2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD Review
Pros & Cons
- Impressive hauling and towing capabilities
- refined and quiet ride
- responsive steering
- solid build quality
- comfortable seats.
- Awkward driver position
- mediocre cabin storage.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Notably improved this year, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is an excellent choice for a heavy-duty truck.
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 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is a worthy choice among a decidedly small group of competitors.
This year the Silverado line of heavy-duty trucks receives plenty of improvements to help it keep up with -- and in some instances, prevail over -- its competition. A new frame, which Chevy says is considerably more rigid than before, contributes to increased towing and hauling capacities. From here, Chevy has bolted on new suspension components for a more comfortable ride.
Under the hood there's an updated version of the optional 6.6-liter Duramax V8 turbodiesel. Output is rated at 397 horsepower and an eye-bulging 765 pound-feet of torque (a jump of 105 lb-ft over last year's turbodiesel). This increase doesn't come at the expense of the environment or your pocketbook, either. According to Chevrolet, this new turbodiesel V8 combines with a new six-speed Allison 1000 transmission to deliver 11 percent better fuel economy as well as lower tailpipe emissions than the previous turbodiesel powertrain.
On the outside of the 2011 Silverado HD, only a few changes are apparent. The cosmetics include a power-dome-style hood (with louvers!), a revised grille and a chrome front bumper with an opening for added cooling. Behind the steering wheel, you'll sense a smoother ride thanks to improved isolation from hydraulic body mounts and a revised calibration for the independent front suspension.
These changes for the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD and its GMC Sierra twin are meant to keep this GM truck in the game with the newly revised lineup of Ford Super Duty pickups. In terms of towing and hauling capabilities, the 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty is in a virtual dead heat with the Silverado (with the Chevy winning by only a few hundred pounds), with the 2011 Ram 3500 bringing up the rear. However, in our heavy-duty pickup comparison test, the Chevy's twin, the GMC Sierra 3500, boasted the best all-around performance and felt the most composed while towing a very heavy load, thanks to its more precise steering and arrow-straight tracking. To be fair, the Ford offers more in the way of work-solution options, while the Dodge earns high marks for its uncommonly upscale interior.
None of these choices really represents a winning or losing decision, as each pickup delivers plenty of power and utility. In the end, choosing the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD over the rest will come down to personal preference.
2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD models
The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is offered in regular cab, extended cab or crew cab body styles. Buyers can choose between the conventional single-rear-wheel (SRW) or dual-rear-wheel (DRW) configurations. The regular cab and extended cab are only available with a long bed (8 feet), while crew cabs can also be had in standard bed lengths (6.5 feet), but only with SRW trucks.
Trim levels start at the base Work Truck and climb to the LT and range-topping LTZ. The Work Truck trim level includes 18-inch steel wheels (all DRWs have 17-inch wheels), tinted rear windows, air-conditioning, a trip computer, vinyl floor coverings, a 40/20/40-split front bench with fold-down center armrest, vinyl upholstery, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo.
Stepping up to the LT adds 18-inch alloy wheels (SRW), heated outside mirrors, darker tinted rear windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, carpeted floor coverings, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver-side lumbar seat 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 level is only offered on extended and crew cab body styles and augments the LT's features list by adding foglights, a locking rear differential, a heavy-duty trailer package (with integrated trailer brake controller), dual-zone automatic climate control, 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 an aluminum bed extender, a protective bedliner, a sliding or stationary tool box, a cargo rail, a sliding bed divider, a sunroof (LTZ only), a power-sliding rear window, power-adjustable pedals, a heated steering wheel, rear parking sensors, mobile WiFi, the EZ-lift tailgate, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a rearview camera. Four-wheel-drive models can add the Z71 Off-Road package (includes skid plates and off-road suspension components) and a Snow Plow Prep package.
Performance & mpg
The standard power plant for the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is a 6.0-liter gasoline V8 engine that produces 360 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. An optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is surely the engine choice for those who plan on towing or hauling on a regular basis. This new engine produces 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Emissions from the new Duramax V8 are cleaner than the previous diesel engine, thanks in part to a urea-injection system. If the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) runs low, however, speeds will be limited to 55 mpg. If the DEF reservoir is empty, speed is lowered to 40 mph.
