2010 Chicago Auto Show: 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty First Look, Part 1

2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty First Look

Our first look at the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty pickup is so large that we've split it up into two parts to make it easier to find the information and material you want to read first.

Part 1: Introduction, Frame, Suspension and Axle Changes
Part 2: Duramax Diesel, Allison Transmission, Safety Improvements and New Models


It's been only three years since General Motors updated its heavy duty pickups, but in that time the company has been permanently changed by bankruptcy, organizational turmoil and dramatic changes in the consumer and political landscapes. Is the new 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD strong enough to improve GM's fortunes? Will it beat new and improved competition from rivals Ram and Ford?

Who could have predicted in early 2007 — when the 2007 model year HD pickups went on sale — that GM's strength in big trucks masked giant weaknesses in its balance sheet and vehicle lineup that would financially unravel the company in 2009? GM wasn't ready for a spike in fuel prices and the end of the housing boom that became one-two punches that led to plummeting auto sales and the company declaring bankruptcy.

Last year the U.S. and Canadian governments finally stepped in to rescue GM by providing billions of dollars in loans while taxpayers in both countries grudgingly became owners of more than 70 percent of the company.

Today, GM has a fresh start to remake itself into a smaller, nimbler and greener company. The emphasis since bankruptcy — and since the Obama administration introduced tough, new fuel economy standards that take effect between now and 2016 — has been on smaller passenger cars like the Chevrolet Cruze, crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox and alternative-fuel vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt. Not even the all-new Chevrolet Camaro muscle car has escaped downsizing. Over the long term, GM expects to sell more Camaros equipped with direct-injection V-6 engines than traditional V-8s.

"Some have asked the question, ’Are we still serious about trucks?’" said Rick Scheidt, executive director of product marketing, Chevrolet full and mid-size trucks. "The answer is a resounding yes."

And now the latest GM full-size truck is almost here. The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD might not look all that different from the outgoing model on the outside — much like its parent company might not look significantly changed to a casual observer — but underneath, almost everything has changed.



The traditional Chevy power dome hood is back with the strongest styling we've seen since 2003. The chrome-framed grille has a larger bow tie and, as we noted in earlier spy shots, the front bumper has been revised. Huge metal flares at the corners of the front bumper (unpopular with 2007-10 Chevy HD owners) have been softened by reducing their height. Also, the inlet in the middle of the front bumper that feeds air to the truck's transmission oil cooler is about a third larger than the current inlet.

Jim Mikulec, GM's lead development engineer for full-size trucks, has worked on the last four generations of GM's big pickups. He said almost all of the front-end styling changes are related to the truck's greatly improved towing and hauling capabilities.

"The larger inlet in the front bumper is primarily for better cooling," Mikulec said. "We knew where we needed to improve the airflow. We've got larger heat exchangers up front in the new truck. We've got a new hood because the radiator comes up higher. From my perspective, I wanted a huge grille with lots of cross-sectional area for airflow, but the styling folks came in and that’s why we went with the larger opening on the bumper."

Also new for 2011 is a welcome choice of 17-inch standard or brand-new 18-inch or 20-inch wheels for single rear-wheel trucks. The dual rear-wheel tires remain 17s, but they now can accommodate a taller aspect ratio tire -- up to LT235/80R17 from today's LT225/75R17, something many GM HD buyers have been asking for.

"The first [dually] that came into the garage with the new tires, the techs took a look and said it’s about time you put a larger tire on the trucks," Mikulec said.

Unfortunately, the bolt pattern on the new wheels is slightly different from the 2007-10 trucks, so you can’t retrofit the new wheels onto the current pickups. The eight-lug count remains the same.

Frame Changes and Towing and Hauling Improvements

2011 Silverado HD Frame

What's changed underneath? A better question is what hasn't? The front stabilizer bar link that connects the stabilizer bar to the lower control arm is carried over from the 2007-10 HD pickup. That's it.

To show off the Silverado’s new ladder frame, suspension and axles, GM helpfully provided a rolling chassis alongside the old and new frames to show the differences side by side.

