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The 2020 Silverado HD pickup truck is all-new and larger in nearly every dimension, with front-end styling for some trims sure to be controversial. (Chevrolet)

New V8, big towing, trick features and tech for 2020 Chevy Silverado HD

With pickup trucks seemingly taking over the personal-vehicle market, it’s no surprise the Detroit Three automakers are devoting more attention than ever to the pickups-for-real-work side of the equation, too. In launching the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD line at a high-profile event at the trucks’ newly-expanded assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, General Motors president Mark Reuss said, “At GM, we’ve been preparing for this changing market for years.”

So have Ford and FiatChrysler, too, though, and with all three powering into 2019 with all-new (FCA’s 2019 Ram HD) or significantly updated (Ford's 2020 Super Duty) 2500/3500 heavy-duty pickups, expect competitive fireworks.

Following closely on the heels of Chevrolet’s launch of the all-new light-duty Silverado in the second half of 2018, the wholly distinct 2020 Silverado HD has some built-in headwinds: the redesigned 2019 light-duty Silverado has been hectored for what is perceived as a substandard bill of materials for its cabin finishes, while the Silverado HD was immediately panned for its front-end styling when the first official photos were released.

And one final challenge for the new Silverado: well before the Silverado’s technical specifications were announced, FCA revealed the 2019 Ram’s new, Cummins-made optional 6.7-L I-6 turbodiesel comes to market with a crushing 1000-lb·ft (1356-N·m) torque rating. Although it’s churning out a hardly-inconsequential 910 lb·ft (1234 N·m) from its 6.6-L V8 turbodiesel, the Silverado immediately is saddled with an on-paper disadvantage in this spec-intensive segment.

New small block-derived V8, more gears

To her credit, Silverado chief engineer Jaclyn McQuaid was ready with an answer for the inevitable torque-deficit question, saying, “We can put all 910 pound-feet through the wheels in first gear.” Previous Duramax diesels’ torque was electronically governed in lower gears and her statement may insinuate there could be low-gear torque-management involved with the new Ram HD (although to this editor’s knowledge, that has yet to be independently verified).

The new Silverado HD’s Duramax diesel develops an unchanged 445 hp but is backed by an industry-exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission supplied by industry stalwart Allison. “This is the transmission everybody wants,” McQuaid boasted, and the upgrade of four additional speeds over the previous transmission and other upgrades to the Duramax are what enable, she added, a massive 50%-plus hike in max-towing rating of 35,500 lb. (16,103 kg)—400 lb (181 kg) better than the new Ram’s claimed maximum towing ability. At the time of this writing, Ford had yet to release performance ratings for its updated 2020 Super Duty pickups.

Diesel models with the Allison transmission feature a new factory-fitted power take-off (PTO), which Chevy said is “the first fully integrated PTO system of its kind in the HD truck segment, with the PTO’s drive gear operated via chain to direct engine power.” The design means the PTO can be operated with the diesel idles and the user can adjust load and torque output.

Once past the diesel, GM said the new Silverado HD’s gasoline engine choice is an all-new, 6.6-L V8 derived from its longstanding small-block engine architecture. Fitted with direct fuel injection, the V8 produces an SAE-rated 401 hp and 464 lbft (629 Nm), respective increases of 11% and 22% compared with the outgoing 6.0-L V8. The engine has an iron block and aluminum heads, as well as a forged-steel crankshaft. Compression ratio is 10.8:1.

Backing the new gasoline V8 is the GM-made 6L90 6-speed automatic transmission. Maximum tow rating for gasoline-engine models is 17,500 lb. (7938 kg).

The driveline new features larger and stronger axles, McQuaid said, while 2500 variants get a larger, 11.5-in (292-mm) ring gear and 3500 models get a 12-in (304-mm) ring gear and all get 30% larger prop shafts. The decision when to use 4-wheel-drive really isn’t a decision, as all 4X4 drivelines now use the Autotrac 2-speed transfer case that automatically selects 4-wheel-drive when slippage is detected.

Bolstered chassis, new electro-features

The 2020 Silverado HD’s ladder-frame chassis features fully-boxed rails and in light of its increased tow and payload ratings; gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCWR) now is up to 43,500 lb. (19,731 kg). The HD pickups continue with short/long-arm front suspension, a setup unique to the class.

And here’s where the electronic enhancements come in, as all makers begin to leverage the wonders of camera vision, in particular, to make these big pickups’ jobs easier than ever (Reuss said 30% of HD pickup owners “use their trucks to make a living” and company figures indicate 90% of buyers use their HD pickup to tow).

Standard and or optional electronic assists include a driver-selectable engine brake, automatic grade braking, trailer-sway control and an integrated trailer-brake controller, while powered towing mirrors as standard.

Meanwhile, the Silverado HD can be fitted with up to eight cameras to deliver as many as 15 exterior camera views, including a surround-view monitor, a view that peers directly into the bed and and brilliant "transparent trailer" feature that mingles images from several exterior cameras to simulate a view of what’s behind and to the sides of a trailer.

More configurations

The only sheetmetal the 2020 Silverado shares with its 1500-series cousins now is the roof and the HDs are larger in just about every dimension. A crew cab, standard-bed model has a  158.9-in (4037-mm) wheelbase, which is 5.2 in (132 mm) longer. Overall length, at 250 in (6349 mm) is extended a significant 10.4 in. (264 mm). Width is 1.4 in (35 mm) greater. Much of this translates to more room in the cabin.

The standard box itself now is 82.2 in (2089 mm) long, a full 3.4 in (86 mm) longer and total volume is up by 8.6 cubic feet. The long box now is truly that, lengthening by a half-inch to a total length of 98.3 in (2496 mm).

When the 2020 Silverado HDs go on sale this summer, it will be available in regular cab, double cab and crew cab body styles, standard and long boxes and two chassis-cab lengths. There will be five trim levels: Work Truck, Custom, LT, LTZ and High Country.

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