-developed Duramax 6.6-litre turbo-intercooled diesel V8 engine that pumped out a maximum 332kW of power and 1234Nm of torque and was mated to an Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission.

Four-wheel ABS disc brakes and an automatic locking rear differential were standard.

Suspension was by torsion-bar sprung wishbones up front and leaf-spring rear axle.

Wheelbase was 3904mm; cargo box length was two metres and width, 1586mm.

Fuel tank capacity was 136 litres and there was also an AdBlue tank for the emissions system that incorporated cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF)and AdBlue urea (SCR) NOx catalyst.

The base-model WT was well specified and keenly priced in this US-import market section at $114,990.

Standard equipment included: truck-type exhaust brake; transmission oil cooler; traction control; stability control and trailer sway control; frontal and side SRS airbags; manual tilt steering column; cruise control; tow bar; trailer brake control; rear view camera; 3.5-inch display; single-zone aircon; remote keyless entry and 40:20:40 folding rear seat.

At a RRP of $134,990 the black or white LTZ versions added:  digital steering assist; manual tilt and telescoping steering column; power-adjustable pedals; heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel rim; auto-dimming rear vision mirror; front and rear park assist; 8.0-inch display; floor console; hill descent control; underbody rock shields; dual-zone aircon; heated and vented, leather-faced, power-adjustable front seats; garage door opener; powered, sliding rear window; 60:40 folding rear seat; rear under-seat storage and a BOSE sound system.

But the Silverado 2500 had a weight problem, tipping the scales at a hefty 3516-3616kg dry and empty, with a GVM of 4491kg, just under the passenger car licence GVM-ceiling.

That tare weight was a result of fitting a powerful, heavy engine with torque way in excess of the amount needed to tow typical heavy caravans and trailers in Australia. That grunt also necessitated a truck-type automatic transmission, with chassis, driveline and axle strength to match.

The weight problem started at the pointy end, where the Duramax plus Allison powertrain combination was around twice the weight of a US-market petrol V8 plus auto box. Not helping the weight issue was  complex intercooler and turbo plumbing and an emissions system that had the full suite: DOC, DPF and SCR.

Interestingly, GM developed a lighter, 4.5-litre version of the Duramax 6.6-litre diesel, but it never went into production: presumably because of the general disaffection with diesels in the USA, post VW’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal.

 

On and off road

Our road test Silverado was a ‘Midnight Edition’ 2500LTZ model that proved to be one of the most enigmatic test vehicles we’ve ever had. On the plus side were enormous grunt with good economy from the Duramax diesel, high specification levels and good fit and finish, but the negatives were minimal payload capacity, poor frontal and side vision, vague steering and weak suspension damping.

Wheeling the big Silverado out of the Suttons carpark and through downtown Sydney was something of a handful, thanks to a high bonnet line that ran without downslope to the front of the vehicle and a fat passenger-side windscreen pillar and rear vision mirror mount that reduced left-side frontal view. (I test heavy trucks in my other life, so I’m well used to road-train-size gear.)

On top of those issues was less than precise steering, with a ‘dead’ spot in the middle of the wheel movement.

Ride quality was OK on smooth surfaces, but the leaf-sprung rear end hated lumpy bitumen and gravel, leaping about on bumps and potholes.

For some weird reason the much-vaunted Z71 suspension kit featured Rancho twin-tube 35mm-diameter-piston shock absorbers that our previous suspension testing shows aren’t real flash at controlling lightweight 4WD axle bump and rebound, so they were way out of their league trying to settle down the Silverado’s heavy duty back end. The Z71 code used to dial up Bilstein shocks and we suggested GM went back to that supplier.

The LTZ’s 35mm shocker size was made even stranger by the fact that the base-model WT Silverado came with 51mm shocks!   The WT model also sat on taller 70-profile tyres, not the 275/65 low profiles fitted to the Midnight Edition model that needed way too much pressure to handle 4491kg GVM: the low-pressure warning lit up at 50psi!

Only when we hit the freeway did the big Chevvy feel at home, loping along with hardly any revs on the tacho and fuel economy around 11L/100km.  Our overall economy for this test worked out at a relatively frugal 12.6L/100km, including a towing stint with a three-tonnes plant trailer that saw economy at a very good 18.6L/100km.

A note on this economy is that we drove the Silverado like it was our own, but a couple of forays into the ‘red-mist’ zone saw consumption plunge to 30L/100km, so you get, literally, what you pay for!

The Yanks know all about building a tow vehicle and the Silverado didn’t disappoint: massive towbar; manually controllable transmission with exhaust-brake enhanced engine braking; powerful all-disc braking; inbuilt trailer brake control and electronic sway control.

However, the poorly-damped, leaf sprung rear suspension hated our rough dirt road stretch, while low-slung side steps and loaded 230mm ground clearance greatly limited our off-road testing. We were also terrified by the prospect of denting the fat aluminium propshaft that hung precariously low where it joined the rear diff.

As presented, the Silverado 2500LTZ  made a powerful, frugal towing vehicle, but it preferred smooth surfaces to the rough stuff. We felt it was under-tyred for its GVM and lacked off-road ground clearance.

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