While pulling a trailer in excess of 6,500 lbs up a 9-percent grade with the pickup not even flinching, a scene from The Princess Bride came to mind.
Fezzik: “I’m on the Brute Squad.”
Miracle Max: “You are the Brute Squad.”
Admittedly, long before stepping foot in the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Crew Cab LTZ 4WD with the 6.6L Duramax diesel I was reviewing, I knew it was overkill for my trip. The fact is, Chevy’s half-ton Silverado with the 3.0L Duramax turbo diesel I’d previously tested could have done this job, but during that review, I’d noted several features the half-ton could have done with when pulling a relatively large trailer, like extending side mirrors and stiffer rear suspension. Also, while the engine braking had worked on the 3.0L diesel, it still required periodic use of the brake pedal – and that was on less of a slope than this trip.
The power of Chevy’s 3.0L diesel is impressive, but the 6.6L V-8 Duramax turbo diesel offered in the 2500 HD is beyond next level. Charging up a 4-percent grade didn’t even require the Allison 10L1000 10-speed transmission downshift with 6,500 lbs in tow, and the engine brake handled the 5,000-foot descent at 6- to 9-percent grades with zero brake pedal application.
Without a doubt, this was the safest I’ve ever felt towing along steep mountain roads.
As for the other concerns I’d had while towing with Chevy’s half-ton, the rear suspension on the 2500 HD is three-quarter-ton truck strong, offering a superior ride while towing compared to empty. Meanwhile, the power and heated side mirrors on the 2500 HD that extend out at the touch of a button are standard fare on Chevy’s 2500 HDs.
My tow involved a 718-mile roundtrip over California’s Sierra Nevadas with a 28-foot trailer in tow, running from sea level to over 5,000 feet and back down, with a mountain grade of largely 4 to 6 percent, peaking at a 9-percent grade for extended periods of time. To that, the 6.6L Duramax barely blinked, while also averaging 11.3 mpg.
Chevy makes some of the squarest, meanest looking trucks on the market, and its HD lineup is the exclamation point on that fact, especially when the HD truck is one of the tall four-wheel-drive models, as was the case with the pickup I was testing. My trip involved numerous windy two-lane roads driven in the dark, and when the road zigged on the backside of a rise, visibility over the hood sometimes became an issue. There are other trappings of a large heavy-duty truck, too, but they’re all part and parcel for a pickup that’s designed to do one job exceptionally well: tow. And the 2022 Chevy 2500 HD didn’t disappoint.
Before my trip, someone told me that I should periodically check my mirrors to make sure the trailer’s still there, because this truck with the Duramax is as fast with a trailer as it is without – and they weren’t kidding. The 2500 HD with the 6.6L Duramax and Allison transmission is rated to tow 18,500 lbs, so I was barely pulling 35 percent of its capacity. And with a door placard claiming a curb weight of 8,287 lbs, plus the 158.9-inch wheelbase for the Crew Cab and short bed configuration, the truck experienced zero trailer bucking.
The 3.0L Duramax I’d tested in the Silverado 1500 purred like a gas car; the 6.6L diesel is another story. On the flipside, this big-displacement Duramax also outputs 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, or roughly twice the torque of its 3.0L sibling.
In the unavoidable “Chevy vs. Ford” battle, Chevy’s 6.6L Duramax outputs 30 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque less than Ford’s 6.7L Power Stroke, with the Chevy also coming in 1,500 lbs lower in tow rating and 2,500 lbs less in GCWR. But in this war, Chevy fans can counter that their truck wins on tow capacity when comparing two-wheel drive three-quarter tons; plus, an F-250 with the tall axle ratio actually pulls 3,500 lbs less than a comparable Chevy. Furthermore, pitting short wheelbase versions against each other, Chevy sports a two-gallon greater fuel capacity. And on and on…
The spec battle is largely irrelevant, though, because if you’re towing anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 lbs, both brands will do you well. At that point, it comes down to features, ergonomics, and appearance.
My roundtrip involved 12 hours of towing, which was a long time to get to know the inside of the Silverado 2500 HD. I found the 8-inch infotainment screen to be more than adequate, albeit arguably a touch small in this day and age. When in motion, I also struggled to consistently select the correct virtual button at the bottom of the screen. That aside, navigation, stereo, and phone controls operated as you would expect, which is what matters.
The heads-up display was a lifesaver. While I’ve never missed the feature in the older three-quarter ton truck I personally own, having the speed projected onto the windshield in the 2022 2500 HD left me never shifting my eyes from the road.
The Z71 rubber floor mats were also quite fantastic. My trip involved ample dirt, and by the end of three days, the floormats were more brown than black. But rather than hosing them off, some instant detailer and a rag had them nearly as good as new.
But for me, the top selling point inside the cabin was the cup holders. Between the driver and passenger cup holders is a square receptacle that perfectly housed my can of Coke. On a personal note to Chevy, air-conditioned center console storage would be a fantastic complement to this perfectly sized soda caddy.
The digital rear-view mirror was also a nice touch, with it being a monitor displaying an image from a rear-mounted camera. It took some getting used to, but there’s a definite advantage to this type of system in vehicles where rear visibility isn’t plentiful. Complementing this were cameras all around the vehicle, allowing numerous view options via the center display.
The sticker price on the 2022 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD Crew Cab LTZ 4WD I tested came to $74,565, which includes the $9,890 option for the Duramax diesel and $1,695 destination charge. The truck also had the $7,650 for the LTZ package, $1,145 Z71 Off Road & Protection package, $795 in chrome accents, a $545 gooseneck package, and the exceptionally useful $445 Multi-Flex Tailgate – a feature I would order on any Chevy truck.
Selecting the options I liked most, a four-wheel drive, Duramax- and Allison-equipped LT version of the 2500 HD could be built for less than $67,000, with a lightly optioned WT iteration that I would still be happy with ringing in at just about $58,000 – both of which can also tow 18,500 lbs.
For my towing needs, the 2500 HD with the 6.6L Duramax is overkill; Chevy’s 2500 HD with the 401 hp, 464 lb-ft 6.6L gas motor and 14,500 lb tow rating (or even the Silverado 1500 with the 3.0L diesel) would do the job. However, the 6.6L Duramax and Allison transmission are an utter sledgehammer of a combination. Unless you’re pushing the limit of this truck’s tow rating or GCWR, this setup will do everything you need and barely break a sweat, both now and should you upgrade to a larger trailer somewhere down the line. For the majority, it’s more truck than they’ll ever need – in all the best ways.
It is, as Miracle Max said, the brute squad.