It’s hard to not notice the popularity of dual-cab utes, with increasing numbers of drivers choosing the high-riding trucks as the favoured family vehicle over more conventional large sedans and wagons.
But, for some drivers, big isn’t big enough and you may have also noticed a growing number of extra-large super-sized US-style trucks rolling out on our roads.
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One such wheeled behemoth is the Chevrolet Silverado which is now being converted to right-hand drive by HSV, with the equally imposing Ram 1500 also rolling out of the same factory, albeit under sister-company ASV’s supervision.
When you see one of these goliaths bearing down on other diminutive road users, you have to ask yourself, why?
We spent a little time with a freshly converted Silverado to try and understand why HSV says it can shift about 750 of the goliaths in just six months.
Titanic towing torque
Housed in the Silverado’s massive bull-nosed front end is a powerplant unlike almost anything else on the road. Fuelled by diesel, the 6.6-litre turbocharged V8 pumps out 332kW, which is significant, but it’s the torque figure which truly is without equal. How does 1234Nm sound?
Combined with its heavy duty suspension set up, the Silverado offers a towing capacity unrivalled by anything. Use a conventional 50mm tow ball and the Chevy will match many other one-tonne utes for pulling power, fit a 70mm ball and the figure rises to 4500kg but if you opt for the specialised optional pintle hitch the Silverado will haul a massive 5890kg.
If that’s still not enough, the 3500HD LTZ has been confirmed for Australia this week, with a payload capacity of more than two tonnes, and maximum towing capacity of nine tonnes. This beefier Silverado is larger than its siblings as well, measuring in at 6.5-metres long and 2.5-metres wide.
That’s the main appeal of the Silverado. If you regularly tow significant loads such as a serious boat, multi-horse float or palatial caravan, there is little else that will do the job as effortlessly. HSV is also targeting primary producers with the Silverado, many of which have extreme towing duties but don’t always want to hook up a tractor to do the job.
Power is handled by an Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission which sends power to the rear wheels but can be directed to all four with a simple twist of a dial when extra traction is required.
Lock and load
For even more all-terrain ability, the electrically operated transfer case offers a low range as well. With its stretched 3.9-metre wheelbase and overall 6.1-metre length, the Silverado doesn’t have the off-road ability of some more compact and lighter utes on the market but we were surprised just how far it went in a decidedly wet and slippery Gippsland.
Standard road tyres definitely don’t help but there was still plenty of traction to deal with ice-like damp paddocks and farm run-off slurry. The Silverado’s performance was even more impressive given that we had loaded a round bale into its tray.
With such a surplus of torque, the extra 400kg of weight in the back didn’t even register, further highlighting the Silverado’s might.
Interestingly, due to gross vehicle mass restrictions, the standard Silverado 2500 cannot carry any more in its tray compared with many smaller utes – approximately one tonne, but its tray is significantly larger offering an expansive 2.0-metre by 1.3-metre load area.
Lounge room luxury
The Silverado is big. How big? With a height of nearly 2.0 metres, just shy of 2.4 metres wide and 6.1 metres in length, the Silverado dwarfs almost every family car on the road, if you want to call it that.
But that outside heft translates to a cavernous interior too. Where some dual-cab utes have adequate interiors with an agricultural second row, the Silverado cabin is vast. Rear leg room is a whopping 1.0 metre, there’s 1.6 metres of shoulder room and more than a metre of headroom for all occupants. There are also a whole heap of USB sockets; two in the front, two more in the centre storage box and more in the second row, along with two 12-volt power sockets.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is also supported so all occupants will be happy for long journeys.
Finally, HSV expects to sell a number of the tough trucks based on the incredibly imposing presence and styling. That huge unapologetic nose that towers in rearview mirrors, doubled-up headlights and indicators and massive wheels housed in blocky square wheel arches are all part of the appeal.
There is something very commanding about piloting the Silverado and the advantage its raised driving position offers is unquestionable. You will always be looking over the traffic in this monster.
The price to pay for road supremacy
Needless to say, living with such a large vehicle has its drawbacks. First of all there’s the fuel consumption. Diesels might typically be more efficient than large petrol engines, but there’s only so far you can make each drop go when you’re dragging around 3.6 tonnes with a 6.6-litre V8.
Don’t let the economy display fool you. When it told us 5.6, the Silverado is reading in kilometres per litre, which translates to about 17.8 litres per 100km. Ouch.
Then there’s the sheer size, which in a rural setting is normally no problem, but as soon as the going gets urban, the Silverado causes serious headaches. Standard sized car park spaces are almost unusable, negotiating tight manoeuvres requires the planning of a truck driver and a turning circle of more than 15 metres becomes very apparent.
And the ultra-heavy duty suspension, which doesn’t even flinch at a 400kg hay bale, is a little jarring when unloaded. Traditional dual-cab utes are not known for a cosseting ride, but don’t expect the Silverado to break from this tradition just because of its size. If anything, it is even stiffer.
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Finally, there’s the cost. For a pure workhorse, HSV will sell you the WT for $114,990 but the LTZ with more equipment you will definitely want costs $134,990, while the special custom versions rise to $139,900.
So there you have it. The Chevrolet Silverado is a brutish machine that makes no apologies for its sheer size and stature. Thanks to its scale and corresponding powertrain, it has a simply gargantuan towing ability, good all-terrain versatility and a cabin that’s comfortable for the entire family.
Yes there are significant compromises, but for a select niche of Australian drivers, there is little else that will fit a very, very large bill.