EXPERT REVIEW

Orlando Sentinel's view


Not that long ago, heavy-duty pickups were beasts of burden: If you had to tow a 13,000-pound trailer, you needed an industrial-strength truck. Problem was, those pickups were pretty industrial in every other aspect, too.

No longer. The 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD has all the creature comforts you’d expect in a Cadillac — leather upholstery, an excellent sound system with XM satellite radio, power adjustable pedals — but purists can rest assured that, as a connection to the olden days, the 2500HD still rides like a buckboard.

Before Nissan, and then this year Toyota, entered the full-size pickup truck market, it was perhaps the last remaining true stronghold of the U.S. brands. Nissan and Toyota have both had to place larger-than-expected incentives on their pickups to keep them moving, but there is no question that Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Dodge are feeling some heat. In July, Toyota and Nissan sold about 30,000 full-size trucks combined, which isn’t a huge number, but it’s 30,000 sales that almost certainly would have been spread among the domestics.

Still, Nissan and Toyota have not yet ventured into the heavy-duty end of the pool. Recognizing the opportunity, GM, Ford and Dodge have invested heavily in heavy-duty. Not that many years ago, they were just beefed-up versions of regular pickups, but that’s no longer the case.

Chevrolet and GMC debuted their new heavy-duty models for 2007, and they continue into 2008 with no major changes. The diesel-powered models have been especially hot; a Chevrolet spokesman said just last week that the limiting factor on sales has been the battle to get as many diesel engines as they need to meet the demand.

That’s a good problem to have, as the muscular Duramax diesel is a heady$6,030 option over the already very capable 6.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine. The horsepower difference isn’t much — the 6.6-liter Duramax has 365 horsepower, while the 6.0-liter gas engine is right there with 353 horses — but the difference is in torque, the measure of pulling ability. The gas engine has373 pound-feet of torque, while the Duramax has 660 pound-feet.

It isn’t surprising than the regular Chevy six-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission can’t handle that kind of power; the diesel-equipped trucks get the stronger Allison 1000 six-speed auto.

The test truck was a four-wheel-drive extended-cab model with all but a handful of available options, bringing the base price of $30,365 to $43,835.If you need the capability this truck offers, that price gets you a genuine no-apologies pickup.

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