2009 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD
2009 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
The most car-like of the heavy-duty pickups.
Chevy Silverado HD heavy-duty pickups are about real work and serious play. The 2500-series is often used like a car and charged with pulling the boat or trailer on weekends, while the 3500 usually sees hauling and pulling duty on a routine basis and tows fifth-wheel RVs and six-horse trailers. With a trailer of 5,000 pounds or less, or infrequent carriage of building materials, you'd be better served with a Silverado 1500.
But for those who need it, the Silverado HD models are the only heavy-duty pickups with independent front suspensions on four-wheel-drive units, for better ride and steering than the competition.
The 6.0-liter gas V8 is among the strongest standard engines, while the 6.6-liter Duramax is the most powerful diesel. And the standard six-speed automatic one-ups the competition. The Silverado is well finished, inside and out.
After a mid-2007 debut for the new Chevy Silverado HD, the 2009 models get some minor yet worthwhile upgrades. These include a rearview camera system for longer-cab models, electronic stability control on more models, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM Satellite Radio with real-time traffic reporting, and OnStar 8.0 with turn-by-turn navigation and destination download.
A choice of interiors is available, with different dashboards rather than merely varied finishes. You can have it sweep-out simple, or served up with heated leather, navigation, and an expensive-looking opaque shade for the moonroof.
Regular cabs are roomy enough for three, extended cabs are ideal for younger families and have a thoughtful new rear door design, while the crew cab is suitable for four or five big athletes or pony-sized dogs.
The Silverado HD is the most car-like of big pickups, whether referring to interior appearance or driving feel. Yet it carries and tows as well as other heavy-duty pickups. With close to 100 derivatives in cab/box/trim/drive choices and option sheets to fill many pages, there should be an example to fit your tastes and requirements.
2009 Chevy Silverado HD pickups are offered in 2WD and 4WD versions. Three cab styles are available, Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab, along with two box sizes. They come in 2500 (3/4-ton) and 3500 (1-ton) versions; the 3500-series is available in single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel versions. Cab and chassis models, suitable for fitting a custom work or tow body on, are also available.
Trim levels vary from vinyl-floored Work Truck (WT) models through LT to plush LTZ, the latter using a unique interior design.
WT comes with six-speaker AM/FM/XM stereo, ABS, air conditioning, tire pressure monitors, 40/20/40 vinyl front bench with armrest, and six-speed automatic with tow/haul mode and dual overdrives.
LT adds auto-dimming mirror and compass, cruise control, driver lumbar, locking seat cushion storage, leather-wrapped steering wheel, electronic shift 4WD, and chrome wheel trim. LT2 (about $1800) adds better upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, fog lamps, and audio controls on the steering wheel.
LTZ includes an upscale dashboard design, leather upholstery with 12-way power and heated seats in front, two-person driver memory, Bose audio system with subwoofer, locking differential, remote start, trailer package, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and heated windshield washer fluid system.
The standard engine is an iron-block 6.0-liter V8 with variable cam timing and 360 hp; on duallies (GVWR less than 10,000 pounds) the engine is de-rated to 322 hp. The Duramax diesel, at 365 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque, is optional (about $7200) and requires the Allison six-speed automatic transmission (about $1200).
Options range from working gear such as the integrated trailer brake controller, dual alternators on diesels, remote start, and a snow plow prep package to satellite radio, heated seats and a moonroof. Many options are interrelated so check everything carefully.
Safety equipment includes frontal airbags, front seat belt pretensioners, ABS, and OnStar.
For this generation the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra do not share near-identical appearance. Lamps and trim vary but so do fenders, boxes and the hood; mechanical bits are shared. Dual-rear-wheel pickups have a hydroformed sheetmetal pickup box with integral overfenders and better paint finishing.
With the big chrome crossbar and bow-tie logo Silverado HD pickups are immediately recognized as Chevrolets. The heavy-duty Silverado HD pickups maintain visual relationships to the light-duty Silverado 1500 models. The hood could have been drawn by a snowmobile designer, with upswept shelves at the sides ending in plastic trim louvers (that serve a vent function on diesels) and Vortec (gas) or Duramax (diesel) badging.
Useful features include an optional tailgate lock and lift assist, dual-element towing mirrors, a cargo management system with multiple adjustable tie-down points (500 pounds per) and a wealth of dealer-supplied toolboxes, and a 2.5-inch receiver hitch capable of towing 13,000 pounds on the top-rated models.
The Silverado HD matches up against other heavy-duty pickups in most dimensions as they all carry the proverbial 4x8 sheet of plywood flat in long-box models. However, the Silverado tends to have a lower roofline and high load deck, especially on 4WD models, worth noting if you visit commercial garages or have a low door at home.
Regardless of cab size the Chevy Silverado HD offers two distinct styles inside: 'Pure pickup,' which is what you historically expect in a truck, and a luxury-inspired version that duplicates an uplevel Tahoe or Suburban. All are marked improvements over the previous-generation (pre-2007) models. The cabin is squeak and rattle-free and even the faux wood trim is well-done.
For recreational towing the luxury version may be the choice, but the pure pickup level gives up nothing in build quality, function (it has a second glovebox, the luxury does not) nor appearance.
We noticed interior color has an effect on how inviting any version is.
Seats are supportive and are easily adjusted. Adjustable pedals and tilt wheel are available. The steering wheel is offset slightly from the seat center, however, which may fatigue your shoulders or upper arms on long drives. Truckers who add myriad lights and accessories will note a lack of dedicated switch blanks while others will appreciate the cohesive design.
