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Chevrolet Reclaims Best-in-Class 1-Ton Towing at 36,000 Pounds

New towing tech is also added for 2021.

Chevrolet stunned us all when the company announced that its all-new 2020 Silverado 3500HD would have a maximum towing capability of 35,500 pounds. This figure, from the company that for a long time wanted nothing to do with the capability wars, trumped Ram's figure of 35,100 pounds for its all-new 2019 Ram 3500 (which bested Ford's previous best-in-class claim of 35,000 pounds). Chevy held the title for a good while until Ford pulled back the curtain on its new 2020 F-350 Super Duty, which is rated at up to 35,750 pounds of towing capability.

Now, for 2021, Chevrolet is ready to retake the title by offering a new maximum tow rating of 36,000 pounds. This move regains the company the title of best-in-class towing for 1-ton pickups. It's worth noting that Ford's F-450 pickup does have a maximum tow rating of 37,000 pounds. However, we consider this truck a class above as it does not play in the same space as 350/3500 1-ton class (we can debate this at a later date).

To get a truck rated to tow 36,000 pounds a person will need to order a two-wheel driver, regular-cab, dual rear wheel, 3500HD equipped with the Duramax diesel engine and Allison 10-speed automatic transmission. It will also need to be a Work Truck trim and equipped with the NHT max trailering package.

 

What exactly did Chevrolet do to gain the 500-pound bump in capability between 2020 and 2021? Speaking with Chris Depolo, lead development engineer for GM fullsize HD trucks, and Jim Holtgreven, vehicle performance engineer for GM fullsize HD trucks, we were able to dig into what was done to achieve this feat. In the simplest of terms, the duo explained that while the 2020 truck was immensely capable, it wasn't "fully optimized" for extreme towing. This was a nice way of saying, "We left a little bit on the table just for such an occasion." Doing so allowed GM's engineers to go back to the drawing board and extract another 500 pounds.

One of the big areas of improvement came from swapping the truck's steel wheels for aluminum (well, the front and rear outside wheel, anyway). This provided a weight savings that was put directly back into towing capacity. The team also worked extensively with the front suspension, increasing the spring rate of the torsion bars and also retuning the front shock absorbers. The improvements made to the front suspension allowed the team to increase the front gross axle weight rating (GAWR), which in turn also allowed for an increase in gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). It may seem like a dark art, but all of the pieces of the puzzle—gross axle weight rating, gross vehicle weight rating, and curb weight—work together to enable the impressive tow ratings we're seeing today.

Validating the increase in towing prowess is the fact that the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD was tested and certified to tow up to 36,000 pounds according to the SAE J2807 towing standard.

 

Enhanced Trailering Tech for 2021

While the big news was the increase in max tow capability for 2021, Chevrolet announced trailering improvements for all HD pickups, as well. Silverado HD will now offer up to 15 different camera views from a complement of eight different cameras. Also new for 2021 are a trailer length indicator and trailer jackknife alert. The trailer length indicator works when making a lane-change maneuver with the turn indicator active and overlays on the screen a display showing if cars are potentially in the way. Jackknife alert tracks the position of compatible trailers and sounds a warning if it senses a jackknife is imminent.

For 2021 the trailer bed camera view has been enhanced, now with zoom view and ball hitch guidance for easier hooking up of gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailers. Rear trailer view now features both guide lines and a trailer angle indicator. And finally, side view has been updated to include a function while reversing (this feature was previously only available when pulling forward) that will automatically bias from side to side based on the angle of the trailer, allowing for easier reversing.

 

More Tech for More Models

Trailering tech, and advanced tech in general, is spreading out to more HD models for 2021. A bed-view camera display shown in the rearview mirror is now available on Work Truck, Custom, and LT trims. The bed-view camera displayed in the infotainment screen is now available for LT and LTZ and standard on High Country. SiriusXM and OnStar are now available on Work Truck and standard on LT. The Safety Confidence package is now available on Work Truck and Custom, bringing such features as forward collision alert, auto emergency braking, and steering wheel audio controls. Wireless Apple CarPlay is now available on LT and standard on LTZ and High Country. Finally, and most important (if you know you know), a front center console with storage is now standard on Work Truck and Custom trims.