Chevrolet is building out its commercial-truck business with three new medium-duty Silverados, the company’s first Class 4, 5, and 6 chassis cabs. The 4500HD, 5500HD, and 6500HD broke cover at the Work Truck Show organized by the National Truck Equipment Association in Indianapolis this week. The chassis-cab trucks will offer Duramax diesel power, optional air springs, and straight one-piece frame rails, among other features intended to lure fleet buyers away from the competition.
Expanding on its current heavy-duty-pickup lineup of the Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD, General Motors aims to match and overtake its rivals in the market for this type of chassis-cab unit. Chevrolet had previously announced it would be showing the 4500 and 5500 but surprised the crowd with the addition of the 6500. In contrast to the “heavy duty” pickups, these are “medium duty” in industry parlance, distinguishing them from the heavy Class 7 and 8 trucks that typically require a commercial driver’s license to operate—think box truck rather than semi. Chevy says its new Silverados will appeal to fleet operators by being more easily customizable than many competitors, and to drivers by offering a more refined driving experience.
Both rear- and four-wheel drive will be offered on the new Silverados. All models get power from a 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 diesel engine that makes 350 horsepower and 700 lb-ft of torque, along with an Allison six-speed automatic transmission that has a power-takeoff option.
The biggest selling point of the new trucks is their frame setup. Unlike some competitors, the new Silverado uses straight single-piece frame rails, which are painted at the factory to help fend off rust and have fuel lines routed within them for tidier packaging. Even rivets and brackets have been moved off the top of the rails to ensure a clean, smooth surface for upfitting configurations.
Chevrolet will offer seven cab-to-axle-length options from 60 to 162 inches. It also has five lengths, in eight-inch increments, from the axle to the back of the frame. This wide variety should make it easier to couple multiple types of rear cargo setups without the need for additional supports or fitments.
A second but equally important goal in developing these new Silverados was a comfortable driving experience. Chevrolet will offer factory-installed rear air springs, in addition to the beefy leaf springs, for a suppler ride, and the inset doors have been triple sealed to reduce noise in the cab. Additional feature points include a lightweight clamshell hood and front wheels that turn as much as 50 degrees to shrink the truck’s turning circle. These attributes also ease access for service. Modern amenities include an available 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, inductive cellphone charging, and OnStar connectivty.
Chevrolet intends to offer the trucks at more than 400 of its dealerships focused on the commercial market. Orders for the new trucks open this spring, and production will begin in late 2018. More details about payload, towing, and pricing will be available closer to launch. Here’s hoping that Chevy fits a conventional pickup bed to one, resurrecting the Kodiak nameplate, and that a GMC drops with Topkick on the tailgate.