It is the biggest and toughest tow vehicle Australians can drive on a regular licence, but do we really need it? Glenn Butler clambers up into the cabin to find out.
- Engineered to tow, and does it smartly
- Spacious and luxurious interior
- Covers country miles easily and in comfort
- Infotainment falling behind the times
- Active safety kit no match for smaller utes
- Size makes it a handful around town
2023 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ review
This is the Chevrolet Silverado. In the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, this extra-large utility vehicle is sold in more flavours than Sweet Baby Ray’s Rambunctious Rib Sauce.
So it’s probably no surprise that ordering one Stateside is a lot like buying a burger from a fast food chain.
First, choose your meat. Do you want the Silverado 1500, 2500 or 3500? The higher you go, the tougher the body and the bigger the load you can tow, right up to an incredible 16 tonnes with the dual-rear-wheel 3500HD.
Next, what bun would you like? The single-cab, double-cab or crew-cab? And do you want the standard bed (tray) or a long bed?
Okay, now for salads… Would you prefer the basic Work Truck (WT) or step up the add-ons with the Custom, the Trail Boss, the LT, and the LTZ? Or maybe you prefer a High Country with the lot? Or, if you’d like something unique, there’s a ZR2 on the menu that you can upsize with added Bison (seriously).
Now, sauce is where the real magic happens. Would you like your Silverado burger with a 2.7-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-litre V6, 5.3-litre V8 or a beefy 6.2-litre V8? Or perhaps you’d prefer a generous dollop of diesel torque, in which case there’s a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder and a 6.6-litre V8, both turbocharged for extra wallop with every dollop.
Now for fries – or transmissions, as we call them. There are sixes, eights and even 10s, and many of the combinations above come in either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive – make that six-wheel drive in the case of the Silverado 3500HD dualie.
|Key details||2023 GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71|
|Price||$144,900 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Summit White|
|Options||Tri-fold tonneau cover – $1964
Tow hitch (50mm ball kit) – $430
Weathershields – $151
Rear underseat lockable storage organiser – $368
|Price as tested||$147,813 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Ford F-Series | Ram 2500|
As you can see, there’s a Silverado for every taste, which is justifiable because Chevrolet sells on average 600,000 in America every year – plus another 200,000 mechanically identical Sierras annually under sister brand GMC.
So, 800,000 per year. That’s almost the same as Australia’s entire Passenger, SUV and Light Commercial market in 2021 for all 52 brands.
In Australia, the Silverado is in unfamiliar territory as a niche player, despite our nation’s ravenous appetite for all things ute-based. Our most popular models like the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger are a size below the Silverado, in more ways than one.
General Motors Specialty Vehicles takes the confusion out of ordering a Silverado for Australian buyers. There are only a couple of burgers on the menu, the 1500 Crew-cab 4WD and the 2500 Crew-cab 4WD. There are equipment grades too: LTZ and ZR2 for the 1500. But that’s about it, thankfully.
GMSV then imports and converts the Silverado so they’re street-legal locally.
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|2023 GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71|
The 2023-spec Silverado 1500 LTZ Premium kicks off at $121,000 before on-road costs. A second model, the ZR2, is aimed more at off-roaders and will carry a $124,000 price.
The Silverado 2500 Heavy Duty is also due for an update, but not until 2024. Until then, Australians can buy the MY2023 2500HD LTZ Z71 Premium, an example of which we’re testing here.
Inside, the LTZ gets wireless smartphone integration, a large 8.0-inch instrument cluster display, navigation, 360-degree high-definition camera with up to 15 camera views, a rear-view camera mirror that sees beyond cargo in the tray, 15-inch head-up display, Bose sound system, wireless phone charging, a power rear window and sunroof.
The LTZ also gets leather seats, driver’s seat memory function, heated rear seats to match the toasty fronts, and a powered sunroof.
The Z71 off-road pack that’s part of the standard fit-out in Australia includes off-road twin-tube off-road suspension, skid plates, hill descent control, spray-on bedliner and Z71 badging.
It’s soothing to know that such a big vehicle comes with front and rear park assist, lane-change alert with blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. In addition to that, it has AEB, intelligent headlights and a following distance indicator.
How big? The 2500HD is 2263mm in width (2388mm if you extend the extendable mirrors) and 6387mm in length, so it casts a bigger shadow than a Toyota LandCruiser. It is also 325mm wider and 456mm longer than the 1500HD.
It rides on a 3795mm wheelbase, which is 50mm longer than the 1500 and has a turning circle of 15.8m, which is about 4m wider than a HiLux.
The 2500’s tray is commendably huge at 2003mm long and 1236mm between the wheel arches. Payload is not all that impressive: 743kg is less than many smaller utes. That’s surprisingly little when you consider that the same vehicle in America can carry a payload of up to 1608kg.
This is probably to keep the Silverado 2500HD eligible for drivers on a standard licence that carries a 4.5-tonne GVM limit.
