Preview: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD

Heavy lifters with a touch of sophistication

Interior and utility upgrades give heavy-duty GM pickups a boost over the competition

FORT MACLEOD, ALTA.?Heading across the Alberta prairie towards Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the cruise control is set on 100 km/h, the cabin is eerily quiet (even with the air conditioning on low), and I’m feeling quite coddled in well-supported, plush leather seats.

This all sounds fairly routine, until you consider I’m driving a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 diesel dual-wheel pickup truck with a 1,000-kilogram skidder in the back.

In most urban areas, driving a full-sized pickup is like lugging a huge empty suitcase around. The closest they get to truck duties is bringing a new wine cabinet home from a Swedish furniture store.

But heavy-duty pickups roll up their sleeves and actually work for a living, earning their keep on ranches, farms and construction sites, or hauling large boats or fifth-wheel trailers across this great land of ours.

GM recently revamped the 1500-series pickups and, for 2015, the HD lineup gets the makeover treatment.

Pricing starts at $37,290 for a 2500 Silverado 2WD longbox, but various configurations and trim levels can take that to $60,000 and beyond.

Chevy High Country and GMC Denali trim levels can be ordered with pretty much every comfort and convenience option available and can really give the line of credit a workout.

The standard power plant is a six-litre V8 putting out 360 horsepower in the 2500 series (322 in the 3500), and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. This is mated to a six-speed Hyrdamatic transmission and a bi-fuel option allows the use of compressed natural gas as an alternative.

If your truck works for a living, the $9,670 6.6-litre Duramax diesel option, with 397 horsepower and an awesome 765 lb.-ft. of torque, will pack the dirt under your fingernails. With the diesel, the rugged six-speed Allison 1000 automatic tranny is mandatory, for an extra $1,445.

The Duramax and Allison go together like Brad and Angelina: the power characteristics of the big diesel being perfectly matched to the sweet-shifting Allison. Shift points are precisely placed and, when the right foot goes down, the appropriate gear is instantly selected.

GM integrated the cruise control with the exhaust brake, maintaining the chosen speed even on steep downgrades, making for more confident towing while saving truck and trailer brake systems.

If you like the look of the new 1500, you’ll love the way the big brother HDs have the same blocky styling, along with the improved aerodynamic efficiency ? important these days, even in trucks.

The living quarters have also been improved, including triple-sealed doors for reduced noise, while the heated and cooled leather seats and driving position are so well-thought out and comfortable, it’s difficult to remember you’re in a large truck.

Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment is standard, as are USB ports, an SD card slot and even a 115-volt power outlet to plug in your laptop or coffee maker.

The dash was redesigned to make work-related (i.e. towing) controls easily identified and readily at hand. The tow/haul button is on the end of the gearshift, the optional trailer brake is left of the steering wheel and, on Duramax diesel units, a handy dash button activates the engine brake.

Electronic safety aids include collision and lane-departure warnings, as well as GM’s active safety seat, which alerts drivers to various dangers by vibrating the driver’s seat.

The HDs also get the 1500’s EZ lift and lower tailgate option, which lowers slowly, as if on smooth hydraulic cylinders, and makes lifting a one-handed operation.

Another nice touch is the bumper foot indents, so even those vertically challenged can place or remove cargo into the bed.

When towing 5,000 kg, fuel economy becomes an oxymoron. But on a straight and level stretch of highway, with the cruise set at 100 km/h, the dual-wheel 3500 Silverado’s fuel consumption was 14.7 L/100 km (with a load of firewood in the bed), while a gas 2500 indicated 11.6.

Not exactly Prius territory, but a Prius couldn’t tow a month’s supply of firewood out of a wet paper bag.

These new HD pickups aren’t for the casual user toddling around town ? they’re expensive and almost big enough to require mooring permits when parking.

But for a contractor or those with expensive hobbies, an HD is just as essential as any other tool in the box.

The new Chevy and GMC 2500 and 3500 series offers competitive cargo capacity and tow ratings, while raising the bar for interior refinement and sophistication.

Chevrolet and GMC 2500 and 3500 HD

Price: $37,290 to $65,000
Engine: 6-L gas, 6.6-L Duramax diesel
Fuel Consumption: N/A
Power/torque: Gas: 360 hp/380 lb.-ft. (gas), 397/765 (diesel)
Competition: Ford Super Duty, Dodge Ram
What’s best: Torque, towing capacity, comfort.
What’s worst: Big, not very fuel-efficient.
What’s interesting: Cruise-control engine brake capability for downgrades.

  • Preview: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD
  • Preview: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD
  • Preview: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD The 2015 Silverado HD features an all-new interior that is quiet and comfortable, with ample storage for work or travel and the intuitive connectivity of Chevy MyLink. Customers can chose from gasoline, CNG or diesel power, including the legendary Duramax turbodiesel and Allison transmission.

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