Capable, but can you get over the looks?
Do you purchase a heavy-duty truck for looks or capability? This is the key question for the new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD trucks and it dominated our minds during our drive across the high desert plains east of Oregon’s Pacific Coast. Words such as “ugly,” “polarizing,” and “beefy” were regularly heard throughout our day with the big bow-tie-badged pickup truck.
Whatever you think of it, the Silverado HD certainly doesn’t look like a carbon copy of the smaller Silverado 1500. And that’s just the point, according to Chevy designers who told us the truck’s bold-looking front end – rather worryingly, inspired by responses from focus groups – aims to reinforce the truck’s heavy-duty capabilities. It doesn’t just look massive, either. The Silverado HD is massive. Compared to its predecessor, the latest HD is up to 1.6 inches taller, 1.4 inches wider, and 10.4 inches longer.
The HD’s function also managed to dictate its form, and the giant, scowling grille allows the truck to feed cold air into the engine bay by way of its big, 28-inch cooling fan. Extra cooling comes courtesy of the functional hood scoop, while the truck’s removable front fascia allows owners to easily attach a snow plow.
Whatever you think of it, the Silverado HD certainly doesn’t look like a carbon copy of the smaller Silverado 1500.
Chevy also altered the side mirrors to improve visibility. The comparatively low-mounted mirror housings block less of the view from the side windows without sacrificing their ability to see what’s puttering behind the pickup.
Likewise, the design and engineering teams worked to lower the rear bed wall to improve visibility out the rear window. The 1.0-inch lower bed will surely benefit those who tow with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch and are fearful of creasing the truck’s bedsides in turns or over bumps.
Whether towing or hauling, HD buyers are sure to appreciate the frame-mounted bed-side step that’s reminiscent of those on classic step-side beds. Unlike those boxes, though, the HD’s doesn’t sacrifice overall width for the convenience of reaching into the bed. In fact, the Silverado HD’s bed is wider and offers greater capacity than the previous generation truck’s.
Step inside the Silverado HD, though, and you’ll notice primarily the same – disappointing – interior pieces from the smaller Silverado 1500. The HD’s dull-looking innards are arguably best appreciated in the loaded High Country trim, which adds higher quality materials and a head-up display; a first in the HD segment. Still, the Silverado HD’s cabin is a far cry away from the higher quality, richer feeling innards of the Ford F-Series Super Duty or the Ram HD.
However, what the Silverado HD lacks in interior quality, it makes up for in capability. Equipped with stronger U-joints, a brawnier prop shaft, and a standard 11.5-inch ring gear on 2500HD models or a mighty 12-inch gear on 3500HD models, the Chevy’s new rear axle helps the truck achieve a best-in-class towing capacity of up to 35,500 pounds. And even the weakest among the Silverado HD clan is rated to tow 30,000 pounds. Furthermore, Chevy puts each HD truck’s specific towing figures on a door-jamb-mounted sticker, which ought to save owners from searching haphazardly through the owner’s manual or browsing Google.
Thanks to a number of exterior-mounted cameras, the HD’s infotainment screen can relay 15 different exterior views.
The Silverado HD further complements its improved towing figures with new trailering tech. Thanks to a number of exterior-mounted cameras, the HD’s infotainment screen can relay 15 different exterior views, including a surround-view, a bed-view, and, our favorite, transparent trailer view. As its name implies, the transparent trailer view relays what’s directly behind the trailer a Chevy HD pickup is towing.
The powertrain, however, remains the heart of these pickups, and the latest bow-tie-badged HD truck’s benefit from a new 6.6-liter V8 that mates to a six-speed automatic gearbox. The iron block engine replaces the old 6.0-liter unit, and it features aluminum heads, a forged steel crankshaft, and forged powder-metal connecting rods. With 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque, the new engine bests its forebear by 41 horses and 84 pound-feet.
The new powertrain, in conjunction with the truck’s suspension and chassis changes, makes the Silverado HD a properly comfortable pickup. It’s surprisingly quick off the line and rides nicely over smooth pavement, whether empty or hauling a full payload.
Chevy continues to stuff an optional diesel engine under the HD’s hood. Dubbed Duramax, the turbocharged 6.6-liter V8 delivers 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque to the ground by way of a new, Allison-made 10-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain proved plenty capable as it calmly and quietly pushed forward a Silverado 2500HD towing a 17,000-pound load. The Duramax may burn diesel fuel, but this engine is nowhere near as loud or clattery as others in the segment.
While the 2020 Silverado HD is arguably the most unattractive and least luxurious truck in its class, the Chevy’s high towing capacity, and tow-friendly technology make it a tough-looking workhorse whose dynamics are sure to impress those who truly use their heavy-duty truck as intended. In the case of this big Chevy, form truly follows function.