One year after the redesign of the Chevy Silverado 1500, its heavy-duty big brother, the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, hits the road. Designed specifically for heavy hauling and towing, the Silverado 2500HD is available with either gasoline or diesel engines in more than 150 configurations. It has made great strides in comfort and feature content over the truck it replaces, and feels fully competitive with the other trucks in this class.
What Is It?
Though it follows the half-ton Silverado's comfort and feature refinements closely, the Silverado 2500HD brings to the table the ability to haul massive payloads and carry out absurdly heavy trailering duties. Competition among the Big Three truck brands in this big-poundage segment is serious, and each offers its own wildly able heavy-duty entry.
So capable of hauling and towing is each truck in this category that the race for customer loyalty is being increasingly deferred to comfort and feature offerings. And that's where the majority of GM's effort appears to have been spent on this redesign.
Our tester (a crew cab High Country 4x4 model) came fitted with the $9,115 Duramax Plus package, which adds the optional turbodiesel engine, Allison transmission and several interior and safety niceties.
It also included the $1,495 Rear Seat Entertainment System, $995 Power Sunroof and the $230 Chrome Trailering Mirrors. All in, the big red beast tallied a sobering $66,095. Not all 2500HDs are so costly. A regular cab 4x2 gasoline-powered Silverado 2500HD starts at a far more modest $32,405.
How Many Trim Levels Are There?
Starting with the spartan Work Truck trim and working up through LT, LTZ and finally High Country trims, the Silverado HD lineup includes a broad combination of bed, cab and powertrain configurations.
Two bed lengths are available: 6.5 and 8 feet. And, mercifully, there are some fundamental rules governing what Chevy will build. Here are the basics: regular cab models are only available in Work Truck and LT trims and you'll not find a short bed paired with a regular cab in any trim. A new double cab model utilizes front-hinged doors, which offer more utility than the clamshell-style doors on previous Silverados.
The Z71 package adds hardware and features designed to increase off-road capabilities and is available on both 2500HD and 3500HD models. Unique dampers, hill descent control, underbody skid plates and other appearance items are all included.
What Makes It Usable and Increases Comfort?
An all-new roomier interior leads the refinement push and includes large storage areas with multiple water bottle/cupholder locations in each door as well as a massive center console. Both materials quality and the control layout are vastly improved over the outgoing truck.
The High Country trim adds saddle brown leather interior with white piping — a distinct and moderately luxurious addition to the cabin. Heated and cooled front seats, navigation with an 8-inch screen, remote keyless entry and remote start are also standard at this level.
An array of charging outlets and connectivity options including optional WiFi (with a free 3GB/three-month trial) are available. A total of six USB ports, four 12-volt outlets, two SD slots, one 110-volt AC plug, one aux jack and RCA inputs were present on our tester. That's a lot of ways to plug in.
Outside there's a damped and lift-assisted tailgate and corner steps in the rear bumper — features that are particularly valuable on a truck this tall.
What Are the Engine Options?
Both engines from the previous Silverado 2500HD — the 6.0-liter gasoline V8 and the 6.6-liter turbodiesel — carry over.
The gasoline V8 is good for 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, but it's the optional diesel's yank that gets most buyers to choose a heavy-duty truck.
Rated at 397 hp and 765 lb-ft, the diesel engine delivers enough torque to handle even the heaviest loads with ease. Both engines are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, though the turbodiesel's transmission is a heavy-duty unit.
How Does It Drive?
Power is never in short supply, though the turbodiesel's lazy delivery does demand advanced planning in some daily driving maneuvers. The engine will quietly tug the massive truck around without revving past 2,500 rpm. Noise from the Duramax is reduced this year and, in combination with triple door seals and optimized aerodynamics, the Silverado makes great strides in all-day driving ease.
The six-speed transmission can be manually shifted, which allows easy engine braking. There's no need to hold gears while climbing, as the truck uses its substantial torque to avoid gear hunting. There's a distinct sense of driving a purpose-built machine when piloting an unladen Silverado 2500HD daily — a little like using a Mammoet heavy-lift crane to load your dishwasher. It's fun but more than silly.
What Are the Downsides?
Expansion joints, freeway seams and potholes all make themselves known when you're piloting the HD Silverado. Ride comfort is certainly lacking relative to its half-ton brother, but that's the penalty for being able to haul a Miata in the bed and tow a tow truck — simultaneously. Performing such a feat, however, would no doubt improve ride quality.
