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Preview: 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty Trucks

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The 2010 Chicago Auto Show kicks off tomorrow morning, and in anticipation of the event, Chevrolet has whipped off the covers from the 2011 Silverado Heavy Duty truck lineup. Headlining the new features for the 2011 Silverado HD is a new 6.6-liter Duramax diesel and Allison 1000 six-speed transmission.

The 2011 Chevrolet Heavy Duty lineup features several different variants built on the two main platforms: the 2500 HD and 3500 HD. Three trim levels, regular cab, extended cab, crew cab, single and double rear wheels, and various bed lengths account for the variations. All models get a new look, with a power-dome hood, a new grille and full-width chrome bumper, plus a range of new 17-, 18-, and 20-inch wheels, including 20-inch polished forged aluminum wheels available on the 2500 HD.

The new 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine hasn't been rated for official horsepower and torque figures yet, as testing is still ongoing, but NOx emissions have been cut by 63 percent compared to 2010 models thanks to a new diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) injection system, the engine is quieter, and less vibration is transmitted to the cabin thanks to larger engine and transmission mounts. An exhaust brake system allows the engine to slow the vehicle without relying solely on the brakes, helping to handle large loads and heavy trailers on steep descents. The new Duramax diesel is also rated for compatibility with B20 biodiesel. With a new 36-gallon fuel tank, the Duramax-powered Silverado HD trucks are good for a range of 680 miles on a tank--giving us a peek at expected highway fuel economy around 19 mpg. Official fuel economy figures haven't yet been released.

A revised version of the Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission pairs with the Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine to offer more efficiency, and tweaks to the engine allow it to produce more low-end torque, improving towing and off-the-line feel.

Those large loads and heavy trailers will be bigger than ever, too, thanks to segment-leading payload and towing capability--ball hitch ratings are now 16,000 pounds and 20,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch. Payload tops out at 6,335 pounds for the 3500 HD, or about 11 percent more than the 2010 Ford F-350 can carry. 2011 Ford Super Duty ratings haven't been published yet, but they can be expected to be similar to the Chevys.

In addition to the new engine brake, Chevy has fitted larger 14-inch disc brakes on all models to help handle the increased load capacity, and Chevy claims large reductions in NVH thanks to hydraulic body mounts. Ride and handling are also improved thanks to longer wheelbases and wider tracks on all models, plus stiffer frames, revised shock mounts and new shocks.

There's a bevy of safety features as well, including stability control on single-rear wheel models, four-wheel ABS, hill start assist, trailer-sway control system on all single rear-wheel models, seat pelvic/thorax and head curtain side airbags available on the 2500HD, an available rear backup camera, and of course GM's latest OnStar telematics system.

[GM]

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