As compared to the 2010 Chevrolet Silverado’s Duramax diesel, the 2011 model provides a fairly substantial increase in both horsepower and torque (from 365 HP @ 3,200 rpm to 397 HP @ 3,000 rpm; and from 660 ft.-lbs. to a whopping 765 ft.lbs. @ 1,600 rpm). Of course, considering today’s sky-high prices of any maker’s dressed-out turbo diesel trucks (this Chevy Duramax-equipped example lists at $57,254.00), any additional torque/towing capabilities is always appreciated. FYI: The $57K+ price includes the $7,195 Duramax diesel engine option (over the standard Vortec 6.0L gas engine), and the optional Allison 6-speed auto trans, which is another $1,200 over standard equipment.
First of all, the ride is excellent. The steering (although just a bit on the light side) and ride offers enough road-feel to keep the driver connected, while isolating occupants from uneven road surfaces. The ride is firm without being harsh, quiet and darned comfy without feeling mushy.
The brakes are absolutely outstanding. The 4-wheel-disc (rotors appear to be 12-inch) system hauls this truck down now, with a feeling of complete confidence. Aside from long term normal wear, there’s no reason to upgrade the braking system. Chevy got it right with this truck. This is no wishy-washy brake system. This is the braking feel and control I wish <I>every</I> light truck had.
The Duramax 6.6L turbo diesel is a proven powerplant, and like most commercially available turbo diesels, it keeps getting a bit better with every model year. There’s plenty of torque to climb grades and for just about any towing application (tag, gooseneck or fifth wheel). However, the throttle response immediately off-idle felt a bit muddy to me, and not as crisp as I had expected. No bogs, deadspots or stumbles, just a bit slow to initially respond (soft throttle). When you nail the throttle though, she wakes up and quickly says goodbye to the landscape in the rearview mirror. I suspect a bigger air intake and a bit of fuel delivery tweaking will really make a difference, for someone who wants to make a few mods. For the average street driver though, she’s got plenty of go-power.
One thing that really is surprising is how quiet the engine is, at idle and up through the gears. No rattling or clacking at all like an old-school diesel. It’s so quite that it almost sounds like a gas engine. That’s good news, especially for anyone who has never previously owned a diesel truck, and a real surprise for anyone with diesel experience. My 2002 Ford F350 with a Navistar 7.3L turbo diesel makes a real racket compared to this 2011 Duramax (of course, I happen to like the sound of my Nav).
The interior (coupled with the excellent suspension and body mounts) makes this Silverado a real pleasure to drive. I couldn’t expect any truck to ride this smoothly and quietly. The layout of the controls, excellent all-around visibility and the very comfy seat design makes this truck a joy to drive.
One of the (many) luxury features included in this sample truck is the rear vision camera system. A small camera lens is mounted into the tailgate’s handle housing. When the transmission is placed into reverse, the system automatically activates, providing a heads-up display in the windshield-mounted rearview mirror. The camera lens provides a very wide angle field of view, great from a safety standpoint, and handy when backing up to a tag trailer for hookup.
The driveshaft is heavy-wall aluminum (for weight savings), featuring a hefty 4.75-inch O.D.
The rear suspension features a live axle, multi-leaf springs and offset shocks (the left shock is behind the axle and the right shock is forward of the axle).
The front suspension features torsion bar springs and twin triangulated upper and lower control arms. Camber and caster adjustment is offered at eccentric bushings at the upper arm.
The frame is fully boxed for added rigidity. The front crossmembers are conveniently bolted in, providing access for engine/trans removal. An additional tubular steel crossmember is located immediately under the front of the driveshaft (which should prevent the front of the shaft from dropping to the ground in the event of a failed front U-joint).
The long longitudinal fuel tank is shrouded by a bolt-on plastic protective cover, and is located on the left side.
The eight cab-body-to-frame bushings are heavy duty cushions (these appear to be a medium-durometer urethane), which would help explain why the ride is so comfy and isolated from road shock (this beast handles rough roads and potholes like a champ… no tooth-rattler here).
Steering is via a recirculating ball gearbox, with linkage attached forward of the front axle.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you pop the hood is that it doesn’t climb up into the sky, slipping off of your fingertips. Anyone who works on trucks knows all too well that sometimes it’s a pain to reach up and grab a truck’s opened hood, especially for guys who are less than tall in stature. The fully opened hood height (ground to hood lip) on this 4WD truck measures a scant 80 inches, as compared to, for example, a 2002 Ford F350 RWD diesel’s 83 inches (keep in mind that this Chevy is a 4WD, so a Ford 4WD hood-open height is even greater than 83 inches). Hey, whenever you can reduce back and shoulder strain in the shop, that’s always a good thing.
The engine bay is cramped, as you’d expect. The dual battery setup features one battery per side (the right battery is under the hood hinge area and the left battery is up front, immediately behind the headlight area). Access to the brake master cylinder is good… nothing major in the way. The alternator is mounted near center, up high, so no big deal there. The power steering pump is a bit buried on the left front, but the black plastic fluid reservoir is very visible and offers easy access.