Everyone appreciates a pickup with fancy alloys and leather upholstery. But the worksite is a DeWalt and Carhartt world, where your truck better favor function over frippery. The newest members of the pickup-as-trusted-tool club are the fully redesigned 2020 Chevy Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD and their heavy-duty GMC Sierra cousins. We tested one, with on-the-job performance a priority. Here’s what we found.
It’s a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab with the 6-foot-9-inch short bed, gas V-8 engine, and four-wheel drive (4WD). All new for the first time since 2014, GM’s heavy-duty pickups ride a 20-percent-stiffer chassis and are larger in virtually every dimension. Crew Cabs, the most popular choice, gain 5.2 inches in wheelbase, 10.4 inches in length, and 1.4 inches in width. The Silverado HD comes in five grades: Work Truck (WT), Custom, LT, LTZ, and High Country. Count the available 8-foot long-bed, consider two-door regular-cabs, four-door Double and Crew Cabs, plus various chassis and driveline setups, and nearly two dozen configurations are available.
Ours is a Custom, a trim new to the Silverado HD lineup and exclusive to the 2500HD. It’s available with either bed and also as a Double Cab, which has narrower rear doors than the Crew and a less roomy back seat. The Custom essentially builds on the WT by bundling tradesperson-friendly gear into a $1,880 package. Cruise control, remote start, rear defogger, LED bed lights, satellite radio, and remote tailgate release are included. So are a trailer-brake controller and heated power trailering mirrors with automatic dimming and integrated turn signals. Also aboard our test truck were optional work-step running boards ($450) and LED roof marker lamps ($55).
Customs get a body-colored grille bar, LED taillamps (but halogen headlights), and all-terrain tires on 20-inch machined-aluminum wheels. Ours was additionally equipped with a $1,090 package that prepped it for gooseneck towing, with covered cargo-bed holes, a seven-pin trailer harness, and a factory spray-in bedliner. Helped by a $250 factory discount on the Custom package, this Silver Ice Metallic Silverado 2500HD stickered for $48,420, including Chevy’s $1,595 destination fee.
About the only major component carried over from the 2014-2019 HD generation is GM’s Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8. It again has 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque and teams with an Allison 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s optional on every model (at $9,890, or $9,750 on the High Country) — except the Custom. The Custom comes only with the HD’s standard engine, an all-new 6.6-liter gas V-8 with 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque. It has direct fuel injection and 11 percent more horsepower and significant 22-percent more torque than the sequential-fuel-injected 6.0-liter gas V-8 it replaces. A six-speed automatic with a 3.73:1 final-drive ratio is the sole transmission available with the gas engine.
An automatic locking rear differential is standard and 4WD is a $2,800 option on the Custom Crew Cab. It features four-wheel-low gearing but, unlike the Autotrac system available on LT trims and above, it isn’t engineered to remain engaged on dry pavement. Neither is the Custom offered with the engine-driven power takeoff available on diesel models.
The happiest result of the redesign’s larger dimensions is a 3-inch-longer Crew Cab shell, yielding additional carrying space and a sorely needed extra 3 inches of rear legroom. Front occupants get a higher seating position and, Chevy claims, class-leading headroom and legroom.
Like the WT, the Custom comes only with a 40/20/40 split front bench. The center section folds to provide a padded armrest, two cupholders, and various receptacles. Upper and lower gloveboxes and fairly large door pockets round out cabin storage. The 70/30 split rear cushions fold back to open a big cargo hold. A rear center armrest with cupholders is optional, along with cleverly concealed seatback compartments. Oddly, neither WT nor Custom is available with the handy under-seat rear storage tray.
The 2020 HD’s dashboard is largely shared with the half-ton Silverado 1500. Its prosaic design and mostly hard-plastic finish is a detriment in the half-tons, but here it comes across as durable and suitably serious. A 7-inch color touchscreen is standard, and the Custom trim includes GM’s underrated OnStar concierge service, a 4G WiFi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
For the first time, the Silverado HD doesn’t share cargo beds with the Silverado 1500. Designed specifically for the HDs, the all-steel beds have unique dimensions and multi-piece panels. Compared to the previous generation, the short bed is about 3 inches longer and has an additional 6.7 inches useable width. The damped tailgate is lockable, drops automatically from buttons in the cab and on the keyfob and exterior handle, and is counter-sprung to lift easily.
Included are 12 tie-down rings (the corner rings rated at 500 pounds). Front-side and rear-corner bed steps are designed to hold a pair of size-12 boots and support up to 500 pounds. Thoughtfully aimed LED lighting helps you see into the bed, with rear cab and rear bed-corner lamps, and around the truck, thanks to new side mirrors included with the Custom trim. These feature puddle lamps, perimeter lighting, and forward- and rear-facing spot lamps.
Towing and payload
Chevy says more than 90 percent of heavy-duty truck owners use their truck for trailering. Tow ratings for the new 2500HD top out at a prodigious 31,180 pounds, with a dual-rear-wheel diesel Crew Cab long-bed and fifth-wheel hitch. Limits for single-rear-wheel 2500HD Crew Cabs range to 18,500 pounds, for both conventional and gooseneck trailers. The payload ceiling for that configuration is 3,862 pounds, with the gas engine and 4WD. Manufacturer’s claims are shaded by advertising one-upmanship, of course. Suffice it to say, all the 2500HD numbers are competitive with those of similarly equipped Ford and Ram rivals.
