GM's new-style 2500 HD and 3500 HD trucks have a new diesel engine (Duramax 6600, a product of the first joint engine venture between GM and Isuzu), a new-look front end (a massive gold bowtie set against the heavy-gauge chrome grille), and a torsion-bar front suspension that provides higher GVW ratings and load-carrying capability.
But will the new-style trucks be able to carry the load as GM attempts to establish a foothold in a competitive market? GM believes they will.
"Our stated goal ever since we announced the half-ton Silverado and Sierra a couple of years ago was to gain full-size truck leadership," says Tom Beaman, communications manager of GM Truck Group. "Our goal is to be number one. It's dangerous to say exactly when that's going to happen because of a number of variables. But our goal is to be number one with the best product as soon as possible."
GM began ordering the 2500/3500 HD trucks-marketed as the Chevy Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD-in late spring and will be producing 250,000 units starting in the third quarter. Come autumn, Chevrolet will run a 30-city Power Tour in which dealership personnel will get an opportunity to "get up-close and personal" with the 2001 trucks. That will include competitive ride-and-drive activities to note the differences between the new line, the current line, and the competition.
The first releases will be the four-door extended cab and chassis cab models, and those with gasoline engines. The old-style 3500s will be built in Mexico, and the new-style in Flint and Pontiac.
"Our half-ton, full-size pickups have steadily gained market share since their introduction last year," said Rick Scheidt, brand manager of the Chevy Silverado. "With all of the enhancements on these new heavy-duty products, we're looking for the same type of market performance improvements. What we're doing is taking 'Bigger, Faster, Stronger and Smarter' to a new level."
Duramax Diesel Engine GVWs for the trucks are 9,200 lb for the 2500 series and 12,000 for the 3500 series. The frame structures on all the new models are modular in design and feature GM's hydroformed process for the front section, offering extra rigidity. With the factory-installed, weight-distributing hitch, the trailer weight rating can reach up to 12,000 lb (or, with a fifthwheel or gooseneck-style hitch, near 16,000). A new headlamp system offers an effective illumination range of 400 ft.
But the new angle that excites GM the most is the Duramax diesel. The engine, produced in Moraine, Ohio, will deliver 300 hp and 520 ft-lb of torque, which GM says are the best power ratings in the market segment-65 hp over Ford and Dodge, 20 ft-lb over Ford, and 60 ft-lb over Dodge.
"It is the most powerful diesel ever produced for a heavy-duty pickup," said Terry Woychowski, chief engineer for full-size trucks. "We have four valves per cylinder, an inter-cooled turbocharger, and it delivers a high, flat torque curve. That translates into an excellent launch and excellent trailering capabilities."
The engine will provide advanced injection techniques and reduce diesel noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). Fuel economy will improve 25 to 30% over a comparable gas engine, 15% over GM's current diesel. Woychowski said the power-to-weight ratio is 0.8 (300 hp, 379 kg), compared to 0.5 for Ford and Dodge.
"These vehicles look great," Woychowski said, "but the heart and soul is what's under the sheet metal. This diesel engine will just amaze you. It is very quiet and incredibly smooth. It gives great performance and great fuel economy." GM also is producing the all-new Big Block Vortec 8100 V8, with 340 hp (30 more than Dodge and Ford, GM says) and 455 ft-lb of torque. The 8L engine is designed for 200,000-mile durability. GM powertrain engineers used the Vortec 7400 to create the new engine, maintaining the same general envelope size while still getting more power and performance.
Two Transmission Choices The standard Vortec 6000, targeted at 325 hp and 370 ft-lb of torque, now has additional aluminum cylinder heads, a new camshaft, a lower restriction exhaust system, and alternative fuel capabilities.
The new ZF-S6-650 six-speed manual transmission is standard on the trucks to complement the Duramax 6600 and Vortec 8100 engines. The ZF is a high-capacity transmission designed to handle the high torque and power requirements of the new engines. The extra gear allows the ZF to have higher usable torque because the smaller gear steps smooth out the shifts and allow higher engine RPMs after each upshift. The new Series 1000 Allison five-speed automatic transmission also can be mated to the new engines.