Much of the frame improvements were aimed at giving the 1-ton 3500 Silverado maximum towing and hauling capability in the segment. GM has Ford's once-untouchable specs right in its crosshairs.

Maximum trailering is up to 20,000 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a DRW Duramax diesel and up to 14,500 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a SRW 6.0-liter gas V-8. GM says the towing specs were calculated using SAE's new industry J-2807 trailer towing standard that will eventually be followed by all truck manufacturers.

Maximum payload is up to 6,335 pounds with the DRW 6.0-liter gas V-8 and up to 5,724 pounds with the DRW 6.6-liter Duramax V-8.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Comparison Chart

The frame rails are now fully boxed from front to back like a half-ton, instead of open C-channel, for improved rigidity and torsional stiffness. Most cross members now have rectangular profiles instead of rounded ones. The cross members are also welded instead of riveted to the frame rails, a welcome change that should improve durability.

Jeff Luke, GM's chief engineer for full-size pickups, said the new frame has five times the torsional strength, 92 percent better bending stiffness and 20 percent better beaming stiffness. The front frame bay cradling the engine is 125 percent stiffer than the old frame.

Torsional strength is how much the frame will twist side to side under load. Bending stiffness is how much the frame will bend under load. Beaming stiffness is how much the frame will flex as it's loaded in the center and supported at both ends. The stronger frame is also said to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness, particularly up front. The engine mount brackets have been strengthened, and their positions supporting the engine are optimized so that the bracket attachment points are now set relative to the center of the frame rail instead of offset at an angle, which had caused unwanted engine vibration.

There are a total of 11 different frame assemblies, depending on cab configuration, wheelbase, weight class and whether it's a pickup or a commercial chassis cab.

Suspension and Axle Changes

2011 Chevrolet Silverado Front Suspension
The rolling chassis in this picture (and the following photos) shows off both the old (dull) and new (shiny) frames grafted together.

While some 2011 Silverado HD buyers may be disappointed that GM has kept its trademark torsion bar independent front suspension instead of switching to a solid front axle — which offers better articulation and ground clearance for off-road applications — it's visibly beefier than before because of its larger diameter. It has a canceled Ford F-450 1.5-ton fighter to thank for that strength.

"Originally, when we scoped the program, we were going to make a heavier truck," Mikulec said. "A lot of components were sized for that truck that we have on the 1-ton. However, we never looked at a different front [suspension] setup. We want a common setup for both two- and four-wheel drive."

"Some may ask, ‘Why don't we have a F-450?’" Luke said. "We think we've increased the capabilities of the 3500 to the low end of the 450. And only about 9,000 F-450s were sold last year, so we think we're making the right decision."

In the front suspension, the upper control arm is now made from forged instead of cast steel, for increased strength and weight savings, while the cast-iron lower control arm has been bolstered to handle greater loads. To help improve ride quality, two urethane jounce bumpers instead of one are mounted to the frame to cushion each side of the lower control arm, and there's also a new upper shock mount attachment design as well as all-new shocks.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado Front Suspension

Everything else up front is larger, too. The bolt capacities and diameters have increased from 16 mm to 18 mm. There's also a new steering box with a 16-1 turn ratio and larger front linkage to manage increased front-end loads resulting from the improved front gross axle weight rating, which has jumped from 4,800 pounds to 6,000 pounds.

Regardless of cab, engine or driveline configuration, all Silverado HD pickups can accommodate the biggest snow plows built for HD pickups. In the old truck, the weight of the Duramax diesel and four-wheel-drive system limited the largest snow plows to regular-cab two-wheel-drive models. Only gas trucks could support the big plows. The torsion bar setup is also simpler than its predecessor. There's only one torsion bar cross member now instead of three, for easier packaging. Depending on the front GAWR, there are five different torsion bar rates . Previously, a single torsion bar was used for all models.

The front differential is still 9.25 inches and keeps its aluminum housing, but the half-shafts, wheel bearings and lower ball joint have all been upsized. Internally, the ring and pinion gears have been strengthened.