If you combine the 3752kg kerb weight + 743kg payload = 4495kg GVM – it’s almost as though the payload was deliberately reined in to sit below 4500kg!
Regardless of why, the payload is not what attracts buyers to the 2500HD. Towing is.
Whereas HiLuxes, Rangers and the like can tow a maximum of 3500kg, the Silverado 1500 is certified to tow up to 4500kg locally, and the 2500HD can tow up to 5900kg (with a pintle hitch).
In America, the Silverado 2500HD is certified to tow 8400kg, but that’s not possible in Australia, even though another quick check of the Victorian licencing regulations suggests it is legal for a standard licence holder to tow a trailer weighing up to nine tonnes.
While it may be legal, it’s not advisable without proper training and experience, as this Silverado tow test reminded me.
|2023 GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71|
I’m not a newbie, but I wouldn’t class myself an expert either. I have towed a fair bit, but I’m an irregular. That doesn’t mean I do it unconventionally; it means I don’t do it often.
In the last decade I’ve towed numerous 6×4 box trailers, usually loaded with hardware for the home. I’ve towed a motorbike interstate, a caravan on holiday and campers through the bush. I’ve even towed a couple of 32-foot boats.
When GMSV asked us to test the Silverado 2500HD, we knew we needed to test its towing capabilities in an everyday way. So I needed not only to brush off my towing chops, but to find something that weighed 4.5 tonnes.
Family connections came in handy. My wife’s uncle owns a big dairy farm in regional Victoria, so I asked if we could borrow half a dozen cows for a few hours, and does he also have a suitable trailer?
Wayne’s response was straightforward: “Sure, we can make that happen, but I’ve got a better idea”.
He told me that “cows get a bit stressed when they’re being transported” – he was kind enough not to add “by a driver who’s never transported cows before”. So, instead of making milk shake, he offered something less likely to moo, poo and move around on the move.
If you’ve ever driven through farming country, you’ve seen huge balls of hay sitting in the fields. Each one weighs between 750kg and a tonne when freshly harvested.
“We’ll hook up the flatbed trailer and drop a few hay bales on it for you. Then you can drive around and test your ute, and drop them off when you’re done.”
Backing the Silverado up to the trailer is ridiculously easy thanks to a reversing camera and a hitch camera, allowing me to position the heavy-duty 70mm towball right under the coupling. Once the safety chains and wiring harness were attached, we ran through the Silverado’s safety checklist on the cabin’s multimedia screen, which included test patterns for the trailer’s brake lights and indicator lights.
Then I checked the trailer brakes and adjusted the trailer gain via the integrated dashboard controls. Lastly, I enabled ‘tow/haul’ mode, which remaps the transmission to change gears less often and choose gearing more appropriate for climbing and descending hills. Not that there are many hills around Camperdown.
Then it was off to get our hay.
|At a glance||2023 GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71|
|Warranty||Three years or 100,000km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 20,000km|
Wayne’s son Daniel and his team were harvesting and baling at a prodigious rate when we arrived. It was like watching master chefs at a top restaurant, working in close quarters at a rapid pace, tractors instead of knives, harvesters instead of pans, and this huge mobile sausage machine wrapping silage bales nearby to keep the feed fresh. Even though this food wasn’t gourmet by any stretch, I’m told the bovine patrons would still love it.
It’s fair to say our arrival upset their tempo, but they were kind enough not to say so. And even better, they agreed to load our trailer with four big bales of hay, which along with the trailer would have been somewhere around five tonnes.
That’s pushing the Silverado’s certified limit on a 70mm towball in Australia, but nowhere near its operational capacity in America.
First up, an acceleration test. Before we hitched the trailer up we recorded a 0–100km/h time of 7.5 seconds for the Duramax-powered Silverado. No preloading of the throttle, no warming up the tyres, just a full-throttle takeoff. That time is not too shabby for a ute with a kerb weight of 3752kg – near enough to three Toyota Corollas.
A big contributor to the Silverado 2500HD’s accelerative performance is its ridiculously torquey turbocharged 6.6-litre V8 diesel engine that produces 332kW of power and 1234Nm of torque, the latter from 1600rpm.
With just the trailer hooked up, the Silverado’s performance didn’t feel at all muted. I didn’t time it, but it felt just as muscular and indomitable as it did without the trailer.
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||Not provided|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||13.6L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||136L|
But the Silverado definitely knew when our four bales of hay were loaded on.
With the trailer hitched and bales secured, the Silverado recorded a 0–100km/h time of 17.5 seconds.
Now, before you debate our performance numbers, a couple of caveats. First, we didn’t use a V-Box triangulating satellite signals and recording distance over time to derive speed accurate to a few centimetres. We used Wayne’s battered iPhone and the Silverado’s speedometer that Waze says is 5–7km/h optimistic.