Rear-wheel drive is standard for all models, with four-wheel drive optional. The Work Truck 4WD receives a traditional, mechanically engaged transfer case operated by a floor-mounted shift lever, while the two other trim levels get Autotrac, an electronically operated transfer case that features an automatic setting that engages 4WD when tire slip is detected.
Properly equipped, a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD can haul up to 6,355 pounds of payload. It can tow up to 17,000 pounds with its standard ball hitch and pull 21,700 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 vehicle stability under deceleration and reduce brake wear.
In terms of safety, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD features antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start control and trailer sway control as standard. Front side and side curtain airbags are available as options, as are power-adjustable pedals, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
With all of its chassis improvements, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 represents a big step forward for heavy-duty trucks. The stiffer frame permits the use of a suspension that can not only handle higher loads but also smooth out rough roads more efficiently. While heavy-duty trucks like this have been thought in the past to be too rough for comfortable daily use, the Silverado 3500 proves that comfort can be compatible with toughness. Even the Silverado's brakes feel better thanks to firm, responsive pedal action.
When stacked up against the Dodge Ram 3500 and the Ford F-350, the Silverado 3500 has a few clear advantages. Superior steering precision compared to the Ford and a smaller turning circle than either rival are readily apparent and appreciated in everyday driving. And when towing a trailer, the Chevy V8 turbodiesel accelerates with more authority and climbs grades with less diesel clatter while also delivering superior fuel economy. When descending a grade, the Duramax V8's new exhaust brake works with well-timed downshifts from the transmission to lend an edge in vehicle stability over the Dodge.
The interior of the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is nearly identical to that of the 2010 model. The Work Truck is the most utilitarian of the trim levels, with vinyl covering and very little in the way of creature comforts. The LT offers a more inviting cabin with cloth and carpeting, although it comes standard with a standard three-person front bench just like the Work Truck. Opting for the bucket seats adds a center console with storage. The LTZ is the classiest of the bunch, with an interior that is similar to those in the Suburban and Tahoe SUVs.
The front seats are quite 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. The extended cab's rear seats are acceptable in terms of comfort, and the crew cab is certainly roomier, though the crew-cab trucks from Dodge and Ford provide slightly roomier rear quarters.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
There's a particularly trite and overused phrase we've heard so often we no longer respond when someone utters it: "You can't judge a book by its cover." And it's baloney, too. War and Peace is a tough read because it has so many damn pages, is old and weighs a lot. Cats for Dummies is something less than high art and will not soon become a major motion picture.
But a lesser-known corollary to this adage actually works: "You can't judge the profound changes in the capability of a heavy-duty pickup truck by the freshness (or lack thereof) of its sheet metal and interior."
Haven't heard that one? Jim Mikulec, GM's lead development engineer on the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD project, puts it another way: "Everything that's changed is under the skin. Everything that's important is under the skin."
Just four years ago, the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD dually defeated Ford Super Duty and Dodge Ram HD trucks in our straight-up fight of strength and towing capability. Despite an aging interior, it won largely on the strength of its 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 engine and class-exclusive six-speed Allison automatic transmission. In 2007 GM gave its HD pickups a long-overdue body and interior redesign to go with these then-impressive mechanicals, and for the next couple of years the Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD twins stood atop the pile.
But the competition would not stand for this. Neither would they sit idly by or take it lying down. We're not sure what it looks like when you're not standing, sitting or lying down, but it apparently involves lots of engineers and money.
Dodge engineers countered first by upping the displacement of the Cummins turbodiesel from 5.9 to 6.7 liters in 2007 and replacing the archaic four-speed automatic with a much-needed six-speed a year later. For 2010 they added new sheet metal and a long-overdue crew cab to the lineup, and the Ram HD vaulted to the front
Ford's brainiacs leapfrogged ahead mere months later after introducing a revolutionary 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 turbodiesel and a brand new six-speed automatic to handle the new mill's 390 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of torque. The 2011 Ford Super Duty got a final cherry on top in the form of significant upgrades to the interior electronics.
In less than a year, the Chevrolet Silverado HD tumbled from first to worst. Enter the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD.
Looking at it, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD seems little different from 2010 versions. The bodywork and interior are essentially unchanged because GM focused its engineers and money on the areas where the Silverado HD lagged behind the competition: payload and towing capacity.