Like the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 half-ton and 2010 Ram heavy duty pickups, GM has replaced the old rubberlike cab mounts under the C-pillar with a new fluid-filled hydromount that helps reduce beaming and bounce over rough highways.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado Rear Suspension

At the rear, the gross axle weight rating has increased from 8,200 pounds to 9,750 pounds to support the new 6,335-pound maximum payload rating, and the new asymmetric leaf spring packs with 3-inch-wide springs, up from 2.5 inches, to help reduce axle wrap and wheel up in low traction or full power start situations. Compared side by side with the old frame, the rear spring hangers are now extremely well-integrated with the rails instead of looking like they were hung on with a few bolts and rivets. Like the front differential, the size of the rear differential remains unchanged at 10.5 inches or 11.5 inches. The gears and bearings have been strengthened to handle increased power from the new Duramax V-8 diesel.

The final drive ratio won't be numerically smaller than the current truck’s 3.73. A 4.10 rear axle will be optional.

"We kicked around doing something shorter," Mikulec said. "But it's not in the program for now. Our issue is the 11.5-inch axle. We'd have to tool up for something new like a 3.42 axle [which could help improve fuel economy in a trade-off for towing capability]. We're going to continue to kick around the idea because a 3.42 would sure get great mileage."

Finally, a new integral trailer hitch will see its conventional towing capacity rise from 13,000 pounds to up to 16,000 pounds.

"Overall, the truck is about 300 to 400 pounds heavier than what it replaces," Mikulec said. "That's the price of increasing the capacity of the truck. But if you look at our sales today, we don't sell a lot of 1-tons because we don't have the same capacity as other trucks. The numbers prove that out. The critical bit for the program was to substantially increase payload and towing, and that's what we've done.”

Rear Frame Old and New Comparison
The old frame is on the left. The new frame is in the right. You can easily see the new larger cross members and the switch from an open C-channel to a fully-boxed frame at the top of the picture.

6.0-liter Gasoline V-8 Improvements

The 6.0-liter gas V-8 returns for 2011 with improvements that include a stronger 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission hanging off the back and a new camshaft. GM, however, is still silent on what those changes mean for performance.

Last year's power figures for the 6.0-liter were 353 horsepower and 373 pounds-feet of torque.

Part 2: Duramax Diesel, Allison Transmission, Safety Improvements and New Models


what is it with GM designers? holy cow that front bumper looks weird

Its about time they stepped it up a notch. Still the ugliest truck on the road though. The 2011 Superduty will probably have better payload numbers though

Great Article! Mike is there any chance we can get more photos of that frame which compares the 2010 to the 2011 truck?

I like this nose clip and bumper much better than the old version. It looks like Ford and Dodge will have their work cut out for them. GM did their homework. I'm impressed bt the MPG figures.

@Mike: More pics coming Wednesday. Video will be live shortly.

One big step forward. IFS one big step back.

Get a SOLID front axel already.

I got a question: That Mikulec says Ford only sold 9000 F-450's last year. I have the idea that it was 9,000 F-450 pickups. Did he count the chassis-cab models too? Is GM that clueless? Not having 4500 and 5500 commercial models is going to hurt. I guess GM doesn't care. BTW- great scoop Mike.

"One big step forward. IFS one big step back.

Get a SOLID front axel already".

I have the same sentiment.

@Big Bob: They only counted the F-450 pickups with factory pickup boxes. Also, remember the 2011 F-450 pickup has a significantly different frame than the 2010 F-450 pickup. For 2011, its more like a super F-350.

" However, we never looked at a different front [suspension] setup."

What exactly are you looking at?

"While some 2011 Silverado HD buyers may be disappointed".

And their you have it.

Wow what an improvement in durability. Like the front clip and bumper much better, but the hood still looks odd. This truck looks to be stronger than my 2010 3500 Cummins except for the front suspension, not to fond of the IFS. The motor will be stronger than the LMM but the big downside is the use of Urea as it will increase maintenance costs. other than a few things though, this truck Rocks.(GMC is even nicer in the front grill/hood area than the Chevy)

Again they are the leaders,as I said before,when they build a better Truck than my current Chevy,I will buy it,only problem is I do not think my current Chevy will ever wear out.

