Car reviews - Chevrolet - Silverado
Slick RHD conversion fit and finish, monster torque from V8 diesel, luxurious cabin fittings, generous passenger room and storage spaces
Room for improvement
Clunky transmission selector, heavy controls, low rear load capacity considering the size of the cargo tub, no autonomous braking, pricey
HSV goes big with V8 diesel RHD Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
31 Jul 2018
BIG. That’s overall impression about almost everything associated with the Chevrolet Silverado that is now rolling into Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) dealerships across Australia and New Zealand courtesy of a factory-backed right-hand drive conversion engineering and manufacturing program by HSV sister company Walkinshaw Automotive Group.
Along with the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro and current Holden Colorado SportsCat enhancement programs, the RHD Silverado is helping to fill the void left at HSV by the demise of local Holden Commodore production last year. It takes a big vehicle to fill such a big hole, and the Silverado is that for sure.
Take the exhaust pipe hanging out of the back of the Silverado 2500HD LTZ that we drove away from Walkinshaw’s latest factory at Clayton South, in Melbourne’s south-east.
We were moved to fetch a measuring tape to check the pipe tip’s diameter: 125mm. And then we stuck our head underneath to see if this was just fakery, like the last few centimetres of many exhaust pipes on vehicles today.
Nope. It is huge all the way up – at least 100mm, like a heavy duty stainless steel rainwater downpipe.
As Walkinshaw’s Silverado program manager Gareth Brown told us, it takes a big exhaust to handle the flow from a 6.6-litre V8 turbo diesel producing huge numbers – 332kW of power and 1234Nm of torque.
Yep. Everything about the Silverado is big.
The four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ – the middle-ranking variant in a four-variant Silverado 2500 crew-cab range from the RHD conversion team at Walkinshaw Automotive Group – can be driven on a car licence but only with a truck mentality.
Braking requires forethought, lest the distance to rein in 3.6-tonnes of Detroit iron catch you out. Similarly, cornering needs to be approached with care, because to fling a small block of flats into a bend like a hot hatch could be asking for trouble.
Even a trip to the supermarket needs to be planned out. At almost two metres tall and a tick under 2.4 metres wide, many underground car-parks are out of the question.
We took the Silverado to – ahem – the local bottle shop, and found that a single park could not accommodate the whopping 6085mm length, so rather than leaving the back end sticking out into the path of traffic, we took up two parking spots.
But after a while, driving the big beast becomes second nature, and not as awkward as first feared.
To look at, the LTZ version of the Silverado is like an American cliche – all chrome and bulk. Steel chrome bumpers – now there’s a Detroit throwback.
And badges all over: Silverado, 2500HD, Allison, Duramax and, of course, Chevrolet and the iconic Chev ‘bow tie’ logos front and back.
Mercifully, Australian buyers can opt for two special editions of the LTZ: the all-black Midnight Edition and white Custom Sport Edition, that offer more tasteful body colour fittings and some extra kit to boot.
Climbing aboard the high-riding Silverado requires commitment, so thank goodness for the chrome side steps and grab handles that come standard.
At $134,990 plus on-road costs, the LTZ is not cheap, so it is a relief to discover plenty of luxo fittings in the cabin – perforated leather seats with both heating and ventilation, heated leather steering wheel (boy, would that be handy on a winter’s morning in Minnesota), 10-way electric adjustable front seat movement with three memory settings, Bose sound system, dual-zone climate control and more storage compartments than we have ever seen (we counted six such spaces including a huge bin with a separate sliding tray for small items under the centre arm rest in the front seat alone).
And cupholders wherever you look, naturally.
In the generously roomy back seat, the 60:40 split seat squab lifts up to reveal an equally generous plastic-lined storage bin the full width of the seat. A tradie’s dream come true.
When we had visited the Walkinshaw factory to see the Silverados under RHD conversion, we noted that the vehicles are disassembled right back to the bare paint of the cabin interior. Even right back to bare metal on the firewall as it is reconfigured to take a right-hook steering column and all the other wiring and plumbing for heaters etcetera.
So we were interested to see how the finished product came back together in terms of fit, finish and tightness.
Apart from a little blank on the left-hand door where the seat memory buttons used to be, the interior looks and feels like the original, which is not only a credit to Walkinshaw attention to detail but also Australian parts suppliers who came up with items such as the leather-look dash liner for the RHD version. Bravo.
In our time with Silverado, the only minor blemish that might be attributed to the RHD conversion was a little-too-stiff driver’s seatbelt retractor mechanism (yes, even the seatbelts have to come out, replaced by Australian-approved webbing. Don’t ask).
The American-ness of the Silverado shines through in the cabin, via the chunky and somewhat clunky transmission selector lever on the steering column and a row of analogue gauges for oil pressure, voltage and other apparent essentials, among other things.
An up-to-date touchscreen with the latest connectivity – Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay included – is a blessing. And a good thing too because there is no sat-nav or digital radio fitted as standard (just AM and FM).
USB slots abound (we counted a total of four for front-seat occupants alone), as do 12-volt sockets.
Starting up the big V8 diesel engine, the noise is as you would expect – a meaningful rumbling clatter. Hey, this is a truck.
Hauling on the transmission lever, we aim for ‘D’ but end up sliding right through into low gear, requiring us to back-track. We prefer our selectors more intuitive.
When underway, the main trick is to judge the width of the vehicle on Australia’s (comparatively) narrow traffic lanes. The driver also has to plan ahead to make lane changes, as the bulk of the vehicle can’t slot in to just any gap.
The Silverado comes with lane departure warning, but the mechanical steering set up precludes lane-keeping assist.
Speaking of safety, we would have liked to see autonomous emergency braking instead of just frontal collision warning.
We decide to take the big beast out of the congested city to some nearby hills to get a better understanding of the performance, especially all that toque that theoretically dwarfs most supercars.
On the flat, the vehicle is surprisingly responsive, but we note that the heavy duty six-speed Allison transmission tends to hold a high gear on the hills unless you give it a kick in the accelerator guts. Even 1234Nm of torque can’t prevent the vehicle struggling a little on steeper sections in top gear, but with the revs up, the performance leaps back to life.
Ride wise, the off-road oriented twin-shock Z71 suspension that is standard on all but the base WT (work truck) Silverado 2500s in Australia offers smooth travel on most surfaces, but understandably becomes a little bouncy over bumps when unladen.
The mechanical steering is heavier than we expected from an American vehicle, but probably appropriate for such a large lump.
Almost all of these Silverados will be bought by people wanting to lug large loads, especially on the back of the tow bar.
Unfortunately, we did not get to try the truck in towing mode, but HSV assures us it can haul 750kg with an unbraked trailer, 3500kg braked with a 50mm tow ball, 4500kg braked with a 70mm ball, and – hooley dooley – 5890kg with a goose-neck pintle hitch mounted in the rear tray.
If that is not sufficient, the higher-rated Silverado 3500 with its dual rear wheels is coming soon.
The cargo carrying capacity of the rear tray is said to be a modest 850kg in the LTZ. Considering the tub is a generous two metres, long, 1500mm wide (1300mm between the wheel housings) and 560mm deep, this seems puny.
We suspect it can carry much more, but the placarded load limit has more to do with Australian driver’s licensing laws that require a truck licence for vehicles with a gross vehicle mass above 4500kg. The Silverado 2500HD LTZ just squeaks under that with a restricted load limit of 850kg in the back.
Mind you, this would be the same for all these full-sized pick-up in Australia, including the rival Ram range.
Still, this Chevy workhorse will do almost anything demanded of it, on and off-road, as long as it can fit into the space allotted.
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