Classic American

In Tests, September 201912 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 19, 2019

The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4×4 LTZ Midnight Edition – modern and refined leather-clad interior with Cadillac panache; however, hiding beneath this persona we find the heart of a true working truck.

On arrival at HSV New Zealand‘s headquarters to collect the Chevrolet Silverado we were immediately affected by the presence of purpose it commanded. This was not your run of the mill utility, here we had a vehicle designed and clearly built to another level entirely. Meeting with Andrew Lamb, New Zealand regional manager for HSV, we received the guided tour and background story of the truck, and we use the term ‘truck‘ literally.

The Silverado is first produced in the General Motors manufacturing plant located in Flint, Michigan, USA, as a left-hand drive vehicle. From here it is shipped directly to the Australian HSV facility at Clayton South, Victoria, where the transformation to right-hand drive is implemented. It is a serious undertaking, however the team at HSV has the process down to a fine art. The task involves a complete strip out and full removal of the cab from the chassis. It takes the team 100 man-hours over five days, and nearly 700 new parts are required to complete the swap. The end result is first class and feels ‘OEM‘, leaving you searching for evidence of its former orientation…and failing. The use of factory approved materials and systems by HSV throughout the conversion process benefits potential owners of the trucks, with the vehicles backed by the HSV dealer network, providing a full threeyear/ 100,000km warranty alongside AA roadside assist; true peace of mind.

Watch the world go by from your new favourite armchair … and yes, it has an exhaust brake!

As we venture out of the HSV car park on to Great South Road into the thick of afternoon Auckland traffic, the trucklike characteristics become abundantly apparent. No, it is not a 9-axle HPMV unit, but that said it is most certainly not an Asian-sourced one-tonner. We are immediately rewarded with a pleasing rumble from under the hood as the 6.6-litre V8 Chevrolet Duramax diesel responds to the input from our right boot. It is enough of a growl to imply assertiveness towards the task at hand, without disturbing the peace when cruising at road speed. Statistics on the American iron under the hood are nothing short of impressive, with a staggering 332kW (445hp) of power on tap and 1234Nm (910lb/ft) of torque. To put this in perspective, a current V8 Supercar produces around 650Nm (479lb/ft), with a Ford Ranger Raptor sitting at 157kW (210hp) and 500Nm (369lb/ft). To handle the torque that the Duramax produces, the Allison 1000 6-speed automatic transmission with Haul Mode is fitted; this then feeds the matched heavy-duty locking differential.

Rolling outof the city down the Southern Motorway, the Drury straights are a gentle meander at 100kph, cruise control engaged, with the Duramax ticking over at a leisurely 1375rpm. It is at this moment you understand how it must feel to drive the Silverado down Interstate 5 between Seattle and LA or the like, watching scenery slip by from the comfort of your favourite armchair. Rolling into Te Rapa we venture off the Expressway onto SH39 and head south. Hamilton‘s city fringe gives way to Waikato dairy farms and the roads become more interesting. Fresh rain applied a slick finish to the bleeding tar of our ‘fit for purpose‘ state highway network travelling the 55 – 65kph corners between Puketotara and Tihiroa, however the surefootedness of the Silverado‘s 3616kg kerb weight kept things in order with minimal body roll. That said, the Silverado comes packed with a full suite of handling smarts, StabiliTrak stability control, Proactive Roll Avoidance, Traction Control including Electronic Trailer Sway Control, and Hill Start Assist.

Photo: The business end of the stick – 6.6-litre V8 diesel Duramax/Allison auto combo.

Photo: Lethal Weapon – 9800kg GCM no worries.

Te Kuiti for a coffee break we reflect on the experience thus far. The first impression back at HSV in Penrose immediately springs to mind: ‘purpose‘. This vehicle may look extreme, fair to say for some applications it is, however 200km under the belt we appreciate the true purpose this calibre of truck is built for – ‘payload‘. On our initial walk around the Silverado we were stopped in our tracks at the rear of the truck; the engineering hanging below the factory bumper is a New Zealand-sourced and certified trailer hitch; this impressive option accesses the full potential of the truck. Backing up the substantial trailer hitch, on the right of the dashboard you find comprehensive factory installed controllers for electric trailer braking systems and underneath there are external engine oil and transmission fluid coolers fitted. These clues leave no question regarding this truck‘s pedigree; looking at the technical data sheet we are not disappointed. Maximum braked towing capacity with a 50mm tow-ball is 3500kg; keeping things in perspective, this is the average Asian utility‘s absolute maximum braked towing capacity, but from here it gets interesting. If fitted with the 70mm tow-ball, the Silverado‘s maximum braked towing capacity hits 4500kg. If you then take it one step further and attach the pintle hook to the hitch, you then reach a mind-blowing maximum braked towing capacity of 5897kg; this giving a GCM of 9801kg. So yes, it would pay to ensure your Class 2 driver‘s licence is in order.

As we roll off the Hiwi‘s heading down into Taumarunui you imagine a sizeable fifth wheeler trailer connected to the rear and understand the Silverado‘s that little bit more. With four-wheel disc brakes, Hill Descent Control and also Exhaust Brakes, this vehicle has seriously crossed the demarcation point that delineates between ute and truck; this is a real rig that is factory specced to handle safely, legally, and with ease, a near- 10-tonne GCM. With a touch over four hours under the belt, cruising up on to the Central Plateau past National Park and the Makatote Viaduct, we find ourselves extremely comfortable at the controls and impressed with how intuitive the layout has proven. Looking around the cab and instrument panel the Silverado offers a healthy array of instruments, controls and accessories to keep the tech-savvy amused. Chevrolet‘s MyLink radio/navigation centre with 8” colour touchscreen incorporates a Bose seven-speaker sound system with sub and is Apple and Android compatible, has Bluetooth connectivity, and a wireless phone charging station within the centre console. Driver‘s and front passenger‘s seats are both heated and ventilated, and the driver‘s seat is also electronically controlled. The list of trick features as standard fitment is impressive, with Digital Steering Assist, power adjustable pedal set, front and rear park assist with rear view camera, and remote start to name a few.

Photo: Winter in Waiouru driving a Z71 4×4 Chev – perfect match.

Arriving at Waiouru it is time to hand over the keys and reflect on the past 400 or so kilometres with the Silverado. Every step of the journey was effortless; the Silverado certainly has been well appointed for cruising many miles at a time. It presents big car qualities that keep behaviour on the road predictable and easy to manage for the masses; these attributes will be of great assistance when there is the best part of six tonne on a trailer connected to the hitch. The job that HSV has completed converting the vehicle from left to right-hand drive is a credit to them; you are hard-pressed to find evidence within the finish, and more importantly within the drivability and performance of the rig heading down the road. The only comment we would share is the approach angle of the foot brake when applying. We found this a little on the steep side, but hey, we got used to it reasonably easily.

In summary, there are those who would say the Chevrolet Silverado has no place against a line-up of Asian utilities, and they would be correct; the Silverado is not a utility, it is a truck in every sense of the word, and with this in mind it sits proudly in an entirely separate class.

Our test vehicle was kindly supplied courtesy of the Wellington HSV dealer, Johnston Ebbett HSV. There are six HSV dealers throughout New Zealand that stock the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 trucks.

Owner‘s perspective
Mark Stockler of MSR in Wellington has had a selection of tow vehicles over the years, but upon talking to Mark he is quick to say: “I have finally found the perfect match for my 3500kg transporter trailer with electric brakes; the combination just works”.