And though its powertrain and interior noise levels are thoroughly modern, there's still some Conestoga wagon control feel lurking underneath the new skin. The big Chevy's steering lacks the rest of the truck's refinement. Regardless of speed, there's precious little directional stability thanks to a lack of self-centering torque and on-center feel. Worse, at parking speeds, the feel is syrupy and effort is friction-filled.
Massive rearview mirrors, though a necessary component of a dedicated tow vehicle, limit front-quarter visibility enough to hide small vehicles in some scenarios. Front and rear parking sensors mitigate parking difficulty, as does a rearview camera, which is available across the entire line.
Even so, you'll be able to manage daily duties in this heavy-duty truck with far less distress to your kidneys than would have been imposed only five years ago. It won't let you forget you're wheeling a big truck, but the HD Silverado's driving compromises don't come in proportion to its substantial capability.
Is Towing Improved?
Undergirding the Silverado HD lineup is familiar hardware: a boxed steel frame with torsion bar-sprung independent front suspension and a leaf-sprung rear axle. In other words, the entire design of this rig is made to move big, heavy loads. And move them it will.
Maximum tow ratings increase across the board, though they still vary wildly by wheelbase, engine choice and drive configuration. The 2500HD's conventional tow rating increases 1,600 pounds from 18,000 to 19,600 pounds. Fifth-wheel ratings climb from 22,500 pounds to 23,200 pounds, though that's for the 3500 only. Our test truck was rated to tow 13,000 pounds using the standard hitch and 17,100 pounds using a fifth-wheel hitch. It offered a maximum payload capacity of 2,793 pounds.
All of these tow numbers, however, lack SAE J2807 tow rating compliance, which gives them grain-of-salt validity. Ford's 2015 F-250 and F-350 also lack SAE compliance and suffer from the same manufacturer-specific formula for determining tow ratings. All 2015 Ram trucks meet the SAE standard, but until all three makers comply, making tow rating comparisons is pointless.
Despite this, the 2500HD is clearly built for towing. It offers a standard trailer brake controller and a Tow/Haul mode that optimizes shift timing. Integrating the truck's available cruise control, auto grade braking and diesel exhaust brake allows all systems to work together to provide an easier trailering experience. Grade braking in combination with the diesel exhaust brake both proved highly effective in controlling downhill speed on the steepest hills.
Chevy offers a comprehensive guide to help shoppers decide which truck best meets their towing needs.
Antilock brakes and stability control with integrated trailer sway control are standard. Available safety features include forward collision alert, lane departure warning and GM's safety alert seat, which vibrates on one or both seat-bottom bolsters to alert drivers of potential hazards.
A six-month OnStar trial period includes automated crash response as well.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA doesn't offer fuel economy estimates on heavy-duty trucks, so there's no data available from the government.
However, we measured 19.1 mpg over 731 miles of mixed driving and 16.1 mpg on our 116-mile test loop.
Is It Off-Road Capable?
Naturally, both 2500HD and 3500HD Silverados are available with a two-speed transfer case. Adding four-wheel drive increases the cost by about $3,000 on a diesel-powered double cab standard bed like our tester.
A locking rear differential is standard, regardless of engine choice. The optional Z71 package adds hill descent control, which slows descents down steep, loose grades using engine torque without brake application.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Ford's lineup of Super Duty trucks and specifically the 2015 F-250 offers even more power and torque from the optional diesel engine. But only the massively capable F-450 meets the SAE J2807 tow rating standard.
Though fewer are sold, Ram makes a strong case for its 2015 Ram 2500HD by utilizing coil springs, which vastly improve ride quality. All 2015 Rams are certified to meet the SAE J2807 tow rating standards as well.
Why Should You Consider This Truck?
Improvements to the 2015 Silverado 2500HD are vast and effective. Both its primary-duty capabilities of towing and hauling as well as its comfort and utility are better than they've ever been.
Though it's not a truck we recommend for daily unladen driving, it is a truck that will adequately manage the task if it's your only option. It's big, powerful and relatively quiet for a diesel pickup. And, should you need to, it can tow your house.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Truck?
GM remains the only manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks to lack some level of SAE tow rating compliance. Ford is on track to certify its entire line of Super Duty trucks at the next full redesign, which is still several years away.
Additionally, this isn't a truck you should consider if your towing and hauling needs don't justify its massive capability. It makes ride quality and usability compromises that aren't present in the half-ton Silverado, which, for most people, is more than adequate.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.