What's New for 2012
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD receives only minor upgrades following a major redesign the previous year. New are an available hard-drive-based navigation system and heated/ventilated seats available in LTZ models. There's also a new Z71 Off-Road appearance package for the Z71 suspension option.
When a task calls for more capabilities than a standard pickup truck can handle, it's time to call in the heavy-duty reinforcements. And when it comes to heavy-duty pickups, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is a worthy choice among a decidedly small group of competitors.
The Silverado 2500HD offers truck buyers a classic middle-of-the-road alternative that provides increased capability over a 1500 series light-duty truck, but at a lower cost and with much friendlier road manners than an ultra-heavy-duty 3500 model. Keys to the Silverado 2500's popularity are a strong diesel engine option, a fully boxed frame for increased rigidity, big brakes and a beefy suspension that can support more than 4,000 pounds of payload.
Available in three cab styles, the Silverado 2500 embodies a working-grade truck with its rugged stance, power-dome hood and bold front bumper. But it also offers a sense of civility with available 20-inch wheels, stylish mesh grille and choice of distinct interior trims that can appeal to anyone from the oil-field worker to empty nesters traveling cross-country with their RV.
When compared to the Ford F-250 Super Duty and Ram 2500, the Silverado comes out pretty well. We recently conducted a comparison test of the similar 3500-series trucks, and GM's truck squeaked out the victory due to its compliant suspension tuning, tight turning circle, smooth powertrain, fuel economy and overall performance numbers.
That said, choosing the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD over other heavy-duty trucks will likely come down to personal preference. It's such a highly competitive market that all 2500 pickups can lay claim to best-in-class in one category or another. And each will likely be third best in certain categories. In the end, none of these choices really represents a losing decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD follows the traditional approach to truck configurations and is offered in regular cab, extended cab or crew cab body styles with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The regular cab is only available with a long bed (8 feet), while the extended and crew cabs can be mated to either a standard bed (6.5 feet) or a long bed. Trim levels start at the base Work Truck, step up to midlevel LT and then top out at the upscale LTZ, although the LTZ is not available with a regular cab. Unlike its 3500 big brother, the 2500 is not available with a dual-rear-wheel (DRW or "dually") axle.
The Work Truck or WT trim implies just that: basic rubberized vinyl floor coverings, dark vinyl seat coverings, a 40/20/40-split front bench with fold-down center armrest, 17-inch steel wheels, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo.
The LT trim adds alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, floor coverings, cloth seats with a locking storage console, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver-side lumbar adjustments, cruise control, OnStar, satellite radio and a CD/MP3 player. Many of the LT features are available on the Work Truck as options.
The LTZ trim adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, an automatic locking rear differential, a heavy-duty trailering package (with integrated trailer brake controller), dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, remote starting, heated leather front bucket seats with power adjustments, a floor-mounted front center console, Bluetooth and an upgraded Bose stereo system with a USB port. Some of these features are available as options for the LT.
Additional options for the LT and LTZ models include 20-inch wheels, an aluminum bed extender, a protective bedliner, a sliding or stationary tool box, a cargo rail, a sliding bed divider, a sunroof, power-sliding rear window, power-adjustable pedals, a heated steering wheel, rear parking sensors, the EZ-lift tailgate, a hard-drive-based navigation system, a rearview camera and a rear-seat entertainment system. Also available is the Off-Road Suspension package (Z71) that includes skid plates, specially tuned shock absorbers and a different front stabilizer bar. The Z71 Appearance package adds a body-colored grille surround and lower fascia, chrome mesh grille and 18-inch polished alloy wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard power plant for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is a 6.0-liter gasoline V8 backed by a six-speed automatic. This engine is rated at 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. An optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is the favored engine choice for those who plan on towing or hauling on a regular basis. It produces 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a beefier six-speed Allison automatic transmission with manual shift control. In Edmunds performance testing of a mechanically identical GMC Sierra 2500HD with this engine, we recorded a 0-60 time of just 7 seconds, which is 2 seconds quicker than a Ram 2500.
Emissions are cleaner than the previous-generation diesel engine, thanks in part to a urea-injection system. If the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) runs low, however, top speed will be limited to 55 mph. If the DEF reservoir is empty, that speed is further lowered to 40 mph. The DEF is usually replenished about the same time as a scheduled oil change.
Rear-wheel drive is standard for all models, with four-wheel drive optional. The Work Truck 4WD receives a traditional floor-mounted transfer case, while the two other trim levels get Autotrac, a knob-controlled electric transfer case that features an automatic setting that engages 4WD when wheel slippage is detected.
Properly equipped, a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD can haul up to 3,704 pounds of payload (4,192 pounds when equipped with a special High Payload package). It can tow up to 13,000 pounds with its standard ball hitch and 17,800 pounds with a fifth-wheel connection. Aiding towing on downhill grades, the diesel engine also features a big-rig-inspired exhaust braking system to increase control and reduce brake wear.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD include antilock disc brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, trailer sway control and hill-start control. Driver and front passenger airbags are standard, with front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags optional in all models, as are rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. OnStar subscriptions include automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation.
In Edmunds brake testing, the mechanically identical GMC Sierra 2500HD came to a stop from 60 mph in 144 feet, which is a long distance, but typical for a heavy-duty truck.
Interior Design and Special Features
Chevy offers two different dash configurations on the 2012 Silverado 2500. The WT and LT design is simpler and includes dual gloveboxes, while the LTZ offers more of a luxury SUV feel that flows down to a center console and features wood-grain trim. It's also sleeker on the passenger side, with a single glovebox.
The WT remains very utilitarian, with easy-to-clean rubber flooring and vinyl coverings. The LT offers a more inviting cabin with cloth and carpeting, but both models come standard with a three-person front bench seat -- hence the more trucklike dash. The LTZ features leather-stitched bucket seats as standard.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, though some drivers might find the driving position a bit awkward because of the tilt-only steering wheel (it's too close to the dash) and gas and brake pedals that are far apart in order to accommodate work boots. We're also not particularly fond of the small and fiddly buttons on the higher trim's center stack.
The extended cab's rear fold-up seats are acceptable in terms of comfort but more suited for children. On the plus side, the extended cab's rear doors swing out 170 degrees to aid with loading the backseat area in tight spaces. The crew cab also features a fold-up rear seat and is much roomier, but falls short on most dimensions when compared with the competition.
When stacked up against competitive models from Ford and Ram, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD has a few clear advantages, especially the four-wheel-drive model. All Chevy heavy-duty 4WD pickups have an independent front suspension, while Ford and Ram go with solid front axles. The Chevy setup not only smoothes out rough roads and terrain a little better, but provides a confident steering response and a tighter turning circle.
We also like the excellent fuel economy and authoritative acceleration provided by the Duramax while keeping a tight lid on the diesel chatter. Performance on mountain roads is quite punctual, as the Allison tow/haul mode keeps the transmission in the right gear with well-timed shifts, and the diesel exhaust brake helps maintain a steady ride down steep grades. The Silverado helps take the worry out of towing with such features as an integrated trailer brake and trailer sway control built into the stability control system.
While lighter, less powerful 1500 pickups can offer customers a rewarding personal-truck experience and even a sporty attitude, the 2500 and 3500 models are designed for work and utility -- especially over long hauls. Due to their size and burly character, they're not practical for urban commutes. However, that doesn't preclude some owners from using the Chevy Silverado 2500 as their primary vehicle, thanks to a suspension that is somewhat forgiving for its strength and a host of available creature comforts.