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2011 Chevy Silverado 3500 HD - The Most Heavy-Duty Passenger Trucks On Earth

Posted in Features on July 1, 2011
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Photographers: CC Rogers

If you haven’t driven a new diesel truck lately, we suggest you go down to your local Chevy, Dodge, or Ford dealership and take a drive. Today’s diesel trucks are more powerful, cleaner, and fuel efficient than ever before. They are, without question, the absolute most heavy-duty, biggest, and powerful light-duty trucks that have ever been built.

This year, Ford and Chevrolet both came back from restrictive diesel-emission requirements that had hampered their engines’ fuel economy in previous model years and really upped the ante with powerplants that sip on ULSD (ultra-low sulfur diesel) and B20 (80-percent diesel, 20-percent biodiesel). All of the Big Three’s diesels are putting out more than 750 lb-ft of torque…in case you ever need to transport a house.

For 2011, Ford debuted its twin-turbo 6.7L Power Stroke diesel that currently puts out 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. This is significant because all previous Power Stroke light-duty truck engines were built by International (since 1982) and this is the first time Ford has actually released an in-house-built diesel engine in the U.S. market.

Dodge continued with the same 6.7L Cummins engine that they debuted in 2007, being the first to meet the more restrictive diesel-emission standards. This past February, it announced a power increase to 350 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. Though its fuel-economy numbers are not in line with Ford and GM this year, Dodge will likely be back with competitive mpg’s by 2012 or 2013.

Chevrolet continued on with its well-liked Duramax 6.6L engine—an evolved version of the previous year’s engine that runs with 60 percent less NOx and an 11-percent improvement in fuel economy. And this year’s GMC/Chevrolet diesels are pushing out an also impressive 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque. All that is backed by an Allison six-speed automatic transmission that is hooked to the biggest AAM rear axle you can get. A fully boxed frame is much stronger than the previous year’s and is five times more torsionally rigid. And all of the GM 2500 and 3500 chassis are able to take a front-mounted snowplow, but there are really no major drivetrain changes, save for the new front 9.25-inch IFS differential.

We got a brand new ’11 Chevrolet 3500 4x4 singe rear wheel truck for a week of work and tow duty in some of the worst towing environments possible: Southern California stop-and-go traffic. Amazingly, this truck towed a 9,500-pound load down the busiest freeways in the world with relative ease. It made a normally nail-biting experience of sudden braking and top-speed acceleration with a trailer something almost pleasant.

Towing with the ’11 3500HD truck was a dream. It hauled more than 9,000 pounds with ease through the worst Southern California traffic. The in-dash factory trailer brake controller was a welcomed integration into the Chevy’s interior, and the 14-inch disc brakes front and rear (13.97-inch front, 14.17-inch rear) allow this diesel tugger to slow down the biggest of loads. New for 2011, the truck also has an exhaust brake system that works using the variable geometry turbocharger to create backpressure and slow down the vehicle and its load.

On top of that, we’re still amazed at how fast the new 3500 Chevy launches with almost 10,000 pounds behind it—faster than some pre-2005 diesels would launch unloaded!

Vehicle: 2011 Chevrolet 3500 HD crew-cab 4x4 (single rear wheel)
Engine: 6.6L Duramax direct-injection turbodiesel V-8, 397 hp, 765 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission
Transfer case: Magna two-speed 1:1 4WD high range, 2.69 4WD low range
Rear axle: AAM 11.4-inch rear axle with Eaton differential
Front differential: AAM 9.25-inch front IFS differential
Brakes: 13.97-inch front rotors with dual-piston calipers, 14.17-inch rear rotors with dual piston calipers
Fuel tank: 36-gallon
Fuel use: ULSD or B20
Max towing capacity: 21,700 pounds
Best fuel economy we could muster: 18.9 mpg
Worst fuel economy we could muster: 13.7 mpg
Fuel economy while towing more than 9,000 pounds in traffic: 10.1 mpg

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