Road Test: 2008 Chevrolet 3500HD; 4wd Dually Crew Cab a luxury tow vehicle with power to spare
By Bruce W. Smith / Truck Test Digest
When it comes to hard-core work/tow vehicles, there’re only three brands from which to choose: Dodge, Ford, and GM. Then you get into brand loyalty, and it’s hard to break out of the family tradition if it’s been established the General, Blue Oval, or a Ram is what the family drives.
But I bet Uncle Charlie would love this new Silverado even though he says he’s a die-hard Dodge man.
Those were the thoughts flitting around in my head as I glide past slower traffic while powering up a long, steep highway grade with a big 24-foot, Ranger center-console fishing boat latched to the hitch of the 3500 Chevy Silverado Crew Cab 4×4 I’m driving.
The Ranger’s 5,000 pounds of towed weight hardly taxes the Duramax diesel under the hood.
My foot rolls deeper into the throttle and the speedometer needle climbs at a very satisfying pace—obviously a direct result of having 660-foot-pounds of torque rolling off the crankshaft of the 6.6L Duramax V8 diesel humming from beneath the hood.
Back off the throttle and the Silverado settles down to a smooth, steady, quiet cruise speed of 65mph—uphill. It’s a remarkably powerful—and comfortable—pickup.
Gary White, GM North America vice president and vehicle line executive of full-size trucks—and one of my driving partners—says “There’s not a broader, more powerful or more capable lineup of heavy-duty pickups in the industry.”
One of the very first things we noticed on the 3500 Dually is all of GM’s Heavy Duty pickups are equipped with a 2- ½-inch receiver hitch instead of the more conventional 2-inch found on the ½-tons. That gives our 4×4 diesel dually a towing capacity of 13,000 pounds with a weight-distributing hitch and 16,700 pounds if a 5th wheel trailer is being pulled.
The top-of-the-line Silverado LTZ we tested for two weeks here at Truck Test Digest was optioned out with a lot of upgrades.
The most beneficial—and expensive—to towing is upgrading from the standard 6.0 Vortec gas V8 to the Duramax diesel ($7,195) and the Allison six-speed automatic ($1,200.)
The 365hp Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel is the most powerful diesel in the 3/4- and 1-ton pickup market with an impressive 660 lb.-ft. of torque.
All of that power rolls in early in the rpm range, so it’s a superb package for towing really big loads, like multi-horse trailers, 5th wheels, big tow-behind travel trailers, and yarding around farm and construction equipment.
GM’s torque monster Duramax is also one of the cleanest on the road in 2008. Charlie Freese, the Executive Director of GM Powertrain and the hands-on-expert of the “new” Duramax, told us the upgrades bring it 2010 emissions standards all the while improving fuel economy and power.
Its cleanliness is quite evident when you’re following a Duramax-powered Silverado because there’s not a hint of black smoke, nor any hint of unburned diesel fuel as the truck accelerates.
Fuel economy isn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. But then none of the big diesels we’ve tested deliver stellar performance in that arena. We saw consistent mid-12s in city traffic, and mid- to upper teens (15-16) on the open road cruising 70.
A note here: We dropped our speed to 60 and picked up 2mpg, which shows you that with a big pickup such as this it pays to drive slower in order to save at the pump.
During our two-week testing stint here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast we put on more than 600 miles driving city streets, country roads and interstates. Such seat time gives you a good appreciation for the interior comfort and spaciousness of the Crew Cab LTZ.
The LTZ has the upscale interior with the leather seating and power everything at your command. It’s the kind of interior that makes a successful blue-collar businessman feel good about their stage in life.
The “luxury-inspired” interior treatment offers a rich look and feel along with a large-capacity center console power-adjustable heated bucket seats, leather-covered steering wheel and chrome trim.
Our test truck also had the optional power sliding rear window ($200), ultrasonic rear parking assist ($245)—a must for the long-bed Dually; power sliding sun roof ($795)—that we could have done without; adjustable pedals ($120)—a definite must-have; and upgraded stereo system with 6-disc CD/MP3 player ($300)—a definite must as well.
We also loved having the integrated factory brake controller ($200) that makes towing trailers equipped with electric brakes a lot smoother than typical with aftermarket controllers.
Another aspect of the Crew Cab interior that we really like the one-hand flip-up/down rear split bench—very easy to open up that floor space when you have an arm full of stuff and need somewhere to unload it in a hurry.
Those living in the snow belt will find favor with the heated windshield washer fluid system more effectively removes bug spatter and thin layers of ice and frost. When the system is activated, washer fluid is heated to 150 degrees F (60 C) or more
However, it’s the outside where most people will see the biggest changes in the Heavy Duty 3500 Silverado.
The 2008 shares the same look as the ‘07s, which is when GM did a complete sheetmetal change. The front sheetmetal of the Dually diesel conveys a much greater sense of power than it’s ½-ton counterparts.
The grille is much more open than found on the 1500 Series and the hood is taller and vented close to the windshield on each side. The headlights are slightly larger, and the front fenders wider and more rounded–all working in concert to convey a broad-shouldered, muscular look which both Keith and I like.
By the way, the Dually has a one-piece stamped fender, which really helps smooth its distinctive lines and doesn’t look like something just added on to accommodate te dual wheels. A one-piece wheelhouse and inner box side offer strength and a smoother, more integrated appearance.
The boxes are 1.18 inches (30 mm) deeper in the front and 1.57 inches (40 mm) deeper at the rear than previous-generation models, with stronger inner walls that offer improved performance when fitted with ladder racks, tool boxes and other accessories.
Speaking of that, the long bed (8’) model we tested has a whopping cargo bed volume of 75.5 cubic feet. That’s as much cargo space as some pickups and SUVs have in their entire interior.
All Dually models feature marker lights on box side panels and sleek cab roof lights that are aerodynamically integrated into the top of the cab. That gives the Dually instant appeal to truckers!
The tailgate designs include a lock and an available EZ Lift feature, with torque-rod assist. The tailgates are also easily removed by simply opening to 45 degrees and pulling straight out and away from the vehicle.
Speaking of truckers, one of the new features available this year is fleet-model Duramax diesels are enabled at the factory to run on B20 bio-diesel fuel. That should help keep fleet operating costs down with the continually escalating costs of diesel fuel.
As for costs, the base price for our Dually Silverado 4×4 listed at $40,390. As tested, with all the bells and whistles, the MSRP totaled $52,430.
That price tag is up there. But as we noted on the radio show, this is the executive’s or full-time RVer’s Dually. It’s rich in looks and power, just like we think the owners of such a pickup will be. –Bruce W. Smith
Make / Model: 2008 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab 4×4 LTZ Diesel Dually
MSRP Base Price: $40,390
Price as Tested: $52,430
Seating: 5- passenger
Engine: 365hp 6.6L V8 Diesel
Fuel economy (observed): 12.6 (city)/ 15.8 (hwy)
Transmission: 6spd Allison Automatic
Transfer case: JF1A Hi/Low; shift-on-the-fly 2WD-4WD
Front Suspension: Independent
Rear Suspension: Solid axle w/ leaf springs
Steering: Power-assist recirculating ball
Fuel Capacity: 34 gals
Axle ratio: 3.73:1
Curb weight: 6,906 lbs
Max payload: 4,029 lbs
Max towing: 13,000 lbs w/ W-D hitch
0-60mph: 9.1 sec
50-70mph: 4.5 sec
¼-mile: 16.6 sec @ 80.9mph
70-0mph: 200.1 ft
*All numbers recorded on Stalker ATS; data courtesy of Truck Test Digest