If high-capacity towing and the ability to carry a heavy payload are necessities, a diesel-powered pickup is the way to go for hunters. And the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD wins the war on power, torque and towing capability. The new 6.6-liter Duramax V8 diesel under its hood tops the competition with 397 hp and a whopping 765 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 1,600 rpm (up from 365 hp and 660 lb.-ft. on 2010 models).
Combined with an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, the 2500 has enough gusto, it seems, to pull a mobile home off its foundation. This power spike translates into a 17,000-pound towing capacity (up from 13,000 in 2010). Need even more towing capacity? Chevy’s fifth-wheel version is rated for 21,700 pounds, an industry high at the moment. Silverado HD 2500’s payload also has increased and is now rated for up to 4,192 pounds, more than Ford F-250 or Ram 2500, says Chevy. Its GVW garners a 10,000-pound rating.
A host of other improvements and upgrades have been made, too. The new Duramax gets 11 percent better fuel economy over its predecessor, for a range of 680 highway miles. It can run on B20 biodiesel fuel, too, and runs cleaner with a 60 percent reduction in emissions. All this is done without sacrificing performance; the diesel Silverado can do 0-60 in less than nine seconds.
The upgraded front suspension is rated for 6,000 pounds (a consideration when attaching a snow plow), and its independent setup allows each wheel to react individually over rough terrain while keeping each one planted on the road. The rear suspension now has 3-inch-wide leaf springs.
There’s more. A standard new exhaust brake system creates backpressure to slow the vehicle, which reduces brake fade and prolongs brake life. And additional “Auto” grade braking automatically downshifts the transmission to help slow the truck when you apply the brakes while descending long, steep grades which is especially important when towing a heavy trailer.
The 2500 HD is surprisingly smooth for a ¾-ton truck. Shod with LT-285/70R18 Wrangler SR/A tires, the truck rides better than my Explorer Sport. Load the cargo bed with an ATV or hay bales and it rides even better. It’s planted and quiet with only a tad of exterior diesel rattle. With the cab windows closed, it’s hush quiet.
Handling is impressive; however, the long four-door Crew Cab I tested made parking in a tight spot tough. If there’s one option that was missing, it was the rear-view camera system that would ease aligning a trailer coupling. A locking tailgate is needed, too, as they get stolen for resale. I liked the four chromed tie-down hooks on the top of the bed rails. They fit flush when not needed and pop up for use. There are also four fixed ones on the bottom corners of the fender walls protected with vinyl bed-liner lids.
The sedan-like cabin requires a high, 25.5-inch step-in, but the cloth seats are soft and comfy with decent lateral support. With the huge center console flipped up, there’s room for a third passenger up front. Rear seats, too, are comfortable, set as they are at a comfortable angle. Six occupants can sit comfortably. Flip the 60/40 rear seat bottoms up against the bulkhead and there’s ample room for guns and gear.
The 2500 is available in Regular, Extended and Crew Cab models, and in WT, LT and LTZ trim levels. The base price on my LT was $38,860, which included lots of standard features. The options list included an interior package costing $745; HD trailering package for $780; On-The-Job package (bed liner, protectors, hooks), $495; Duramax diesel, $7,195; six-speed automatic trans, $1,200; 18-inch forged aluminum wheels, $545; and rear window defogger, $175. All told, the sticker price was $50,990, including delivery. With that comes a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, five-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance, five-year/100,000-mile courtesy transportation and six-year/100,000-mile corrosion coverage.