Recent new-car introductions seem to be focused on small, fuel-efficient vehicles, but that doesn't mean that automakers have forgotten about full-size trucks. With the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty getting some major recognition so far this year and the Ford F-Series Super Duty getting even more Super later in the year, General Motors is now working to improve its heavy-duty pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. While the two pickups are identical under the skin, only the 2011 Chevy Silverado HD was unveiled at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show. The 2011 Chevy Silverado will be available in the 2500HD or 3500HD configurations with three cab lengths and two bed lengths.
When it comes to an average passenger car, a mid-cycle refresh usually involves some exterior restyling, and this is the case with the new Silverado HD. The new look front end has been cleaned up a little with a new bumper, grille and hood, but the biggest improvement is the elimination of the 'chrome bookends' on the front bumper. Instead of the vast expanses of chrome, the size of the bumper has been visually reduced by adding a black plastic to the lower edge and repositioning the fog lamps higher up in the bumper. A slight body line that matches up with the body side moldings now cuts through the upper edge of the bumper, too. Other changes to the front end include a new hood with an aggressive powerdome look, a new grille with a larger Chevrolet bowtie and a larger air inlet in the bumper.
The only other styling change GM performed on the heavy-duty truck was adding new 18- and 20-inch wheel options for single rear-wheel models, and allowing for taller tires on the 17-inch wheels for dual rear-wheel models. This alone will help fill the large wheel openings better to give the truck a better look. All heavy-duty models will feature eight-lug hubs.
Even with its revised exterior, the most important changes for the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD are found under the sheet metal. GM made nine major changes to the engines options, frame and suspension of the 2011 Silverado HD to deliver improved performance, driving dynamics and, most importantly, brute strength. Final numbers have yet to be released for the redesigned 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty, but the new Silverado HD either matches or outperforms the 2010 Super Duty and 2010 Ram HD in just about every major area.
The first way GM went about strengthening its HD pickups was by completely redesigned the frame and suspension set ups. Not only are there now 11 different frames for the wide variety of models, but the frames all receive a fully boxed design made up of high-strength steel and increased cross section supports that makes the new frame 125 timesÂ stronger than the current model. The end result is improved towing capacities, greater durability and improved ride qualities. Pulling a fifth-wheel trailer, the Silverado HD Duramax DRW models now have a maximum trailer capacity of 20,000 and a maximum payload of 6,335 pounds, while the Vortec-equipped models have a maximum trailer capacity of 14,500 and a maximum payload of 5,724 pounds.
Complementing the frame, the new Silverado HD also gets improved front and rear suspension that helps to make the truck even stronger and give it a smoother, more refined ride. Up front, all models continue to use an independent suspension setup, but the changes have made the front 25 percent stronger on four-wheel drive models. This will give the new truck a maximum front axle rating of up to 6,000 pounds which will allow all four-wheel drive models to utilize snow plows when properly equipped. In the rear, the 2500HD will have two-stage leaf springs, while the 3500HD will have three-stage leaf springs with all growing by 20 percent for a total width of three inches.
A stronger frame is nothing without a strong engine, and the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel has been improved for 2011 to deliver more power. In addition to reduced NOx emissions and quieter operation, the improved Duramax is expected to put out even more horsepower and torque than the current model. Multiple changes have also been made to enhance the engine's durability including using new pistons, connecting rod pins, main bearings, oil pump and improved oil flow to the turbocharger. To fulfill their heavy-duty purpose, the 2011 HD trucks will now offer an exhaust brake system as well as B20 biodiesel capability.
For anyone interested in drag racing their Silverado 2500 HD, GM says the changes made to the Duramax engine will improve acceleration to 60 miles per hour and in the quarter mile. As for the base Vortec 6.0-liter gasoline V-8, GM revised the camshaft to add more torque, although horsepower and torque ratings have not yet been released on either engine. Both available six-speed automatic transmission have also received updates for 2011 including more strength and better fuel economy from the diesel's Allison 1000 and stronger, more refined additions being added to the HydraMatic 6L90 used in the gasoline models.
As for the GMC version of GM's redesigned heavy-duty truck, it is likely that the 2011 GMC Sierra HD models will debut at the New York Auto Show later next month.