Why HSV’s remanufactured American pick-up is worth its $115K starting price
What we liked:
• Towing ability
• Interior appointments
• Road presence
Not so much:
• Steering a bit vague
• No radar cruise
• No blind-spot warning
HSV, once the icon of Aussie high-performance muscle cars, has run out of V8s … or has it? Its new strategy — along with converting the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro coupe – is re-engineering big American V8 turbo-diesel utes for the hungry Australian pick-up market. Priced from $114,990 plus on-road costs, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD will be available in four variants. And it looks like it could be on a winner if the first of them to roll off its Clayton production line, the Midnight Edition, is anything to go by.
As Australia’s ute craze continues apace, it seems the next phase of the phenomenon is gearing up – that of the big American muscle ute.
It started as a trickle with converters like Performax and Harrison F Trucks offering locally converted trucks like the Ford F-Series and GMC Sierra, but now the bigger boys are getting involved and the trickle is quickly becoming a flood.
The most recent addition was RAM and now it’s the big Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD that is being converted to right-hand drive by Melbourne-based HSV and distributed through 55 Chevrolet-branded Holden dealers in Australia and five in New Zealand.
Ironically, both trucks are converted – or re-engineered, as HSV prefers to call it – to right-hand drive in the same Clayton facility, although the Silverado is a GM/HSV product and the RAMs are being imported and distributed by Ateco Automotive’s American Special Vehicles.
And in both cases the RHD conversion is a very good job, as we’ve previously reported. It’s basically a full body-off rebuild that takes about 100 man-hours and includes the changing or replacing of some 700 parts.
The end result is a really well-finished vehicle produced at the rate of six a day via two shifts, but we’ll get to that later.
What’s the point?
If you want to tow a big caravan, heavy boat or tri-axle horse float with any kind of ease, this is the rig for the job.
Many of the modern crop of popular dual-cab utes claim to be able to tow up to 3500kg, but can they really do it?.
If you add some people and luggage, you’ll soon find that your regular ute is over-weight and its little diesel engine with numerous turbochargers hanging off it is struggling to supply enough grunt to keep you up to speed with the traffic.
The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is powered by a Duramax 6.6-litre V8 turbo-diesel that puts out 332kW and a hefty 1234Nm of torque – enough to pull many a stump from the ground.
Recommended maximum towing weights are 3500kg with a 50mm ball, 4500kg for a 70mm ball and up to 5.89 tonnes using a pintle hitch or similar.
Add to that the comfort and luxury appointments of the Yank utes and you have a fairly compelling argument for purchase.
The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD range comprises four variants starting with the 2500HD WT (Work Truck) at $114,990 plus ORCs, the LTZ ($134,990), the Midnight Edition ($149,990) and the Custom Sport (also $149,990) — both of which are based on the LTZ.
The LTZ adds Chevrolet Z71 hardware including 35mm twin-tube Rancho gas-charged shock absorbers, 33.6mm front stabiliser bar, hill descent control and underbody protection.
This carries over to the Midnight Edition, which also adds 18-inch black alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler 275/65 R18 tyres, black accents everywhere, a spray-on bed-liner, rear under-seat stowage and front and rear black Chevrolet ‘bow-ties’.
It’s a pack that will certainly appeal to the rural sector and the off-road enthusiast, but it could also be handy for the well-heeled tradie – something I certainly found when driving around in the test vehicle with numerous tradies wanting to check it out and chat about it.
Built to tow
Inside, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Midnight Edition is well equipped for the jobs at hand. It has a standard exhaust brake operated by a button on the (column-mounted) gear shifter.
There’s also an excellent in-built brake controller that even has its own screen via which you can scroll to see what setting you’re on and what kind of braking input you’re getting in real-time.
We hitched up a Lotus Trooper 23ft off-road van with a tare weight of just over three tonnes, and the Silverado lapped it up. In fact, the engine felt like it was enjoying the extra work it was doing.
I found we could accelerate up hills and change up gears with the van on the back, and keeping up with traffic at 100km/h was no challenge.
Interestingly, the payload for the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Midnight Edition is quoted at just 875kg which is obviously to keep the GVM down to 4491kg so it doesn’t break the 4500kg threshold for a truck licence.
That’s something that this vehicle’s big brother, the Silverado 3500HD, will do when it’s launched next month.
On the road
Make no mistake, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is a big vehicle. At over six metres in length, 2388mm wide and just a smidge under two metres tall, it is not the vehicle to take to the supermarket on a Saturday morning.
Believe me, I tried it on the way home from work and it was pretty tricky.
It does, however, handle the open road beautifully, and surprising economically. I saw between 11 and 17L/100km in various trips I did, which is pretty good for a beast of these dimensions.
When towing, we were into the mid-to-high 20s depending on the terrain, but that’s still acceptable when compared to the Toyota LandCruisers and Nissan Patrols of the world.
Cruising is enhanced by the cruise control (not adaptive) and seats that are 10-way adjustable and heated as well as cooled.
Instrumentation is comprehensive with a rack of analogue gauges along the top of the dash and a screen that provides a host of vehicle info.
The fit and finish inside is exceptional and you’d be hard pressed to distinguish it from the original. HSV has gone to a lot of trouble to get it right and actually uses companies that used to supply our car manufacturing industry — when we had one — to supply complete new dash tops and instrument panels for the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD.
The ride is nice on the freeway, but I found it a bit harsh over speed bumps and the like, no doubt due to the heavy springing and the Rancho off-road dampers. But overall it’s a good ride for an unladen dual-cab.
On the downside, I found the steering a bit vague and although the pedals are adjustable, the brakes are a bit spongy with a fairly long pedal. The brakes are effective though and the vehicle pulled up well even in traffic with the van on the back.
Also I would have liked blind-spot warning in addition to the otherwise excellent mirrors. A couple of times I almost ran over little Barinas and the like when changing lanes…
Warranty and servicing
HSV is offering a three-year 100,000km warranty on the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, which is around the industry standard for a commercial vehicle but under what Holden is offering on its utes including the HSV-enhanced Colorado SportsCat (five-years/unlimited-km).
Also, there is no capped price-servicing or service agreements for fleet buyers.
At the end of the day, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is a vehicle with a job to do. It’s primarily a tow tug and a load-hauler, but also an excellent show-pony and a bit of an off-roader to boot.
It’s big, brash and makes a statement, and it’s altogether a cruiser and a grand tourer for the Big Trip with the caravan on the back.
According to HSV, the dealers are screaming for them and the order book looks solid, so the former Holden hot shot appears to be on another winner.
How much does the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Midnight Edition cost?
Price: $149,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 6.6-litre V8 turbo-diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 11-18L/100km (as tested)
Safety rating: N/A