I'm sick and tired of people talking crap about front suspension, GET OVER IT! if thats the only thing you don't like about the truck? replace it with solid axle. I personally like the IFS especially when it'll be much tougher. I think that 3 different torsion bars is great idea since people use their trucks for different needs. Sounds like 2011 GM HD's really impoved and i'm really excited about them. Good Job GM!!


I dont care what GM does too their front end until they put a king pin DANA 60 in their trucks then maybe they can compete with ford

one more thing, that's why Ford will always out sell GM trucks because the ford SD from the F250-450 & Dodge 2500-4500 has a solid axle IFS belongs in half ton trucks......GM why to you think Ford & Dodge have SFA in their trucks because those are REAL HD trucks

Well, I was really hoping for the abandonment of the torsion bar front suspension in favor of a coil over front setup, but oh well. I would also like to see an update on the seats as well -- the level of cushioning and comfort was a huge step back from the previous generation.

Does this mean that they will now offer a crew cab short bed 3500 SRW? About time.....

I'm glad to see they are increasing the GVWR to 13K on the DRW and they have added 17" 80's to the wheel lineup. These were the two area's I always hoped they would change and they did. I guess I can live with the IFS.
One issue I now see is that they are mounting the new 36 gallon fuel tank outside of the frame rail ? If that is true, I would not consider buying a GM 2011 3500 DRW.

While I'm not a GM guy i do like the improvments to this new truck. For starters a metal bumper is a must on a pickup and I like the look of this one. Beefier frame, stonger suspension and new motor ought to bring this truck up to date. It will be interesting to see if GM has improved the quality/durablility of its truck and to see if the new duramax will prove to be rugged. Will this truck whup the 2011 Superduty? Time will tell. The only thing that I think GM should have done different is the design of the truck. With such a new and improved vehicle a total redesign would have been the best thing to do. It looks pretty much like the old GM heavy duty truck.

Great finally got rid of the plastic bumper. Now how about some HP and torque specs!

well done GM, I love the new front bumper and the frame improvements sound great. Its also nice to see they are excepting an 11% increase in fuel mileage for the Duramax while increasing power !

Thanks for the story mike, can't wait to see the new Duramax !

We could go out and do a 5000 dollar modification to a new 40K vehicle that may not be done properly and will definitely effect capability and void the warranty OR we could just buy another truck with what we like on it.

Personally I don't think IFS is quite the disability it was 15 years ago even on HD vehicles and its what Chevy has always done since they could horseshoe an A-frame under their trucks in the 70's.

@ Ron Lee thats not the fuel tank on the outside of the frame rail, that is a DEF tank which is 5.3 gallon capacity.

The only reason why anyone would like the SFA is that it's supposably more durable while heavy using the truck off road constantly, in every other category more people prefer IFS. This is a new and tougher set up so give it a chance before making yourself look stupid. Humvee's have a great off-road capabilities and really tough suspension, guess what? it has IFS and IRS.


Can't wait for the New Silverado Heavy Duty to get here. No doubt GM will have a more competitive truck in the Heavy Duty segment with Ford and Dodge. I also am looking forward to the pickuptruck.com shootout this summer. Should be fun.

Later today General Motors will be revealing the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD truck lineup at the Chicago Auto Show. The main story with the new workhorses is that they will be sporting an all-new, mostly boxed, frame. While the current HD trucks look like the GMT-900 based half ton trucks, they are still using the frame from the older GMT-800 HD trucks. That ends for 2011, as this is the GMT-900 HD frame.

Design wise the new HD trucks look very much like the current HD trucks. The most notable changes are the larger grill and revised chrome bumper. The new trucks are wider and are built upon a longer wheelbase than the previous HD trucks.

Silverado HD’s new frame is 92% stiffer than the previous one, with most of the side rails now being fully boxed. The front frame structure is 125% stiffer, largely thanks to new hydroformed sections. All new, larger front and rear suspension setups round out the new frame.

