2001 Silverado LS 3500 - It's a diesel thing

Sept. 13, 2001
"OK. So I'm driving a big diesel for a week." Having never driven a diesel before, I didn't quite know what to expect.

Suffice it to say, it was love at first drive. Pulling out of the parking garage, I caught myself saying "look at all that torque!" And checking out fuel prices at gas stations gave me more reason to smile.

It couldn't have come at a better time. Just as I was moving into my house, I used the large 8-ft bed to haul practically all of my belongings over in one trip.

New under the hood is theDuramax 6600 V8 diesel, which replaces the 6.5-liter turbo diesel. The direct-injection, turbo-charged and intercooled engine developed jointly with Isuzu boasts an impressive 300 hp at 3,100 rpm and 520 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm. Lots of low-end torque makes it ideal for hauling and towing big loads, a diesel's bread and butter. In fact, both the Vortec V8 and the Duramax can tow up 12,000 lb, with a max 22,000-lb gross combined weight rating.

An Allison 1000 five-speed automatic transmission links to the Duramax. Full electronic control of shift timing points and helical planetary gearheads make for quiet, seamless shifting. When descending steep grades, the Engine Grade Braking system automatically downshifts to help slow the truck and prevent excessive braking. A fuzzy-logic program calculates when to downshift based on the load weight, speed, and deceleration rate.

Quiet operation is another Duramax selling point. Despite GM's claim that it produces only 78 decibels of sound, almost everyone who rode in it said it was loud. Not having a point of reference to compare it with, I couldn't judge just how quiet this new diesel really is. To my gasoline-engine trained ear, it was certainly louder than my six-cylinder Grand Prix. However, other diesel aficionados were impressed with what they called the "low" noise level. I'll take their word for it.

And acceleration wasn't what you would expect from your run-of-the-mill, lumbering diesels of yesteryear. I was surprised at how quickly and smoothly the behemoth dooley got up to speed and passed the other girly-man vehicles trembling along beside me.

The only drawback was the absence of side running boards. Both of my 60-something parents had difficulty getting into and out of the truck. Other than that, there isn't much to complain about on this solidly engineered truck.

Base price for the Silverado was $32,626, but the optional Duramax engine ($4,810), Allison tranny ($2,295) and a few other options pushed the price to $41,558. For the serious truck enthusiast, it's worth every penny.

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