Spotlighting The New Chevrolet 3500 HD 4X4
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.
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