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Elmer’s truck reviews: driver assist upgrades on the 2018 Chevy Silverado HD

By Howard J. Elmer   

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Chevy recently partnered with John Deere at its world headquarters to show off its newest version of the Heavy Duty Silverado pickup. The reason? A work-related backdrop is vital to understanding the needs of the HD truck owner and, frankly, what looks better than some spanking new construction equipment towed by shiny 2018 Chevys?

Pickup trucks can now tow loads that used to require semis. The huge increases in capabilities are forcing OEMs to upgrade and integrate control systems to keep drivers safe. Chevy recently partnered with John Deere at its world headquarters to show off its newest version of the Heavy Duty Silverado pickup.

So, while this setup created the right visual, the actual towing of up to 20,000 pounds highlighted not just power but a new trend in safety that involves OEMs tying existing on-board technologies together electronically. These are known as “driver-assist features.” This is a new phrase that is becoming more common when describing the innovative electronic features found in today’s pickup trucks. I bring this up first when looking at the 2018 Chevy Silverado HD because the traditional newsworthy trifocal of towing, payload and power are fast becoming secondary to this new headline. I, for one, am just fine with that. Frankly, with the exception of a new hood scoop design, the tin on the 2018 has not changed and yet the truck has changed so much for the better.

Today’s pickups, particularly the HD versions, have so much capacity and power that drivers need help in managing these loads. General Motors recognized that first in 2015 when they incorporated a cruise control system that stopped over-speeding on long downhill grades. At the time I wrote “On the new 2015 the cruise control computer is also integrated with the exhaust brake, transmission shifter and trailer sway control. What’s that all mean? Net result: down a seven per cent grade the truck did not pick up speed, the brakes did not engage and it never upshifted. All I did was steer. So, don’t all HD’s do this? Straight up, no. GM is the first to pull all these systems together and have the computer take care of it all. And – this is what inspires confidence – the speedometer didn’t budge off 90 kilometres per hour even with all that weight pushing the truck downhill.”

For 2018, the trend toward more electronic helpers continues, as does the quest for HD weight supremacy – after all, that is still the name of this game.

Looking at the growth of these numbers, just in the GM family, it backs up what I’m saying. Drivers need help managing these loads. In 2011, Chevy’s maximum HD numbers were: payload 6,335 pounds, conventional towing 17, 000 pounds and fifth-wheel towing 21,700 pounds (up from 16,500 pounds in 2010).


The next benchmark was 2015. Weight capabilities increased to a maximum payload of 7,374 pounds. Conventional towing climbed to 19,600 pounds. Fifth-wheel and gooseneck towing rose to 23,200 pounds.

For 2018 the maximum numbers are once again hiked. Now the maximum payload is 8,070 pounds while conventional towing has risen to 20,000 pounds and on the fifth wheel, again, up to 23,300 pounds. So, for 2018, this last set of load numbers demands a truck that can handle them – power-wise and more importantly safety-wise.

The new 6.6 litre V8 turbo-diesel has been re-designed with a new cylinder block and heads. Oil and coolant flow capacity has been increased and the turbocharging system is now electronically controlled. Horsepower has increased to 445 and torque now reaches 910 foot-pounds. Ninety per cent of both numbers are achieved at just 1,550 RPM. A new patent-pending feature is a re-designed air intake system. Using an integrated hood scoop (on 2018 HD Silverado and Sierra) this setup has a trap for snow, sleet and rain, allowing cool dry air to get to the engine without clogging up the intake.

 A new two-piece oil pan makes the Duramax diesel engine quieter and also houses an integrated oil cooler with 50-per-cent-greater capacity than is found on the current engine. Of particular interest to Canadians will be the new Duramax cold-weather performance. With microprocessor-controlled glow plugs, the engine requires less than three seconds to preheat in temperatures as low as minus 29 C. These new ceramic glow plugs adjust current to each plug based on the outside temperature. This new engine continues to be coupled to the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission, which has a stellar reputation.

This mechanical update to the Duramax now officially starts it building sales into its second generation. The original Duramax sold over two million units since its 2001 introduction.

So that covers power, but moving loads safely requires all the truck’s systems to work together “smartly.” GM’s HD trucks get a number of system upgrades this year to build on the trend it started in 2015. A new digital steering assist improves road handling. A new tire-pressure monitor system now includes a tire-fill alert. All full driver-alert packages include lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, safety-alert seat and front and rear park-assist. GM’s longtime StabiliTrak stability control system has been updated to include rollover-mitigation technology, a tie-in to the trailer-sway control and hill-start assist. Visual help is found in the Chevrolet MyLink with an eight-inch-diagonal touchscreen. Of particular interest is the camera system that broadcasts on a centre-mounted touchscreen (now standard on all models with a cargo box). It shows reversing images that make hooking-up easy, whether it’s to the bumper hitch or the in-bed fifth wheel.

 These are the types of driver-assist systems I see coming into the mainstream. They will help prevent collisions and, in general, make the operator’s job that much easier. That is the future. The OEM’s have built a generation of highly competent HD trucks, load-wise. Now they have to help make them easier to drive and safer in general. From what I saw in Iowa, GM is well on its way to this goal.

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