But the GM brass didn't want to merely improve their 2011 Chevrolet and GMC HD trucks. They wanted them to have best-in-class towing and hauling performance, or as Chief Project Engineer Mark Cieslak told us, the goal was to "take the segment."
To accomplish this, carryover bodies would sit atop a completely new frame and suspension designed to support class-leading ratings for GVW (gross vehicle weight) and GCW (gross combined weight).
The resulting clean-sheet frame is built from rails that are both taller and wider, and you won't find any open c-sections because this frame is now fully boxed from end to end. The rails themselves feature more gradual bends, and the crossmembers are stouter, more numerous and tend to be welded in place instead of riveted.
It has paid off big-time. The resulting structure is 92 percent stiffer in bending and nothing less than 500 percent stiffer in torsion than the outgoing frame.
A frame like this permits the use of a suspension that can handle higher loads and absorb impacts more efficiently, and GM has taken full advantage with clean-sheet designs for both the HD's front and rear suspension.
In front, the 2011 Silverado HD retains its fully independent double-wishbone layout and the built-in ride and steering advantage it provides over the solid-axle competition. But all of the pieces are newly designed and significantly beefier — the single exception being the stabilizer bar's drop link.
The lower control arms are stouter while the upper control arms, now forged from steel instead of stamped, have been moved upwards to a high-mount position. Heftier torsion bar springs, revalved shocks and dual urethane bump stops allow the front gross axle weight rating (GAWR) to increase to 6,000 pounds on 4x4 versions, a move that allows GM to offer the snow-plow prep option on any 2011 Silverado HD or Sierra HD 4x4 model, regardless of engine choice.
The beefiness extends to the braking system, where 14.0-inch cast-iron brake rotors replace the 12.8-inch units used last year. To ensure proper caliper clearance, this move dictates a minimum wheel size of 17 inches instead of 16 inches. Optional 18- and 20-inch wheels are also on the menu.
Back-to-back drives in the Silverado HD against a Ford F-350 on the open road clearly demonstrated the ride comfort of the Silverado's independent front suspension with its relatively low unsprung mass. But that we expected; it was the brakes that gave us a pleasant surprise. Turns out Chevy engineers didn't like last year's long, soggy brake pedal any more than we did, so they made welcome improvements to the pedal ratio and the hydro-boost assist characteristics to improve response.
Out back, the leaf springs are now 3 inches wide, up from 2.5 inches before. The projecting forward half of the springs has been shortened to make the leaves asymmetrical front to rear, a move that reduces axle windup at launch. Urethane rear bump stops replace hard rubber ones, and every mounting bolt in sight has been upsized.
The result is a 1,175-pound increase in rear GAWR from 8,200 to 9,375 pounds. This plus the aforementioned front-end improvements allow a hefty 1,600-pound GVWR increase to 13,000 pounds.
The latter now equals the Ford F-350's GVW rating, but Silverado curb weights tend to be lower, leaving a larger surplus for payload. The top payload of the Silverado 3500HD, the so-called "1-ton" truck, is 6,635 pounds, 1,380 pounds more than last year. Ford's F-350 tops out at 6,520 pounds. In all, Chevy has five 3500-series models with payloads topping 6,000 pounds. Ford has one.
It's much the same on the "3/4-ton" side, where the max payload of 4,192 pounds is one of 13 Chevrolet 2500HD configurations that are rated to carry more than 3,100 pounds. Ford's F-250 offers one such rating. (Ouch.)
That's the payload side, but it takes more than a stout chassis to support increased trailer weight. As good as the 6.6-liter Duramax had been in the old truck, 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque wasn't going to cut it against Ford's new 6.7-liter Super Duty turbodiesel.
No worries. Chevrolet powertrain engineers found another 32 horses and 105 lb-ft, allowing the revised Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel to best the Ford's output with a class-topping 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque.
The 6.6-liter displacement and 16:1 compression ratio are unchanged. The output increases come instead from a new set of 30,000-psi piezo injectors, a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system and, more to the point, careful tuning of the engine calibration and turbo-boost map to meet new diesel emissions regulations and testing methods.
Like most other modern clean-diesel emissions technologies, the SCR system injects tiny amounts of the increasingly familiar diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to react in the SCR catalyst, reducing NOx in this case by some 63 percent. The Silverado's new DEF tank holds some 5.3 gallons, enough for 5,000 miles.
