Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD suited for work or play

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The heavy duty configuration behind a truck name connotes ruggedness, a truck designed for rough treatment, blueprinted for hauling big loads and configured for pulling big things.

And without exception this is true. A case in point is the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Heavy Duty 4-wheel drive.

This is a truck capable of prodigious feats; capable of going far off road. You might think of one of the many Chevy “Like a Rock” commercials to get the idea of what this big boy can do.

But the thing that struck us during a week behind the wheel of a 2004 Silverado with an optional 8.1-liter V8 engine was not its capacity for work, but its capacity for pampering its driver and passengers.

Many full-sized luxury sport utility vehicles, which indulge well-healed soccer moms, doctors and tax lawyers, have absolutely nothing on our test truck, a top-of-the-line LT model with just enough amenities to make it as comfy and friendly inside as a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Navigator.

Yet, unlike those luxury sport utilities, this big Chevy has the ability to carry 3,000 pounds of concrete block from the building supply depot. Please don’t try that in your Cadillac SUV.

So, you ask, what makes this so-called work truck as luxurious as your upscale SUV?

Standard pampering equipment on the LT includes leather seating surfaces, heated front seats with eight-way power and two memory settings, dual-zone climate control, a stereo system with 6-CD changer and Bose speakers, OnStar communication system, driver information monitor with 34 system functions, power outside heated mirrors with automatic dimming and compass and outside temperature readings. Optional equipment included rear-seat Panasonic DVD player and XM satellite radio.

This is obviously a truck designed for the weekend warrior, the family that hauls a boat to the beach or a horse trailer to the great outdoors and wants to accomplish these tasks in the comfort of a quiet, well-insulated vehicle with a host of amenities. This is a truck outfitted for a serious visit to the home improvement store for a big load of lawn fertilizer or a new swing set for the tike.

All these good things come for a base price of $39,403 including destination charge and an as-tested price of $44,273 for the HD Crew Cab (not pictured). Opt for a more basic heavy-duty crew cab package in base form and it can be purchased with 2-wheel drive for $30,065 with the standard 6.0-liter V8 and manual transmission.

In fact, the 2500 Heavy Duty can be purchased in numerous configurations including four body styles including long bed regular cab, short bed extended cab, long bed extended cab and short bed crew cab as well as three trim levels, base, LS and LT. All can be selected with either 2-wheel or push-button 4-wheel drive.

The standard engine is probably all most people will need, a 300-horsepower 6.0-liter V8.

Our test vehicle came with the optional 8.1-liter V8 developing 330-horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque.  It features an oil condition monitor that alerts the driver when an oil change is necessary. Disregard the 3,000-mile sticker that your fast lube stores affix to the front window.

The engine is mated to a five-speed Allison 1000 automatic transmission with full electronic shift-timing points. It provides normal and Tow/Haul operating modes.
When hauling heavy loads down long, steep grades, a grade-braking mechanism automatically downshifts to help slow the vehicle when the driver applies the brakes.

This engine-transmission combination can be used to tow 12,000 pounds, or 16,000 pounds with a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer.

As a bonus, the big 8.1-liter engine has the necessary grunt to move the big truck up to highway speed in the blink of an eye. Power with a normal load of three or four adults, is of no concern. There is plenty to spare.

And the big Chevy features accurate steering with great on-center feel. The truck ride is well muted, but rough or rolling pavement will remind you that this is, indeed, a heavy- duty work truck.

One option that was not on our test truck, but that arguably is the most revolutionary addition for big vehicles is Quadrasteer, a four-wheel steering system that reduces the turning diameter of the big truck by 21-percent from 49 feet to 37 feet.

It makes parking and negotiating tight parking lot situations much easier. Quadrasteer was priced at $4,000 when General Motors first introduced it about 18 months ago. But for 2004, the option price has been dropped to $1,995 making it more attractive.

No matter how you outfit your truck, whether in luxury SUV go-to-the-beach trim or basic work-truck guise, you get the great Silverado exterior styling and the no-nonsense interior layout.

For the 2003 model year, the Silverado gained a new front end look with an aggressive headlight treatment that angle down from the outside, and a grille with a large band running the length of the front end. It is adorned with a big gold Chevy bow tie. Not much has changed for 2004.

The HD also comes with tow hooks and fog lamps recessed into the front bumper.

A large speedometer and tachometer with four smaller attractive gauges to the right including oil pressure, fuel, water temperature and battery charge are easy to read. Another small gauge to the left shows transmission temperature.

The automatic climate controls consist of rotary dials and push buttons, a good combination.
Three storage cubbies in the dashboard that are in reach of the driver will hold everything from sunglasses to cell phones. A huge center bin is big enough for a laptop computer or a purse.

The controls for the optional DVD player are in the back seat so those people using the system can easily access them.

The information center allows the driver to customize his/her vehicle. For instance, if one doesn’t want the doors to automatically lock when the truck is placed into drive or a horn chirp when locking the truck from the keyfob, so be it.

The Silverado HD 2500 is a big truck suitable for big tasks. But, be forewarned, aside from a hefty purchase price it’s expensive to operate. Gas mileage for the 8.1-liter V8 is not listed, but we observed between 11 and 13 miles to the gallon during our test week.