2015 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra HD First Drive: GM's resident heavyweights are in fighting form
Back in 2011, General Motors' heavy-duty truck line-up received some sizeable upgrades including a fully boxed frame and an updated drivetrain. The majority of the changes, however, were under the skin making it hard to tell the difference between the updated 2011 model and the 2010 model it replaced. For 2015, Chevrolet and GMC have restyled the Silverado and Sierra HD's sheet metal to reflect the new exterior styling of the all-new 2014 Silverado/Sierra light-duty variant. While taking its cue from its sibling, the HD models sport a distinct hood, headlamp and bumper treatment that reflects its more robust nature. Between the Chevy and the GMC, the Bowtie division's model is a bit flashier with a touch more chrome on the nose. During this drive, most of our time was spent in the Chevy model.
Just like the 2014 Silverado light-duty model, the Silverado HD utilizes tighter panel gaps to help cut down on wind noise for a quiet ride no matter what surface you're traveling on. Chevrolet says that it paid more attention to interior details and refinement on its heavy-duty offering this time around and it's apparent before you turn the key. For starters, Chevy's next-generation MyLink infotainment system with OnStar 4G LTE makes it easy for those who use their trucks as a mobile office to connect to the internet faster than ever before. Pair this connectivity with more USB ports and power outlets than you know what to do with and it won't matter where the job site is. Then there's the all-new electric assist heater which helps to warm the cabin quickly and is standard on all models equipped with the Duramax diesel engine.
The heavy-duty truck consumer is your quintessential "truck guy." If you look in their garages it's not unheard of to see two trucks parked there. Many use heavy-duty trucks to tow long distances and if you're going to be confined to a certain space (in this case, the Silverado HD's interior) for a long period of time, you want to be comfortable. Chevy said that the Silverado HD interior design team focused on creature comforts and consulted with ergonomics experts when deciding where to put the controls, the size of said controls and what each button and switch would do. An all-new upright instrument cluster, similar to that seen on the 2014 Silverado light-duty model, features six gauges and a slew of large, easy-to-use rubberized knobs responsible for various things like climate control and radio volume. Ambient lighting illuminates all of the vital switches in the cabin like the 4-wheel drive control, headlamps and radio volume knob making each easier to be located when driving at night.
A 3.5-inch driver information center display is standard on all Work Truck trim levels while a 4.2-inch color screen is found on the LT and LTZ models. An 8-inch touchscreen is also available. Both WT and LT models have a hard-surface instrument panel while the LTZ moniker features a soft-touch dash with contrast stitching. A new seat structure fitted with memory-style foam delivers an equal dose of firmness and comfort. A 40/20/40-split cloth bench with a fold-down arm rest and integrated cup holders come standard in WT and LT models. The LTZ model sports a heated, leather bench seat but buckets are available, too. As for the rear seats, passengers in the crew cab get two more inches of legroom thanks to sculpted seatbacks.
A traditional column shifter lives on for the 2015 model year and includes tap-up/tap-down as well as tow-haul. The trailer brake control has been moved higher up to the left side of the steering wheel, the result of the ergonomics study showing that it is an easier reach for the driver.
In its element
Towing a 19,600-pound horse trailer, fifth-wheel trailer or piece of construction equipment are just a few of the reasons why the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 came into existence. Chevy expects this $7,195 option to be the more popular choice even though it can only be paired with the Allison 6-speed automatic transmission, which costs an additional $1,200. According to GM, two-thirds of all heavy-duty trucks sold in the United States are diesel-powered and more than 25 percent of all full-size trucks sold are heavy-duty models. During our time with the 2015 Silverado HD, we drove the Duramax/Allison combination with and without something in tow. Our drive route consisted mostly of long highway stretches and the miles slipped by thanks to the spacious cabin and a drivetrain did its part to keep quiet. After a few hours of seat time with and without a trailer in tow, we never felt worse for wear.
We also had a chance to tow a few things you'd normally see in the rearview mirror of an HD truck, like the aforementioned horse trailer (sans horses), fifth-wheel trailer and a Bobcat skid-steer loader. After we had our fill of towing everyday things like the fifth wheel, we then hooked up to a trailer carrying 10,000 pounds and drove it up and down a steep grade, rising to an altitude as high as 5,000 feet above sea level at one point. The Silverado HD demonstrated that it can control just about anything you'll ever need to tow. Each trailer had minimal wag and the Allison transmission working in conjunction with an exhaust brake kept everything under control while going downhill. Payload capacity checks in at 7,474 pounds while the factory hitch is rated at 19,700 pounds and 23,200 pounds for fifth wheels, respectively.
Both of GM's heavy-duty trucks carry over familiar powertrains for the 2015 model year. While these engines have never been too loud to begin with, the new, quieter cabin design plays a major factor in reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The 6.0-liter V8 gasoline engine is rated at 360 horsepower and 380 lb ft of torque while the aforementioned optional Duramax diesel engine churns out 397 horses and 765 lb ft. There's also a bi-fuel (CNG) variant of the 6.0-liter V8 engines primarily designed for fleet customers, though retail units are available.
Tools of the trade
Keeping up with the updated styling cues seen both inside and out of the 2014 Silverado/Sierra light-duty models, the HD variants also gain wider rear crew cab doors. The new CornerStep bumper seen on the 2014 Silverado and Sierra also makes the jump to the 2015 HD models and is a standard feature. GM has done away with the extended cab configuration in favor of a new double cab model which will help the driver turn into a tighter parking spot. There are two box lengths available including a 6'6" and 8-foot bed while a locking tailgate is standard no matter which model you opt for. An available EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate is standard on all LT and LTZ models but if a job calls for losing the tailgate, it can easily be removed without using tools.
Then there are the four integrated cargo tie-downs found in each lower corner of the bed. New, adjustable upper tie-down hooks are available and can handle 250 pounds apiece. These upper tie-downs can be positioned in various places around the upper bed rails making it easier to secure cargo of all different sizes. A cargo box light comes standard and is mounted above the rear window while available under-rail LEDs, found at the back of the box, focus even more light into the bed.
Hiding in plain sight
While no major changes under the skin took place for the 2015 model year, the Silverado and Sierra HD's exterior and interior restyling help it keep pace with the Ram HD and Ford F-Series. The new exterior look is polarizing-it's far more hardcore heavy duty truck-like than the previous model--but it's pretty hard to find someone who isn't a fan of the redesigned interior. A redesigned dashboard and instrument cluster make it easy to keep tabs at what's going on under the hood as well as what song is playing on the radio. All of this can be regulated through a screen that's easy to read. However, we were puzzled when we couldn't find any screen applications dedicated to towing which is something that the majority of customers will do with this truck.
One final parting fact; when development is all said and done, the 2015 Silverado HD and 2015 GMC Sierra HD will have undergone more than 13 million miles of durability testing all over North America. That's the equivalent of going around the world 240 times. Eat your heart out, Jules Verne.
The new heavy duty trucks will be built in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Flint, Michigan and start at $31,310. Overall, pricing has increased ever so slightly on the base models but some of the cushier trims see a price increase to accommodate some new features.
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