It’s big, brash and built to get the job done. But, does the Australian-converted Chevrolet Silverado cut the mustard? Paul Maric finds out.
When size does matter, big enough is never big enough. That’s where the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado comes in.
This is the pick-up truck that rules all pick-up trucks, and is designed to tow huge loads and dominate even the busiest of work sites.
Premoso, the parent company of HSV (Holden Special Vehicles), has invested big sums of money in creating a conversion space in Melbourne’s east that houses the conversion operation for the Silverado, the RAM 2500 and the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro.
We had the chance to tour the factory one busy afternoon, as engineers and staff were working overtime to convert the initial stock of Chevrolet Silverados from left-hand drive to right-hand drive, ready for sale to Australian punters.
It’s not exactly a simple process either. The process includes removing the cab from the chassis rails, and running two separate lines concurrently that work to convert elements of the interior and mechanical components at the same time.
This even includes bespoke engineering work on the steering rack to deliver the same feel as the left-hand-drive vehicle, and structural changes that mimic those of the left-hand-drive vehicle.
Kicking off from $114,990 (plus on-road costs) for the 2500HD WT (Work Truck) that offers six seats and a utilitarian layout, it then steps up to the 2500HD LTZ seen here for $134,990 (plus on-road costs), while two special editions called the 2500HD Midnight Edition and 2500HD Custom Sport Edition are priced at $139,990 (plus on-road costs).
Those wanting the ultimate in big trucks will opt for the 3500HD LTZ, which is priced from $147,990 (plus on-road costs).
Each is powered by the mammoth 6.6-litre Duramax turbocharged diesel V8 engine that produces 332kW of power and 1234Nm of torque. Torque is sent through an Allison six-speed automatic transmission via the rear wheels in standard two-wheel-drive mode. There’s also a 136-litre fuel tank to keep the beast moving.
Despite appearances, the 2500HD WT offers a payload of 975kg, while the rest of the range comes in at 875kg of load – that’s less than a dual-cab ute like the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. But, it makes up for it with a maximum braked towing capacity of 5890kg. The real reason behind this is that they tip the scales at 3515kg and 3616kg respectively. The maximum gross vehicle mass (GVM) on a car licence is 4490kg.
Towing is offered in the form of three trailer connections – a 50mm ball, a 70mm ball and a pintle. These offer 3500kg, 4500kg and 5890kg braked towing capacity respectively. Towing is supported by an exhaust brake and built-in electric brake controller.
From the exterior, the Silverado cuts a mean line. It’s big, seriously big. From the front it looks like a small house, measuring in at 6085mm long, 2388mm wide and 1985mm high. At that height it just fits in most residential apartment blocks. Just.
Inside the cabin it’s all class, especially in the LTZ trim. The seats are comfortable, it’s fairly easy to get in and out of the cabin, while the infotainment system offers the latest technology. It’s a 7.0-inch MyLink infotainment system (similar to the one used in the Holden range) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While it does feature inbuilt satellite navigation, it hasn’t been configured for the Australian specification.
Other notable features include heated and cooled seats, wireless phone charging, the world’s biggest centre console, and seats that vibrate while parking to help with getting the beast into (relatively) tight parking spaces, plus electrically adjustable pedals.
The conversion job on both the inside and outside is excellent. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d never actually notice that it was converted by a team down the road as opposed to factory built as a right-hand-drive vehicle. Big kudos to the Australian conversion team.
Leg and head room in the second row are excellent. It’s not like the current crop of dual-cab utes that can be cramped in the second row. It’s palatial and offers plenty of space for your mates.
Turn the key and the beastly turbocharged V8 engine turns over. The giant exhaust pipe rumbles away nicely at idle, and if you stab the throttle while stationary, the whole car will shake with a whooshing induction noise. It’s seriously mean.
Hit the road and that giant slab of torque is never more than a right-foot flex away. If you dare to hit the throttle from a standing start, it blows away even some of the hotter hot-hatches. We’re talking about a 0–100km/h time of just over 6.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 15 seconds.
The ride is great, soaking up any imperfections on the road and making speed humps a thing of the past. The brakes are strong with four-wheel disc brakes, but the brake pedal could do with more feel. It can be pretty firm and requires a stack of effort, especially if you need to pull the Silverado up in a hurry.
While it feels brisk moving in a straight line, we weren’t a fan of the steering. In fact, the steering is quite off-putting – to the point we had to check if the conversion job was responsible for the lumpy response while turning the wheel.
We asked HSV about this, and asked whether we could drive a left-hand-drive vehicle around the parking lot prior to conversion, and our request was declined. Without having driven a left-hand-drive Silverado before, it’s hard to say whether the poor steering feel is a result of the Australian conversion job, or the original left-hand-drive steering calibration.
To explain the feeling behind the wheel, there are varying levels of resistance as the wheel is turned through its radius of motion. It was especially evident when the car was moving and less so when performing slow parking maneuvers. If you’re seriously looking at buying one of these, we’d highly recommend a 24-hour test drive to make sure you’re happy with the steering.
During our time with the car, it also performed a particulate filter flush cycle, which requires the exhaust gas temperature to become elevated for a short period while excess particulates are burned off. While this was happening, the cabin had quite a strong diesel smell that was unpleasant. We had to drive with the windows down until the regeneration process was complete.
We also raised this with HSV, and the company said it was normal while the vehicle runs through its flush cycle.
Outside of the issues mentioned above, the Silverado is a very easy car to drive. Despite its size, there’s never a point where it feels excessively large or uncomfortable to drive. The torque on tap is incredibly good, and is a sign that it would be an effortless tool to tow at its 5890kg limit.
If you’re planning on doing any off-road driving, the 2500HD LTZ is loaded with enough kit to virtually go anywhere. It features a low-range four-wheel-drive system with a heavy-duty rear locking differential. There’s also 250mm of ground clearance to make sure you don’t collect anything while tackling off-road terrain.
The Chevrolet Silverado is offered with a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assistance.
At just under $135,000 before on-road costs, the Silverado is a big chunk of money. But for that cash, you get a big chunk of car that offers big towing capacity and a tray the size of a small suburb.
While the conversion job is visually great, it’s seriously let down by the steering. So much so that it makes it unpleasant to drive at times. As always, we recommend a test drive first to make sure you’re happy with how it feels.
Outside of this, the Silverado is a sensational option for buyers after a heavy-duty pick-up truck that will go anywhere, tow anything, and keep up with most cars at the traffic lights. Plus, it’s backed by a decent warranty.
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