It is in the heartland of America, on the backs of hard-working men and women, riding on the steel and rubber of trucks and tractors that the most corn anywhere in the world is grown. Iowa and Illinois regularly rank first and second in corn production within the U.S. and to be the best, you need the best equipment.
Engine: 6.6-liter diesel V8
Output: 445 hp, 910 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: N/A
Max Fifth-Wheel Tow Rating: 23,300 lb
US Price: Starts at $33,960
CAN Price: Starts at $41,560
That’s why Chevrolet brought us to visit John Deere headquarters in Moline, Illinois, to see, tow and work with the types of equipment that a farmer deals with on a regular basis.
For 2018, Chevy has added some fresh colors to its trucks, new grille mesh designs, new graphics, a standard seven-inch screen to basic Work Truck models, and a new standard rear-vision camera on all trucks. Nothing all that significant this year, but that’s because the big changes arrived in 2017, those being the addition of an all-new Duramax diesel engine and fresh driver’s assistance features.
The redesigned engine keeps its overall layout, bore, stroke and name, but just about everything else has been upgraded to provide more power while also curbing emissions by roughly 35 percent. The updates leave the new engine with 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque available from 1,550 rpm to 2,850 rpm, respectively.
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A big factor in this boost is a new Ram Air system that has been added to the engine, providing cooler intake air to allow the engine to breathe better. This system also provides the biggest visual change to the truck: the new hood scoop now featured on every GM HD.
Towing from the fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch maxes out at 23,300 pounds on the Silverado 3500, while the bumper hitch is rated at a maximum of 20,000 pounds when properly equipped. The majority of configurations are rated to tow between 13,000 and 15,000 pounds from the bumper. That means that both Ram and Ford leave Chevy behind when it comes to overall tow rating, as both those brand’s trucks can haul over 30,000 pounds from the fifth wheel. But according to the bowtie brand, the majority of buyers of HD pickup are towing around 14,000 pounds, so rather than chase towing supremacy, Chevrolet is looking to best serve its customers.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Ford Super Duty Review
Both of those hitches are now also easier to get, as Chevy now offers both gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches straight from the factory, which means that the hitch is warrantied and covered by the dealer. There are a lot of good aftermarket solutions for these types of hitches, but being able to get one straight from the manufacturer brings peace of mind that what you’re getting has been properly installed and engineered.
Time to Haul
With John Deere’s heavy equipment in tow, it was Illinois’ interstates that offered the first real test for the truck. After years of being beat with the sun and heavy corn-laden trucks, the interstate developed what felt like waves, creating a lot of back and forth bucking between the truck and fifth-wheel trailer we were hauling. Though lurching from front to back was certainly apparent, driving the truck was still as simple as point and shoot, with not even the rough roads upsetting the demeanor of the 3500.
A new part of the equation here is Chevy’s digital steering assist, a system which works to counteract the road crown and imperfections in the pavement to keep the truck on a straight path. It also makes sure that the weighting of the wheel is heavy enough to give good feedback while traveling at highway speeds and light at parking lots speeds for maneuverability. All of this comes together to make towing easier than ever with GM’s big trucks.
Not to mention the pile of torque available from the press of your right foot. The power boost is certainly noticeable, and the truck feels authoritative getting heavy loads moving at safe merging speeds. Hooked to the six-speed Allison transmission, GM’s Duramax has a capable partner that seems to always know which gear to be in to offer peak power. Shifts are consistent, smooth and well timed.
The transmission is also a big part of the equation when it comes time to control heavy loads going downhill. Once the cruise control is set, the truck will use a combination of the transmission, exhaust brake, and actual vehicle brakes to keep the vehicle moving at the desired speed, never letting it start running too fast. It’s clear that Chevy has worked hard to remove the stress from hauling.
Also easing stress levels is a new dealer-installed camera system that allows you to see all around your truck. Cameras in the mirrors show down the side of your vehicle when the corresponding signal is activated, eliminating blind spots, while the real key feature is a camera that can attach to the back of a trailer and wirelessly transmit its signal to the screen in the truck. More eyeballs around the truck is always a good thing and Chevy now has one of the most comprehensive systems on the market for HD trucks.
Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke
When it comes to the interior of the truck, Chevy changed virtually nothing, and that’s not a bad thing. Ergonomically, the cabin in these trucks is smartly thought out, with things like the four-wheel drive selector and trailer brake controller located on a convenient panel to the left of the steering wheel. The eight-inch touchscreen running Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system is the same: sensible, quick to respond and well thought out.
Even the leather-wrapped buttons on the steering wheel and small toggle switches on the center console offer a nice tactile feel, giving the truck a little unique flair.
There is one small issue with the layout of the cabin: the steering column is not quite centered to the driver’s seat. We didn’t even notice this until it was pointed out, but once you see it, you cannot unsee it, and it makes the driving experience slightly awkward.
Looking for a base model Chevy 2500 will set you back $33,960, while a basic 3500 starts at $35,060. Opting for the diesel alone is about an $8,500 option.
The Verdict: 2018 Chevrolet Silverado HD Review
More so than just working hard, Chevy has made sure that its updated HD works smart, turning heavy hauling into a stress-free affair. In a world full of capable and confident HD pickups, Chevy’s entry may lose some spec sheet comparisons, but in the real world, this truck turns work into play.