Combined with the new frame are two heavily revised engine options. The 6.0L Small Block V8 is the base engine on the 2500HD and it has seen extensive improvements to add low-end power and improved fuel efficiency. The HD’s workhorse, the 6.6L Duramax diesel has seen the majority of the engine improvements. The diesel is sporting an all-new particle filter system that allows for a 700-mile range between filter regenerations, a segment best according to GM. Additionally the 6.6L has an all-new piston design, revised oil circuit in the turbocharger, increased oil pump flow and other revisions. GM has not announced power ratings for either engine, however GM claims both engines will see power boosts.

HD’s equipped with the 6.0L will use GM’s Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic, which has also seen upgrades for 2011. Trucks utilizing the Duramax will feature the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission with numerous upgrades for 2011.

GM is claiming that the 2011 changes are going to bring the Silverado HD several segment bests. Among the bests; best fifth wheel towing capacity (20,000 lbs), best conventional towing capacity (16,000 lbs), best payload capability (6,335 lbs) and best gross vehicle weight ratings (13,000 lbs).

2011 is also bringing the HD trucks several technology enhancements. Among them are; available mobile WiFi, OnStar 9.0, XM NavTraffic, USB connectivity, Bluetooth and navigation system.

The 2011 Silverado HD will launch this summer.


How can you tease us with news about the 2WD RCSB-HD and not even share a picture?

Any idea when photos will be available?

"But if you look at our sales today, we don't sell a lot of 1-tons because we don't have the same capacity as other trucks. The numbers prove that out. The critical bit for the program was to substantially increase payload and towing, and that's what we've done." - GM

They tried to catch up to the 2010 trucks. But have they caught up to the new 2011 trucks from Ford?

So, I guess it is safe to say GM is pretty much out of the commercial truck business completely now? The box frame was a mistake Dodge made on the previous Ram HD. They found out that aside from maybe a light utility body, no aftermarket bodies could be mounted to the boxed frame. No tow trucks, no roll-backs, no dumps. Dodge later came out with a C-channel chassis-cab HD Ram to correct the problem.

@Ron Lee - isn't that the DEF tank?
Why do guys dislike the torsion arm front end? People I know with Chevs don't have any complaints.

I wonder how many of you actually own a GM IFS pickup. I got my LMM and it works wonders in the oil field and mining application (where I use work). I see fords in the same environment and they too have weak components and fail. I go everywhere they go and I can still be comfortable. Great Job to GM for listening to their customers and continue to build the truck that we want!!!!

"I wonder how many of you actually own a GM IFS pickup".

The fleet I work with avoid's it like a Plague

I can't wait to see this truck in person. It looks like GM has done a great job of listening to their customers and building what they want. I am especially glad to see the larger fuel tank and the exhaust brake.

I cannot stand all the people that get on here and constantly complain about IFS on GM trucks. Have any of you ever seen the Osh Kosh IFS suspension used on military and fire fighting vehicles. Some of those vehicles have weight ratings up to 80,000lbs GVWR and it is IFS.

I have never had an issue nor do I know anyone who has had an issue with this. No I do not use a snow plow, and no I am not going to lift my truck 12+ inches and put 40 inch tires on it.

If you like Ford's solid axle so much, then how about you buy the Ford. However, I will put my money on a diesel engine I can trust.

There are plenty on this blog who work in adverse areas. We use Superdutys in the oil and NG fields in Texas and they work just fine if not better than anything else out there. Always have always, will few problems over these past few decades. Our work conditions do not compare with say Alberta Canada or Barrow Alaska and guess what...plenty of Superdutys up there too.

@frank. Solid axle came first=ancient

@Danny. Where does it say that they wanted to catch up to 2010? Take few reading lessons and read it again and you'll find out that they wanted and as for now set the new bench mark, of coarse 2011 ford results may change that.

@frank. Solid axle came first=ancient

I was referring to GM's design.

"If you like Ford's solid axle so much, then how about you buy the Ford. However, I will put my money on a diesel engine I can trust".

Good for you.

