Heavy-duty pickup trucks are built to do the jobs that their half-ton counterparts can’t, and the 2021 Chevy Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD are no exception. Although they share a nameplate with the smaller Silverado 1500, they alone offer a Duramax V-8 with 910 lb-ft of torque and a max tow rating of 36,000 pounds. The biggest Chevy trucks also pack a host of trailer-assistance technology that helps them compete with the Ford Super Duty and Ram HD lineups. Despite the Silverado HD’s myriad configurations, including a spacious crew cab, even the most expensive versions can’t match the opulence of the fanciest Ford or Ram interior. Still, the Chevy’s bodywork is arguably the boldest in the class, albeit less classy than its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra HD. Combine that with its immense capabilities and desirable features and you have the 2021 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD.
What’s New for 2021?
Along with a slew of new trailer-towing technology and special editions, the 2021 Silverado HD now has a higher maximum tow rating of 36,000 pounds. Available only on a properly equipped Silverado 3500HD, Chevy said it increased last year’s max rating by 500 pounds by updating the truck’s suspension hardware and wheel packaging. Highlighting the new tech is a jackknife alert that does what its name suggests, a trailer-length indicator that helps the driver change lanes when pulling something, and a cargo-bed view enhancement that makes it easier to hook up a fifth-wheel trailer. The latest list of Silverado HD special editions includes a blacked-out Midnight Edition, a monochromatic Z71 Sport Edition, a glitzy Z71 Chrome Edition, and a Carhartt Special Edition. The latter boasts copious Carhartt badges, exclusive Mosaic Black paint with pinstripe detailing, two-tone black and Carhartt brown leather upholstery, and a soft tonneau cover.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We’d choose the 2500HD with the crew cab and the standard cargo bed. We’d also add all-wheel drive and the refined Duramax diesel powertrain to the LT trim level. We’d recommend the Z71 Off-Road package (18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, spray-in bedliner, upgraded suspension, underbody protection) for enhanced styling and improved capability. We’d also choose the Convenience package for its desirable features. These include a 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, LED cargo-bed lighting, a heated steering wheel, remote start, and more. Finally, the Safety package makes this beast easier to live with thanks to blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD have a standard gas-powered 6.6-liter V-8 that makes 401 horsepower and 464 lb-ft of torque and mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional Duramax diesel 6.6-liter V-8 carries over from the previous generation. It continues to make 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft, but now it hooks up to an Allison 10-speed automatic. These engines pair with rear- or all-wheel drive, and each is compatible with the single- or dual-rear-wheel axle. We drove both powertrains through mountains while towing several tons and were impressed by their capabilities. The gas engine and six-speed automatic worked well together to control the truck’s speed, which is especially important when towing on steep grades. Still, the Duramax powertrain is the one to get for those who regularly tow heavy loads. Its mighty power and the transmission’s effortless responses provided an extra level of confidence and security when doing what these trucks were made for—moving mountains. However, the heavy-duty Silverado’s lack of steering accuracy and feedback—even when equipped with the electric-assist system—was less reassuring. Still, the big Chevy rides surprisingly well for its impressive capabilities.
Towing and Payload Capacity
Heavy-duty trucks are judged by their maximum towing and payload ratings, even if those massive loads are never actually tested by most people. The gas-powered Silverado HD can tow up to 17,400 pounds, and the diesel version can pull up to 36,000 pounds. Likewise, the strongest Silverado 3500HD with the regular cab and dual-rear-wheel axle can carry up to 7442 pounds of payload.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Since the EPA doesn’t test vehicles as heavy as the Silverado HD and its colossal competitors, we can only judge their real-world mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route. We tested the Silverado 2500HD with the gasoline 6.6-liter V-8, and it earned 14 mpg on the highway. For comparison, we tested an F-250 with the gas-fed 6.2-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission, and it returned 15 mpg in the same test. The diesel Silverado 2500HD managed 19 mpg on the highway, as did the Ram 2500 we last tested.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Pickup trucks have a wide spectrum of interior configurations and available technology. The heavy-duty Silverado runs the gamut from stripped-down work truck to dressed-up crew cab. All feature a mountainous dashboard packed with easy-to-use switchgear. The Chevy’s crew-cab, short-box setup has a longer wheelbase than the previous generation and provides increased passenger space. While even the fanciest models can’t match the material quality and sophistication of the Ram HD, the Silverado’s cabin and features still manage to transcend typical truck luxuries. The most desirable content includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, and more. The Chevy is packed with copious interior cubby storage that’s highlighted by a giant center-console bin. Some models can also be equipped with a storage compartment under the back seat and bins built into the backs of the rear-seat cushions.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every Silverado HD comes with a touchscreen that supports Chevy’s Infotainment 3 software, which includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It features a useful volume and tuning knob as well as some physical buttons and voice commands that supplement the touch-sensitive display. A larger 8.0-inch touchscreen with a seven-speaker Bose audio system, additional power points, SiriusXM satellite radio, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless charging is available, too. Its infotainment system also allows users to store different trailer profiles to monitor maintenance and even control trailer functions via a smartphone app.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Silverado HD hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, every model is available with a host of driver-assistance technology, and there are several trailer-specific assists that make towing easier. There’s even a useful multiview camera system that includes a transparent mode that makes maneuvering in parking lots and merging onto the highway easier when towing by allowing the driver to virtually see through the trailer. Other key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available lane-departure
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Chevy covers the Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD with a competitive warranty that matches competitors from Ford and Ram. Every heavy-duty Silverado also gets one complimentary scheduled maintenance visit.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
More Features and Specs