You can, however, learn the tow and payload ratings for your exact truck by searching out the label near the bottom of the driver’s-side center door pillar. Based on powertrain and curb weight, as encoded in the Vehicle Identification Number, our Custom could tow up to 14,500 pounds, 16,600 with a gooseneck trailer. Our payload max is 3,446 pounds. Other nice touches: Tow/Haul mode remains engaged on the next key-on cycle, for up to four hours, and reminds you it’s engaged. And the standard StabiliTrak anti-skid system incorporates Trailer Sway Control and Proactive Rollover Avoidance.
The standard rearview camera can be adjusted to provide a view of the trailer receiver, but only higher trim levels are available with GM’s trick “transparent trailer” view that stitches video from exterior camera to allow you to “see” through the trailer. Same for an enhanced integrated trailer brake controller that can recall a specified trailer’s most recent brake-gain setting.
What you’ll like about the ‘20 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Custom
This new V-8 is a smooth, punchy gem. There’s ample torque from any speed with just a toe of the throttle, even hauling four adults and several hundred pounds of cargo. The transmission changes gears seamlessly. And in Tow/Haul mode, it enhances control by slyly downshifting on its own when decelerating or descending grades. The EPA doesn’t publish fuel-economy ratings for three-quarter-ton pickups, but we averaged 13.4 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving, including some light-duty towing.
Thanks to that VIN sticker, we know our Custom tipped the scales at a stout 7,204 pounds, but it never felt lumbering. Control through turns was never an issue, and an impressively tight turning circle enhanced maneuverability. Sure, the steering is slow and asks for a bit of attention to maintain a heading. But it’s meaty and linear, and you sort of wheel this thing through corners in a surprisingly engaging way. Part of the that character comes from the progressive nature of hydraulic steering assist, although you miss out on a feature of the electric steering on LT trims and above. Their system automatically recalibrates in Tow/Haul mode for sharper trailering feel and response.
Any truck like this has a tall step-in, so consider the running boards an essential option. These provide ingot-solid, no-slip platforms to ease entry and exit. Once aboard, accommodations are basic, but room is finally on par with the competition, especially for rear seaters. Three big fellas really do fit back there with token contact. Only Ram thus far offers reclining rear seatbacks, though.
Wind, road, and engine noise are remarkably subdued. And myriad details make work life easier. You’ll appreciate the bed and perimeter lighting, as well as the standard Tire Fill alert, which chirps the horn when you reach proper inflation. The instrument cluster’s driver-information screen displays such useful data as individual tire pressure, engine hours, trailer-brake output and gain, transmission fluid temperature, and the percentage of life remaining for engine oil, air filter, and brake pads.
What you might not like about the ‘20 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Custom
Visual differentiation between GM’s light- and heavy-duty pickups has never been greater; the roof is now their only shared sheet metal. Still, while tools certainly don’t need to be chic, buying a Silverado 2500HD in Custom trim means accepting a certain blunt-object style.
It also means living without many of today’s automated safety features. Notably, autonomous emergency braking is available only on the LTZ and High Country models. And while even the WT can be optioned with front and rear park assist and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, the Custom cannot.
Ride quality is what you’d expect from a heavy-duty chassis and tires inflated to the recommended 50-plus psi. It smooths out the more you load the truck, but there’s never enough absorbency to keep sharp bumps from rabbeting through the structure and into the seats.
Too many dashboard controls are borrowed from other GM vehicles and don’t feel to scale at the Silverado HD’s size. Even if you’re not wearing work gloves, dainty markings on clusters of petite buttons is not a feature of serious gear. As with other big truck mirrors, these can block your view of entire vehicles at intersections, and their design – conventional mirror over convex — makes it tricky to precisely place other traffic, especially at night.
Despite the transmission’s alert behavior, we did occasionally use the shift-lever toggle for manual gear control, which would be easier at night if were backlit. Also difficult to locate in the dark is the tailgate’s rather small automatic release button. In low light, it’s visually indistinguishable from its black surround. You’ve got to feel for it — not easy with any sort of gloves on.
The front bench’s center position is too high, hard, and narrow to be a viable seating option. You’ll mostly keep its backrest folded down and wonder why Chevy give it a hinged lid for more storage within.
Is it an honest value?
The new ’20 Silverado 2500HD Custom is a loyal workmate you’ll count on for years to come. With nearly everything you need and little you don’t, we think it’s money well spent. If you won’t use the $1,090 fifth-wheel package, you could cut the sticker of a Custom like ours to $47,330, including destination fee. That’s just $1,675 more than a ’20 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Custom optioned equivalently but with a gas 5.3-liter V-8 of 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.
If you appreciate the advantages of the beefier 2500HD, your biggest decision may be between the Custom and Work Truck models. Equipped to match as closely as possible our Custom Crew Cab, a ’20 Silverado 2500 HD WT would sticker for $45,965, or $44,600 without its $1,365 fifth-wheel-kit option. That’s a significant $2,730 savings, although the WT’s largest available wheels are 18-inch steel rims and you don’t get the Custom’s body-color grille bar. The WT is, however, available with the diesel V-8 and with the pretty cool Z71 off-road package.
Either way, don’t expect to pay full sticker for any 2500HD. Factory cash-back offers are frequent, and dealers know they need to negotiate even further to move this metal. Competition is fierce, not only from Ford and Ram but as we’ve noted, from within the 2500HD family.