Driving all-new vehicles before they hit the pavement or just as they come to market, it’s easy to attract attention and become the subject of rubbernecking. It’s always interesting when this happens, to see who looks at what new model and for how long they stare, and, when I park or fuel a new vehicle, who will ask questions. And, I must admit, that as a new-car test driver, it’s also fun to see who I become when I drive a high-performance sports car, an everyday sedan, or a Rubicon-ready sport-utility vehicle.
Recently, when I drove the new Chevy Silverado 2500 HD (stands for “Heavy Duty”) with a V-8 diesel engine, I became a construction worker, housebuilder, and mechanic – but, then, I also conjured up an image that I was a retiree with time on my hands and the lust for travel in my heart. I imagined carrying loads of cement, lumber and tools and ferrying horses, boats, and RVs to locations both near and far.
And, in case you’re wondering, who took a look at this corpulent heavy weight? It seemed like nearly everyone I passed noticed. But, then, this new dualie truck, painted
bumblebee yellow, with an extended cab and an eight-foot box in the back, is no shrinking violet.
Its vital stats? It stands six feet tall, is 25 feet long and is six feet wide. The best news of all? It was a comfortable ride and an easy drive.
For those who truly use their trucks as workhorses, General Motors has updated its heavy hitters and upgraded them from also-rans to best in class. The 2001 versions of the GMC Sierra HD and the Chevrolet Silverado HD are brawny, brisk taskmasters that will pull large loads, carry a passel of people and parcels, and now do the job with more performance, comfort and style.
2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500HD
A key word for this new brigade is options. No fewer than 32 different versions of each is offered, including regular, extended, or Crew Cab versions; wide-wheelbased models; choices of 2WD or 4WD, automatic or standard transmission; and the option of the innovative Duramax diesel V-8 engine. Additionally, you can take your pick from the 2500 HD, three-quarter ton pickup, or the hulking 3500 Series, a full-on one-ton truck.
In the process of building what GM calls “the most powerful trucks in the consumer market,” The General has also taken strides to make this new fleet the most environmentally efficient, smooth and quiet industrial-grade vehicles offered today. Some of this is achieved with the resurrection of the famed GM big-block engine. Under the hood of the new models is a new Vortec 6000 V-8, which replaces the Vortec 5700 as standard engine. Its 300 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque outperforms Ford’s 7.3-liter V-8 and rides atop of the performance of Dodge’s heavy duty 5.9-liter six-cylinder engine.
For king-size power, the optional Vortec 8100 V-8 brings 340 horses and a whopping 455 lb-ft of torque. GM also offers an alternative-fuel engine; the Duramax 6600 diesel V-8, which replaces the 6.5-liter turbodiesel. This state-of-the-art, 90-degree, direct-injection overhead valve, four-valve-per-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled V-8 cranks out 300 hp at 3100 rpm and an awe-inspiring 520 lb-ft of torque at 1800 rpm. General Motors claims the Duramax has 19 percent better fuel economy than its diesel competitors, with decreased needs for maintenance.
Each of these engines is paired with a standard ZF S6-650 six-speed manual transmission, with an optional Allison 1000 five-speed automatic, offered for the first time on a GM Heavy Duty truck.
Hauling and trailering capabilities distinguish heavy-duty trucks from their smaller brethren. The base engine on the new models will take payloads of up to 3964 lb, on the 2500 series, while the 3500 versions will haul a payload as great as 5753 lb. Trailering capacities are remarkable, as well: both the Vortec 8100 and Duramax 6600 Diesel V-8 can tow trailers weighing up to 12,000 lb, for a GCWR of nearly 22,000 lb. Add a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch and trailering capacity increases to an incredible 15,800 lb.
2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500HD
To support these increased capacities, GM upgraded the suspension system on the newest trucks, using a long- and short-arm independent front torsion bar on all versions, along with GM’s powerful Hydro-Boost brake application system and standard four-wheel ABS. The steering system has been updated to provide better handling, as well.
On the outside, the new trucks look bigger and bolder, giving off a more aggressive stance than your average dumptruck. The Silverado HD’s front nose has a larger chrome center bar that frames its giant gold Chevy bow tie. Two inches higher than the regular Silverado, front bumper pads are thicker and its hood is elevated for a no-nonsense look. Tires are wider for added stability.
The GMC Sierra HD has a taller, more poised look than previous incarnations, augmented by a wider track and broad-shouldered wheel flares. Its prominent front end features the signature port grille, rendered in a more chromed appearance. Extra louvers direct more airflow for better cooling on long drives or when pulling heavy loads.
Both trucks sport a more curvaceous, aerodynamic body style than the last generation. The 3500 series can be easily separated from the 2500 because of its protrusion over the rear wheel wells. Rear ends have changed little, though taillights have undergone some facelifts and rear bumpers are more muscular than before.
Most notable are cab options. The extended cab has grown to give more than an inch of extra headroom and hip room than the previous model, and rear passengers will find an extra 4.1 inches of legroom in the back. The all-new Crew Cab, built with adult-sized passengers in mind, boasts nearly an extra inch of leg, hip, shoulder and head room throughout, when compared to earlier models. Both extended and Crew Cabs come with four doors, allowing easy access and greater convenience for all passengers.
Both trucks also feature improved climate control, including first-in-class rear-seat heater ducts, an improved heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, with a filter that removes airborne particles as small as 10 microns. In both extended cab and Crew Cab models, rear passengers are outfitted with fold-down armrests fitted with cupholders.
Safety is upgraded with driver and passenger-side inflatable restraints. On regular and extended cab models, a key-operated on-off switch can disable the passenger-side airbag, when needed. Shorter passengers will appreciate that entrance and egress is improved through a pillar-mounted passenger-assist handle.
Both the Silverado and Sierra HDs sport a seven-gauge instrument cluster that has been finished with glare-minimizing paint. A driver message center reports on 18 different functions, including a feature that alerts owners to the need of an oil change. A standard Delco audio system with a cassette deck can be optioned to include a CD player.
Now on sale, General Motors hopes to sell some 250,000 of the new 2001 heavy duty trucks.
2001 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty
Vehicle tested: 2WD Extended Cab, 8.0 ft box, 157.5-inch wheelbase 2500 HD
Base Price: $31,943
Price as tested: $38,253
Engine: 6.6-liter diesel V-8, 300 hp, rear-wheel drive
Transmission: Allison five-speed automatic with overdrive
Wheelbase: 157.5 in
Length: 246.6 in
Width: 79.7 in
Height: 76.3 in
Curb weight: 5523 lb
EPA (cty/hwy): N/A
Safety equipment: Engine Grade Braking, driver and passenger-side inflatable restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: Anti-lock brakes
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles
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