The Extended Cab back seat is suited for smaller adults and kids. For better access, the side doors swing 170 degrees for easier loading in tight parking spaces. The windows in those small doors roll down completely for comfort and venting options. The moonroof cover is a solid material on most trim levels. The luxury version has a semi-transparent shade that might require a baseball cap in bright conditions, not our favorite feature. We prefer the solid shade.
All controls are plainly laid out, the only nitpick being the number of similarly shaped and sized black buttons, some of which large-fingered individuals might find hard to push without hitting the adjacent one by mistake, especially when wearing gloves. Instrumentation is complete, responsive, and easy to see at a glance. Dual-zone climate control supporting a side-to-side delta of 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) is offered on many models. Diesels get a fast warm-up function. The navigation system is available on LTZ models. Turn-by-turn navigation instruction is included with the standard OnStar, but once past the introductory time frame (usually three months) OnStar has a monthly service charge.
Of the heavy-duty pickups, the Silverado is the most car-like inside and will consequently find favor with many buyers. Visibility is good because you're nearly six feet off the ground, though the large hood and lower dash present an imposing view forward. The higher box sides haven't compromised rear visibility, and the new towing mirrors are a big improvement.
The Chevy Silverado HD is the most car-like of the heavy-duty pickup trucks.
That said, an HD Silverado drives heavy, as in a solid feel and deliberate control inputs. It feels confident empty or with a maximum load on board. The added frame stiffness and body build quality mean there is much less sensation of a separate cab and box. They are, of course, still separate pieces, but you don't feel like you're being tossed between two camel humps. Pogo-sticking or bobbing is dependent on road surface and wheelbase and ultimately hard to avoid everywhere, but such motions are now well-controlled and unlikely to redistribute improperly secured cargo.
The HD is a serious truck, designed to carry anywhere from a ton up. The steering is heavily weighted, as is the throttle, perhaps to remind you there is much weight under your control, and the amount of precision is directly related to which type of tire you have: street or all-terrain.
The Silverado has slightly crisper steering response than the competition for three reasons: One, it tends to ride closer to the ground for a lower center of gravity. Two, it tends to be a bit lighter up front, especially comparing a gas Silverado to a V10 gas Ford. And third, the Silverado uses torsion-bar independent front suspension on two- and four-wheel drive models, where the Ram and Super Duty use a heavier, live front axle on 4WD models. (That enabled the engineers to lower the ride height.) The areas where some of the competition deliver a better ride are those with small bumps and irregularities where their larger tires soak up more, and in empty dually configurations; the Silverado does not kick more in the back, but it is noticed more because the front is more relaxed.
Brakes are all vented disc with ABS and plenty stout to handle the load or aggressive driving.
An integrated trailer brake controller is available to slow your trailer much more comfortably and more controlled than an aftermarket controller can. (Like Ford's system, however, it is not compatible with all the electric-hydraulic disc brakes becoming more common on high-end RVs.)
Towing capability is impressive: A 2.5-inch receiver hitch allows conventional trailer ratings to 13,000 pounds, eclipsing many competitive offerings; the maximum for fifth-wheel trailers on properly equipped Silverado HD models is 16,700 pounds. The strongest Silverado HD will haul 23,500 pounds of truck, cargo, and trailer. We've found these trucks make great tow vehicles.
The new 6.0-liter V8 gas engine employs variable cam timing to widen the power curve. It generates 360 hp in lighter models and 322 hp in heavier models, with 380 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm in either case. That's about the same horsepower as the old big-block 8.1-liter V8 but down 75 lb-ft on torque, so a new six-speed automatic is used to make up for the deficit.
And 6.0-liter makes up the difference fairly well, smoothly and quietly propelling the truck on daily chores. It will tow, but grades will have it working above 3500 rpm and since it's providing essentially the same propulsion as an 8.1-liter with four-speed automatic, it will use nearly the same gas doing so. The Tow/Haul mode works exactly as it should, as does the tap shift manual control, and were we making a habit of driving around with more than 12,000 pounds in truck, cargo, or trailer, we'd spend the big bucks on the diesel.
The Duramax turbodiesel and Allison six-speed automatic adds only a small bump in horsepower but nearly doubles torque to 660 lb-ft at just 1600 rpm, and truckers and engineers alike will tell you horsepower is irrelevant for getting a load moving. Additionally, the turbocharged diesel will lose less horsepower than the V8 at altitude, important when towing trailers through the Rockies. The diesel will deliver 25 percent to 35 percent better fuel economy (maybe more if you work them both hard), and it runs so clean that diesel tailpipes remain steel-colored inside while the gas engine pipes go black. The Duramax is approved for B20 biodiesel only in fleet applications.
The Chevy Silverado HD is an ideal choice for those who want heavy-duty pickup workability with less of the cumbersome feeling occasionally associated with large trucks. It can be dressed down for work or dressed up for those who spend a lot of time in it. For the first time, the diesel is at least as environmentally friendly as the gasoline engine. It is ready, willing and able to work. The Silverado HD models make excellent tow vehicles.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Los Angeles, California.
Chevrolet Silverado HD Regular Cab 2500 2WD WT ($24,915), Extended Cab 2500 4WD long bed LT ($34,220), Crew Cab 2500 4WD standard bed LTZ ($41,475), Regular Cab 3500 4WD WT dually ($29,540), Extended Cab 3500 2WD LT SRW $31,645), Crew Cab 3500 4WD LTZ dually ($41,990).
Pontiac, Michigan; Flint, Michigan.
Options As Tested
Z71 suspension ($600); EZ tailgate ($95); cargo management system ($95); trailer package ($230); LT265 all-terrain tires ($200).
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LT Extended Cab 4x4 6.0 auto ($34,175).
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