And the second (laden) run was not a full-throttle launch. It was more an easing of the throttle until it was flat to the boards, in the name of mechanical sympathy.
We also did some 100–0km/h braking measures using another unscientific measuring device – my butt. Without the trailer, the Silverado pulled up eagerly and smoothly, albeit without the biting aggression or tyre-chirping of a smaller car.
With the trailer on the back, the Silverado pulled up like an old man stumbling headlong down the pub’s steps at closing time.
Okay, it wasn’t that bad. The Silverado pulled up progressively and in a straight line, but slowing up was taking considerably more time (and distance) even though I was squashing the brake pedal for all I was worth.
I accelerated smoothly up to 100km/h again and braked firmly again, then did it a third time. All three braking tests felt similar to me. I couldn’t sense any degradation in stopping power.
Again, these are unscientific tests, but nonetheless, I now know that the Silverado’s brakes are up to the job of stopping three times in a hurry when towing a load somewhere around Australian-certified limits.
If anything, this braking test reminded me of the distances vehicles with caravans and big trucks need to pull up, and the problems other drivers can cause by cutting in front.
Our next test called for a bit of off-road towing, so we put the Silverado into low-range four-wheel drive, locked the rear diff and went on a merry little jaunt through mown fields. The Silverado had no problem taking off on cut grass, or ascending and descending the field’s small hills with its laden trailer in tow. It also seemed to ride a little better with the load on the back taming the otherwise stiffly sprung rear.
But one culvert brought our travails to a halt.
|Key details||2023 GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71|
|Engine||6.6-litre V8 turbo diesel|
|Power||332kW @ 2800rpm|
|Torque||1234Nm @ 1600rpm|
|Drive type||Four-wheel drive|
|Transmission||10-speed torque converter automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||92kW/t|
|Weight||3661kg tare mass
3752kg kerb mass
|Spare tyre type||Full-size|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked (50mm towball)
4500kg braked (70mm towball)
5900kg braked (pintle hitch)
Rains in the area had left this culvert very soggy, and a couple of days of harvesting machinery driving back and forth had churned it to mud. The tractors didn’t have a problem with crossing this 10m mud patch, but the Silverado’s road-biased all-terrain tyres failed to maintain forward momentum with a four to five-tonne dual-axle anchor dragging out the back.
We were bogged, all four wheels spinning lazily when any throttle was applied.
I had no idea how one goes about towing a combined eight tonnes out of a mud bog, but Wayne and Daniel did. They grabbed a tractor with a hay bale on its forks and lowered it behind the Silverado’s trailer, using the hay bale as a buffer to push the trailer and the Silverado forward as I gently applied the throttle.
It worked, and the Silverado was free to galavant around the field again, trailer in tow.
We then decided that we had caused enough havoc to Daniel’s workday, and didn’t want to be responsible for knock-off time coming around an hour later than usual. He unloaded our bales and we bid him adieu, then headed off with our now empty trailer and a more spritely Silverado back to the workshop.
Backing the trailer into its resting place was both easier and harder than I remembered because it’s quite a long trailer. This means any inputs in the Silverado’s steering take longer to have an effect, but it also means if you get out of shape, things go from bad to worse much quicker.
Did I mention that the Silverado 2500HD has a 15.8m turning circle? So it’ll turn on a dime, as long as that dime is as wide as a four-lane road.
Again the Silverado’s cameras came in handy, as did the huge extending wing mirrors, and I managed to park the trailer without embarrassing myself.
Unhitched and unladen, I offered Wayne the keys to see if he’d consider trading his 79 Series LandCruiser for a Silverado 2500HD.
Wayne didn’t say much on the drive back to the farmhouse, and when we got there, his verdict was equally economical.
“Not bad. I like it.”
“Nah. I like my LandCruiser.”
So, what does all this tell us about the GMSV Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Premium Z71 Crew-cab, to give this vehicle its full name?
Forget performance figures because nobody drag-races a 6.6-litre turbo diesel ute towing a trailer with a gross combined mass of more than eight tonnes (well, most people won’t but there’s always exceptions).
The Duramax V8 has the torque to pull heavy loads, and the Silverado’s drivetrain has the smarts to make it a smooth and unruffled affair on-road and off-road. The 2500HD’s four-wheel disc brakes do a good job of pulling up both car and (light) trailer, and integrate easily with a braked trailer when the loads are heavier.
In addition to all that, the Silverado has a range of smart towing add-ons including cameras, towing profiles, transmission modes and more that are all designed to reduce the stress and improve the safety of towing.
This vehicle is not cheap, especially not in Australia. But if towing heavy loads is your game, then the money is well spent when you consider you’re getting a professional RHD conversion with a full factory warranty.
Perhaps the hardest question Australian owners will face is what to do with it when you’re not towing. A vehicle this long and wide takes up a lot of space on Australian roads, and parking it in cities and shopping centre carparks may turn out to be a tougher challenge than dragging a heavy caravan cross-country!