Standing there in the MotorTrend garage, I felt like a matador in the ring, sizing up a fighting bull. Its gargantuan proportions and menacing visage struck me with intimidation. Yet like a trained fighter, I knew that with cunning and calculation I could overcome this brute. Returning its glare, I marched forward, stomped my foot on the running board, and climbed into the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD.
For 2020 the heavy-duty Silverado’s capability increased—as did its size. Atop its 158.9-inch wheelbase is a body measuring 250.0 inches long, 81.9 inches wide, and 79.8 inches tall. It makes the Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss Z71—231.7 inches long, 81.2 inches wide, and 78.4 inches tall on a 147.5-inch wheelbase—seem compact by comparison. Trailer hitch backed within an inch of the garage wall, its grille still jutted out into the aisle. Folding the power-operated side mirrors was necessary to make it narrow enough to fit at all. Even for a tall guy like myself, sitting in such an elevated position was an unusual sensation.
With this size, driving in bustling, unforgiving Los Angeles traffic became a constant mental exercise. Freeway lane markers were constrictive. Wide angles had to be plotted to execute simple corners. Covered parking was scuttled because it exceeded some height limits. Slender neighborhood avenues became testing grounds for nonverbal negotiation with oncoming drivers. Clearly, this brute is not meant for the confines of dense urban areas. Like going up against a bull in combat, I couldn’t think in the moment—rather, I always had to be one step ahead.
Thankfully, the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8 got the truck out of its own way and easily ahead of speed: It churns 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque. Even to MotorTrend test staff, who spend their days launching every manner of performance vehicle, its acceleration impressed. “What an amazingly quick truck,” road test editor Chris Walton said. “With the driveline set to auto (4WD), this HD leaps off the line like an all-wheel-drive sports car.” Its 6.5-second 0–60 is within reach of some hot compacts and speedy against comparable trucks. Our long-term 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty did the sprint in 7.1 seconds, and the 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty hit it in 8.4 seconds. Exciting, considering the 2500HD’s 8,353-pound curb weight and accompanying oleaginous symphony of turbodiesel V-8 sounds.
The new 10-speed Allison automatic transmission keeps the engine in its sweet spot, enabling endless torque and supporting the truck’s 18,500-pound tow rating. Walton’s dragstrip observation that the transmission “clicks off seamless upshifts like a twin-clutch automated manual” proved true on public roads, too. It occasionally got caught between gears at low speeds, a minor gripe considering how well it complements the engine. With so many cogs to move through, the V-8 never feels wrung out.
Deceleration, however, is less impressive. The brake pedal is soft, squishy, and long; approximately nothing happens for the first quarter of its travel, followed by a slight reduction in speed. “This is not confidence-inspiring in the least, as if the pedal is not connected to the brakes,” Walton said. Has a more troubling test note ever been written? Stopping requires firmness on the halters, and I doubled typical following distances to allow plenty of pasture to slow down. Still, despite significant bouncing and vibration under ABS, Walton accomplished a best 60–0 stopping distance of 134 feet. That’s improved over the 2017 Silverado 2500HD, which stopped fully in 146 feet, and dramatically better than our F-250 long-termer’s 160 feet. Nonetheless, when laden weight pushes from behind, the more space ahead, the better.
Any stability the 2500HD possesses results from sheer mass, less so the driver’s control.
Posting a 28.3-second figure-eight lap at an average of 0.60 g, Walton was able extract slight drifts on corner exit, but he noted significant understeer as the burly-treaded tires gave up. Obviously, high grip was never going to be this bovine’s forte. On the street, handling is predictably trucklike, with vague sensation transmitted through the large-diameter steering wheel. Unladen ride quality is springy and bouncy, with a suspension that can’t help but allow major keel through bends.
Despite that, the cabin is comfortable and cavernous—no surprise given those exterior measurements. LTZ trim plushes it up with heated and cooled front bucket seats, LOUD upgraded audio system, and extended soft-touch trim spanning the dashboard. The 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is clear and responsive but looks tiny given the dashboard’s acreage. And it is tiny compared to the 12.0-inch unit now available in Ram pickups. The screen between the gauges is equally high-definition and shows almost any data point the driver might want to know—brake pad life, DEF level, engine hours, and more. Less informative is the 15.0-inch head-up display, which is huge and clear but doesn’t show much beyond speed, speed limit, and basic driver assist info.
A multitude of cameras let me keep an eye on this monster’s edges. The top-down system stitches together a cohesive view of the surroundings; marker lines show the corners’ trajectory, making it a cakewalk to corral the truck in a parking space. Other views show the bed, straight down at the trailer hitch, side blind spots, and an angle of the front as if there’s a camera a few feet ahead of the grille. The digital rearview “mirror” is superior to the real thing, providing an accurate depiction unobstructed by the bed. Driver assist features include blind-spot monitors and a following distance indicator showing seconds between the vehicle ahead, but adaptive cruise control is a notable omission, perhaps due to inadvisable use while trailering. Otherwise, the forward collision alert, which flashes on the HUD and vibrates the driver’s seat, is a boon—it’s a bit hyperactive, but occasional gluteus buzzes are preferable to an actual crash.
There’s a reason Angelenos don’t own cattle: There simply isn’t space. Beyond the urban sprawl, where there’s room to roam, is the proper home for such large stock. The Silverado 2500HD isn’t meant to be a metropolitan pet. Like a stout ox, it’s a mightily capable tool bred to get work done. Still, my days with the truck proved less daunting than expected. Its comfort, technology, and gobsmacking power helped negate challenges presented by its size. Although I didn’t test an ounce of its heavy-duty potential, those who do will have a savvy companion that can go from tame to terrifying with a flex of the ankle. Toro!
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