It’s a different approach than we’re used to, especially in the truck market, but Chevrolet isn’t looking to be the loudest, toughest kid on the block. In fact, while toughness is vitally important to its truck line, it isn’t aiming to be the loudest boaster of all the truck makers – it’s actually aiming to be the smartest by focusing on the heart of the market. That’s the goal with its new 2017 Silverado HD, and specifically the new fifth-generation Duramax L5P engine that powers it. Chevrolet feels its heavy-duty trucks are focused on the core of the market and improving the experience for the masses. It’s not worried about having the biggest headline grabbing numbers.
Chevy pulled the cover off its new 2017 Silverado HD yesterday at the Texas Motor Speedway, and in the process it unveiled to us the impressive figures for its Duramax diesel engine, which is rated to produce 445 horsepower and a whopping 910 lb.-ft. of torque, the most of any vehicle Chevrolet has ever produced. This new 6.6-liter turbo diesel engine produces 19 percent more torque, 12 percent more horsepower and reduces emissions by 35 percent compared to the previous generation engine. Chevy also says it’s faster in 0-60 times and the all-important 50-70 mph times.
Although it didn’t announce the max tow ratings for its HD models, Chevy appears confident that this figure doesn’t matter. At first, it might sound like they are preparing us all for numbers that won’t rival the competition, but Chevy understands it’s not going to make a particular model that might attain a massive tow rating simply for the sake of grabbing headlines. Instead, it’s taking a look at the core of the market and trying to improve upon experience for truck owners who tow. Chevy says that in its research only 3 percent of the markets tows anything above 22,250 pounds, but those who do regularly tow explained to them that what they tow – whether it’s a classic car, a camper, construction or agricultural equipment or a boat – is oftentimes the most important things they own. Chevy wants its new Silverado HD models to provide them with a great experience towing their prized possessions with complete confidence.
The new 6.6L Duramax features the same bore and stroke as the outgoing engine, so you might be wondering why it’s hailed as “new.” That’s because although it has the same essential layout, Chevy tells us that 90 percent of the parts are new. This includes quite a few changes in refining this engine, such as new cylinder block and cylinder heads (with a honeycomb head structure that features improved airflow and dual layer water jackets for improved strength), new rotating and reciprocating assembly, increased oil-flow capacity, a new solenoid fuel system, new electronic controls and more. The new advanced turbocharger used in the new Duramax is designed to deliver low-end performance and prolong peak power, and the turbine apparently is capable of performing in temperatures at 1435 Fahrenheit during prolong towing. The refinement of this new engine can be seen in its performance numbers, but it’s also noted in terms of a quieter and smoother ride, as the engine noise at idle is 38 percent less than the outgoing Duramax.
A number of changes were made to aid the engine as well, such as a new vehicle air intake system signified on the HD by the hood scoop that provides improved cool airflow to the engine. A new cold-start system also helps get the truck started in -20 degrees F like a comparable gasoline engine. Significant updates were also made to the exhaust system, which features enhanced piping and sealing to accommodate higher exhaust temperature. New iconel gaskets are employed at six key points of the exhaust for their increased temperature capability compared to stainless steel. This increase in exhaust temperature aids in emissions reductions but it also improves performance and exhaust braking capability. As Chevrolet said yesterday a number of times, stopping when towing is arguably just as, if not more, important as accelerating.
Chevrolet will continue to employ the Allison A1000 six-speed transmission on the 2017 Silverado HD, and only minor changes were made on the unit, such as the addition of a new seal in the torque converter to minimize leakage. Other than that, Chevrolet feels confident this is the right transmission for this vehicle, so there are currently no plans for a seven-speed, eight-speed or anything else.
HD Testing at the Speedway
Although Chevrolet made its formal announcement to the public today at the Texas State Fair, yesterday we were at the Texas Motor Speedway to learn about the 2017 Silverado HD and also drive it – even if only for a short time. After learning, in great detail, about the new Duramax, we were given the chance to drive two different trucks. First off, we hopped in a dually model that was pulling a Big Tex enclosed trailer weighed down with 10,000 lbs. Although this weight is far below the max towing number (even though we don’t know yet exactly what that is), the Speedway limited the amount Chevy could put in the trailer for worry of damaging the track. Either way, the trailer gave us a quick impression of its performance even though it’s not a “max” load.
We pulled the truck and trailer up to the starting line, and from a dead stop we floored it. We quickly got up to about 60 mph before we hit the turn (and of course we weren’t driving on the banked portion of the course, just the flat). As we coasted around the turn, we let the truck slow down to 40 mph and then we gassed it again on the straightaway to feel the truck’s acceleration from 40 to 70 mph. The Duramax showed no signs of struggle during testing, and the dead stop starts were impressive because the truck spun the tires every time. We could certainly get a feel for the power of the new Duramax in these two sections, but what we may have learned most about the new engine is that it operates fairly quietly, even when pinning the truck-and-trailer combo on the Speedway track, which is not something we ever figured we’d find ourselves doing.
The other testing portion was in an unladen truck where we could take a few turns on the infield section and also test the acceleration performance around turns and short straightaways. We were happy to have performed the towing testing first, because getting behind the wheel of a non-dually HD with no trailer behind it showed the power of this engine – it felt awesome. The acceleration of the turbo-diesel without a trailer was impressive; the raw power of the Duramax was just more immediately felt. Again, the sound is refined for such a powerful engine, as is the relatively low engine idle.
The ride impression was short lived, however, and we really just were given a small taste of this new Duramax. The first impression is a good one, however, and we look forward to spending more time in the truck down the road. Chevrolet’s narrative to kick off the event that focused on not worrying about having the highest tow rating or getting into a battle for the best headline seemed like a way to manage our expectations; it felt like maybe Chevy knew its max tow ratings wouldn’t be as high as the competition and this was a way to soften the blow. In reality, the 2017 Silverado HD and its new diesel engine seems to prove that Chevrolet truly has taken its approach seriously to improve the overall experience for this truck buyer. The 2017 Silverado HD is tough and smart, and maybe it won’t have the highest tow numbers, but it appears to be a great truck for the vast majority of this segment.