When a PR rep recently told me the average salary of a typical heavy duty diesel truck buyer, I nearly spit out my coffee—and I wasn’t even drinking any. He said the average heavy duty buyer is willing to shell out more then $50,000.
That is why the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500-3500HD put an emphasis on refinement, comfort features, and upscale tech gear. But that is only half the story. The other half is about the endurance of these trucks and the people who buy them second-hand, expecting many more years of life out of them.
Last year, the 475,000 new HD pickups sold represented 45 percent of the entire truck market. But we know that there is a whole other market for HD pickups, and those buyers are—as Chevy used to call itself—the “Heartbeat of America.’’
Be it a construction crew on Boston’s burgeoning waterfront, a landscape crew winterizing a lawn in Brookline, or the truck driver clearing your driveway from the most recent delivery of snow, the folks who work the hardest drive heavy duty trucks, and they are not forking over $50K for a new one. They are buying second-hand, and they expect a powerful powertrain that will stand the test of time.
No problem in the engine department. The one thing Americans get right year after year is trucks.
Starting at $31,310, the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD comes standard with a 6.0-liter V8, making 360 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s impressive, but of all the people I know who work blue collar jobs and have trucks, their pickup of choice is either a Chevrolet Silverado HD or GMC Sierra HD, and they are equipped with a Duramax Diesel V8.
The Duramax diesel V8 has been available in the HD lineup since 2001. For 2015, the 6.6-liter V8 makes 380 horsepower and a continent-moving 765 lb.-ft. of torque. This immense power is mated to the dependable Allison 6-speed transmission. Allison has been around since 1909, first making race transmissions, then airplane engine parts. Today, Allison transmissions are found in busses, motor homes, emergency response vehicles, the M1 Abrams battle tank, and the Silverado HD.
To prove the capability of the diesel Silverado HD, GM flew us out to Arizona to tow massive items like horse trailers and Bobcats. These are items that most of the soft-gripped automotive press has never encountered, myself included, but it was impressive to feel these trucks accelerate, turn, and brake as if they were not towing anything. Many long-time truck users have never even approached the 17,900-pound fifth wheel tow rating, but that capability means more control over smaller items.
Due to EPA rules, fuel economy does not have to be listed, but if you are in the market for a vehicle like this, go ask your foreman how much the gas budget is and watch him turn pale.
But given the transaction prices for new HD pickups, GM is focused on letting these well-heeled truck buyers travel in comfort. To that end, the Silverado is available with heated and cooled leather seats, heated steering wheel, lane departure warning systems, and rear seat entertainment systems. A 2500HD in LTZ trim with a heap of options can set you back more than $55,000. (Then there is the GMC Sierra and its Denali lineup. A GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali with duallys can cost as much as $70,000. For a pickup.)
To grasp this end of the truck market, you need to understand that there are people who love driving trucks, and people who do not but need the capability of a pickup. Think about a wealthy family with horses taking their daughter and her horse to equestrian shows around the Northeast. They need a truck to pull the horse trailer with sleeping quarters but would like the vehicle doing the towing to have a more upscale feel. That’s how you end up with a $70K truck with a fifth wheel and leather.
For these buyers, the emphasis has been on making the engines quieter in the new Silverado by letting less sound into the cabin. The irony is that a lot of the diesel owners I know install more aggressive exhaust systems for the sole purpose of making their medium-duty diesels sound like big rigs.
Perhaps the practice of modifying the second-hand truck perfectly encapsulates the yin and yang of heavy duty truck ownership. A new HD buyer will be towing and hauling large items for work or play. Sometimes these buyers have other luxury cars but use the HD truck to pull their toys around. Or it could be a well-to-do rancher delivering his prized bull to waiting cows, like in last week’s comical Super Bowl ad.
No matter the initial purpose of these trucks, the fact that they last forever means that many will find a second, and even a third, home. Ten years down the road, when the Silverado HD has spent summers towing and winters plowing, it will meet its second owner—and its service life is just getting started.
2014 GMC Sierra 2500HD
Price: $31,310. As tested: $65,000. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: Don’t ask. Drivetrain: 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V8, 6AT, RWD (or 4×4). Body: Full-size pickup truck.
Horsepower: 380. Torque: 765. Overall length: 205-239 in. Wheelbase: 119-153 in. Height: 74.2 in. Width: 80 in. Curb weight: N/A lbs.
More power than you will ever need. Top trims outfitted like a Range Rover.
Priced like a Range Rover.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A truck built for decades of work and play.
Ram 2500-3500HD, Ford F-250/350 Super Duty.