Is GM going to continue to use that worthless wax coating on the frame, or are they going to paint the frame like Ford and Dodge? BTW- I have owned several GM trucks with IFS. My next truck will likely be an F-350 with the 6.2L Boss engine.

@Danny. Where does it say that they wanted to catch up to 2010?

The guy from GM said they did not have the capabilities of the other trucks and now think they increased the capabilities to the low end of the 450 which means 2010 because the 2011 isn't out yet.

u need 2 change the body on the new silerados i love chevy but the body aint that great i like the 2000 and the 2001 look
but chevy is #1 always

Max towing of the 2010 F-450 24,600. Max towing of the 2011 Silverado is 20,000 But the 2011 Silverado does beat the 2010 F-450 in max payload by 155 lbs. Let's see how they do against the 2011 because comparing a 2010 model to a 2011 is meaningless.

@ Danny

Isn't the F450 considered a medium duty? So why would you compare an F450 to a Chevy 3500? Isn't that meaningless?

I don't understand why its "solid front axle" or nothing for some people. Is it really that big of difference?


Id rather have IFS then an unreliable diesel engine that Ford has been putting under its hood for 5-6 years.

Do some research. The F-450 is a Super Duty and the same as any heavy duty trucks from Ram and Chevy. Medium duty trucks are those big 650 and 750 which we are not talking about. This is why the GM was using the 450 for a comparison. It appears the numbers I quoted were for a 5th wheel so I don't how the two compare. I'll check back after we get the numbers from Ford because trying to compare a 2011 to a 2010 when the 2010 is being remodeled is not a good comparison. Good bye.

See right here. The 450 is a regular heavy duty truck:

Here is a medium duty:

Now that we know the difference, this will be my last post.

Danny. My point is that GM beat the current 1 tons on the market today with 2011 model. Towing capacity is 1200 more then 2010 superduty. Yes GM made it as capable as low end f450, that's basically saying "our 1 ton truck is as capable as your 1.5 ton truck"

Danny the Ford medium duty is a rebadged International.
Sierra is a rebadged Silverado. Ram is a rebadged Dodge.
I'm confused, what was my point anyway?

I don't see what the big deal is about Chevy still using an IFS on their HD trucks. Hell, Dodge (sorry, the Ram) uses an IFS on their 2WD HD trucks.

To be fair, both Ford and GM use the same black wax coating on their frames. I know because I work on the supplier side in the auto industry. Honestly, my biggest gripe about the 07-10 GM trucks was that Hideous front bumper. Those plastic (fake chromed) end caps and that goofy looking grille was frightening. They can't change the entire truck sheet metal design this time around so they fixed the main objections at hand. Kudos to GM! The grille and bumper look great and I hope they do this to their 1500 series trucks also because they still look tacky.

The frame is great. However, does it still hang down underneath the truck? Those things get rusty and look terrible after awhile not to mention how terrible it is for ground clearance. If you ever saw a GM truck get hung up in deep snow you'd know what I'm talking about. Those low frames are Bad News. I'll also join the ones who are truly disappointed in the torsion bar set up. Get with the program GM.... Heavy Duty trucks use Heavy Duty axles. No Solid Front Axle is a deal breaker for many.

All in all I'm very pleased with the looks and the beefier- more durable frame/components. Get a real suspension under there and tuck the frame under the body and GM would have a winner. Without those two things though, they will get crushed in sales by Ford and Ram.

I personally love the looks of the 2011 Heavy Duty Silverado.
I have always said beauty is in the eye of the beholder or beer holder. I think once people see this truck in person with the bigger wheels and tires they like the looks alot.

We have so many critics on this board that must feel threatened by the new Silverado they have to try and pick it apart. I bet GM will gain market share with their much improved Heavy Duty truck. I can't wait to find out who makes the most powerful diesel engine with the most horsepower and torque. My money is on the Duramax!

Ford gave up on the wax frame coating on the Super Duty in 2008. Maybe the F-150 still uses it. The problem is that stuff only lasts a couple of years. Also, anyone know the material thickness of the new GM HD frame? I have always been impressed with the thickness of the Super Duty frame rails.

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