Bad Bow-Tie

April 1, 2010

2011 Chevy Silverado HD – Same Look, Different TruckBy  Bruce W. Smith • Image Courtesy of GM

Test Drive 0410If you are a Chevy lover and considering stepping up to a new heavy-duty GM diesel pickup, put a hold on looking at a 2010 model and put your money on a 2011. Sure, the two may look identical, but they’re not under the skin.
Such is the word from the Bow-Tie camp when they unveiled the 2011 Silverado Heavy-Duty pickups earlier this week at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2011 Silverado HD, and undoubtedly it’s yet-to-be-revealed GMC Sierra counterpart, has received enough technological advancements in the frame, engine, braking and suspension areas to make it tow, haul, ride and perform much better than the previous (current) model.

Those who love the performance of the current Duramax/Allison package will love the new setup, which is said to be stouter, more powerful and more efficient.

One item among the many catching the public’s attention is fuel economy. Although none of the pickup manufacturers are required to post fuel economy numbers on their heavy duty pickups, GM all but says the new Duramax/Allison 1000 combo will deliver 18.9mpg on the open road. (Their claim: The Silverado’s 36-gallon fuel tank will take you 680 miles.) This is an 11-percent improvement over the 2010 model.

Another area of importance to the working/recreational diesel pickup user is what’s under the body. GM has went to a fully boxed frame and a heavier independent front suspension, both of which contribute to the new GM heavy-duty pickup’s “class-leading” load-carrying and towing capacities.

The design upgrades are also said to deliver a smoother, quieter ride and more precise handling—especially under heavy load situations, such as carrying big slide-in campers or towing travel and equipment trailers.

That leads to the biggest news of all: The 2011 Chevy Silverado HD doesn’t require a weight-distributing hitch to up to its maximum 16,000 pound trailering limit. That’s right, you no longer have to worry about installing and setting up a weight-distributing hitch. The maximum towing capacity (13,000-16,000 pounds depending on model) is SAE J2807-certified towing “on-the-ball.”

In the world of towing, this is huge news.
In year’s past, to have your pickup “properly-equipped” as sated in the owner’s manual, all GM H-D pickups required the use of a weight-distributing hitch when trailering more than 7,500 pounds, while the majority of other manufacturer’s pickups required a W-D for trailered loads weighing more than 5,000 pounds.

Through the chassis, brakes and drivetrain changes GM engineers have found a way to eliminate the need for an aftermarket weight-distributing hitch. The new pickup’s door tag will probably show both the “weight-carrying” (trailer hitched straight to the ball/shank) and “weight-distributing” ratings being one and the same.

Although GM marketing hype has completely overlooked this point, it’s probably the biggest news of all as GM becomes the first manufacturer to build an SAE-certified pickup and hitch package capable of towing this much weight without requiring the use of a weight-distributing hitch assembly.

This should great news to those who tow travel trailers and heavy equipment trailers on the factory hitch because this eliminates 1) having to deal with the set-up and expense of a W-D hitch, and 2) removes any confusion as to having the vehicle “properly-equipped” when it comes to towing limits and related vehicle operator liability issues facing older pickups.

All in all, it appears GM thought out the re-design of the 2011 Silverado Heavy-Duty quite well. We haven’t had an opportunity to drive one yet. But if it’s as good as they claim, the Chevy HD pickups should be very stiff competition for the 2011 Ford Super Duty and 2010 Dodge Ram HD.

Note of interest to the towing crowd: this is the first pickup that DOESN’T require the use of a weight-distributing hitch to tow up to its maximum trailer tow rating…. I suspect no other publications (or automotive journalists) have even picked up on this point. The tow ratings are also SAE J2807 compliant, making GM the first of the “Big 3” to openly advertise the implementation of what will be a mandated testing procedure by 2013.