A same-sized variable-nozzle turbo is used, but it's been altered to provide a computer-controller engine braking function, not unlike the system that recently appeared on the Ford Super Duty diesel trucks. Chevy's version differs in that it has an on-off switch and utilizes four maps to optimize performance in the four possible combinations of cruise control on-off and tow/haul on-off.
Through it all, GM claims the new Duramax is up to 11 percent more fuel-efficient than last year's model. Heavy-duty pickup trucks aren't subjected to official fuel economy testing, but GM claims a 680-mile highway range on a 36-gallon tank of diesel. That works out to 19 mpg — unofficially, of course.
It all adds up to a significant increase in the 2011 Silverado's GCWR, the limiting factor when it comes to towing capacity. Last's year's GCWR topped out at 23,500 pounds, leaving 16,500 pounds of maximum 5th-wheel towing capacity. This year's GCWR leaps to 29,200 pounds, dragging the maximum tow rating along with it to 21,700 pounds, a convenient 100 pounds more than the Ford F-350 Super Duty.
Trailer in Tow
The proof, of course, is in the towing. We didn't get a chance to drive on our familiar desert test grade, but we were able to make back-to-back comparisons to a similar Ford F-350 diesel with equal 9,000-pound trailers attached.
In short, Ford and Chevy have themselves a horse race, and Chevy seems to have a slight advantage. Both towed the admittedly lightweight trailer up the admittedly short grade in an equally relaxed manner at part-throttle, but the Chevrolet 3500HD got off the line a tad quicker and ultimately produced less diesel rattle on the steeper sections.
But the rolling terrain of western Maryland was good for demonstrating just how superior the downhill grade logic of the six-speed Allison transmission really is, especially with the exhaust brake added into the mix. The Ford Super Duty was good, but the Silverado HD felt better.
But these conditions weren't particularly challenging or definitive. It wasn't hot, the grades weren't steep or long and, most of all, the supplied trailer didn't bring either truck close to its considerable limits. These heavy-duty machines deserve nothing less than a full rematch on home soil. Don't worry. We're already making plans.
We recognize that GM made a logical business decision when it focused its attention on the skeleton and guts of the 2011 Chevrolet 2500 and 3500HD trucks. And we don't really have a problem with the old exterior of this new truck. Minor tweaks to the bumper, grille and hood have made a good-looking rig even more handsome.
But the interior, it needs help. The 2010 Ram HD is all-new in this regard, with a very handsome cab adapted from the universally praised Ram 1500's interior. The 2011 Ford Super Duty's cab isn't particularly new, but the basic design is sound and it is aging quite well thanks to the addition of a very clever new instrument panel and the much-praised Sync infotainment system.
By comparison, the Chevy and GMC interiors are built well enough, but there appears to be a lot of wasted space. Also the switchgear is small, particularly on the center stack, with lots of same-sized buttons in close proximity. Tiny air-conditioning icons highlight our growing need for bifocals, and the control switch for that excellent exhaust brake has a status indicator light that's impossible to see in daylight. There's room for improvement here.
There is no denying that the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is a great truck. The things that matter most in this segment — engine, chassis, suspension — have been thoroughly upgraded under the skin. It's nothing less than a heart-lung-brain-skeleton transplant, with stitching so expert we can't see the Frankenstein seams.
An LT-grade Chevrolet 3500HD 4x4 dually starts at $42,885. Add the Duramax diesel engine and Allison transmission ($8,395) and the price rises to $50,880, about $500 less than a Ford F-350 XLT dually 4x4 with a V8 diesel and six-speed automatic. Dodge Ram 3500 SLT prices reside in the same ballpark.
For the time being, at least, the 2011 Chevrolet 3500HD can boast the largest towing capacity, the highest payload and the healthiest engine output in the 1-ton segment. But that's sure to change when the competition throws yet more engineers and money at their respective trucks. After all, as another over-used saying goes, "This is war!"
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD Overview
The Used 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is offered in the following submodels: Silverado 3500HD Crew Cab, Silverado 3500HD Regular Cab, Silverado 3500HD Extended Cab. Available styles include LTZ 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 2dr Regular Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 2dr Regular Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), LT 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), and LTZ 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A).
What's a good price on a Used 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD?
Price comparisons for Used 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD trim styles:
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Should I lease or buy a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.