There will be no mistaking the Silverado HD for anything other than Chevrolet's largest pickup truck. Up to 6.5 feet high, eight feet wide and more than 21.5 feet long, the 2011 Silverado HD does not have an all-new wrapper.
From the windshield back the body panels haven't changed; only different wheels and some minor differences to the rear styling show. But the front is substantially larger with a bigger grille and added cooling duct in the bumper to cool the more powerful diesel. The hood is taller and has domes on the outer sides, along with faux louvers to carry the Vortec (gasoline) or Druamax engine badges.
Dual-rear-wheel pickups use a sheetmetal pickup box with integrated fenders for the double rear wheels, resulting in a smoother look and finish but potentially higher repair bills if you ding one. Where not standard as they are on duallies, the roof marker lamps, one each side and three-in-a-pod center, are optional.
With the big chrome crossbar and bow-tie logo the Silverado HD heavy-duty pickup is immediately recognized as a Chevrolet and maintains visual relationships to the Silverado 1500 light-duty pickup. Ram and Chevy owners may argue whose bodywork is the sleeker; the Ford Super Duty is the squarest without argument.
Useful features include an optional tailgate lock and lift assist (EZ-Lift) that helps make the heavy tailgate feel like it weighs a lot less (don't accidentally take it off yourself), dual-element towing mirrors that can be folded in at the touch of a button, various cargo management systems, fifth-wheel prep, and a 2.5-inch receiver hitch (with insert for smaller two-inch setups).
The Silverado HD matches up against other heavy-duty pickups in most dimensions as they all carry the proverbial 4x8 sheet of plywood flat in long-box models. However, the Silverado tends to have a slightly lower roofline and higher load deck, especially on 4WD models, worth noting if you visit commercial garages.
The Silverado HD cabin offers two distinct styles. One, like that found in the WT, is what you historically expect in a work truck, with a rubberized floor covering, urethane steering wheel, lever-shifted four-wheel drive, simple gauge graphics and a dash laid out for work with dual gloveboxes. At the other extreme, an LTZ cabin has a dash similar to the Tahoe and Suburban with a single glovebox, configurable center console and woodgrain trim.
We found no obvious difference in build quality between the cabin designs, and the apparent level of luxury imparted in LTZ models varies by interior color. Materials are mission-appropriate, and on the WT version that implies easy-to-clean plastic. Interestingly, the only finish item we noted not up to par was on the molding flash at the seam on the center console in high-line models.
Seats are supportive and are easily adjusted. A tilt wheel is standard, closer to the seat centerline than previous-generation models, and adjustable pedals are available. If you plan on accessorizing or adding switchgear for auxiliary lights, remote winch control, a CB radio or similar, the lower-level cabin makes a better blank; the LTZ looks like one of those cabins you just don't want to mess up.
The Extended Cab back seat is suited for small adults and kids. For good access the side doors swing 170 degrees for easier loading in tight parking spaces. And the windows in those small doors roll down (completely) for more comfort and venting options. Models with the moonroof option have a solid shade rather than partially opaque so a broiling mid-day sun does not seep through.
Crew Cab rear seat accommodations are better, able to handle most adults. There is no center headrest and the outer ones rise only a few inches, so taller riders have nothing between their head and the glass. While the Silverado HD Crew Cab is big, the Ford Super Duty Crew Cab and Ram's MegaCab both have more room.
All controls are plainly laid out, the only nitpick being the number of similarly shaped and sized black buttons on loaded models, some of which large-fingered individuals might find hard to push without hitting the adjacent one by mistake. Instrumentation is complete, responsive, and easy to see at a glance. Upper models have a driver information center for trip computer data, warning messages and the like; since it's smart enough to know a trailer is connected we think it should also automatically switch off the rear parking assist.
Dual-temperature climate control supporting a side-to-side delta of 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) is offered on many models (diesels get a fast warm-up function). Heated seats and rear-seat entertainment are among popular options.
The navigation system is offered on a wider array of models, and you can get a rearview camera without navigation. Turn-by-turn navigation instruction is included with the standard OnStar, but once past the introductory time frame OnStar has a monthly service charge. Turning on the navigation system automatically switches on the audio system as with a Mercedes, but you can mute or turn the volume all the way down.
Outward visibility is good because you're nearly six feet off the ground and the low-profile dash gives a good view over it. The new hood lines make defining the front corners for close-quarter maneuvering or tight trails a bit more difficult. The available camera and telescoping mirrors make up for anything you can't see out the back window.