When I was a small kid, I thought and believed that only two types of vehicles should always be bright red, those of course being sports cars and fire engines. Over the time that has passed since though, it seems that less and less of either are painted that color, and clearly there’s a lot of red paint left over with which to paint other things. Such as this truck, which, let’s be frank, stands out all by itself without needing a color named “Red Hot” to draw further attention to it. But there it sat, bright as a supernova, when I opened the garage door to find it there one morning last week after the “no-touch” delivery service had dropped it off.
There’s no beating around the bush here, this truck is large. With a bluff front end and square-angled sheetmetal down the sides and around the back it’s displacing many cubic yards of atmosphere that would be easy to actually calculate with only a very big straightedge ruler. It was way too cold out for that though, so instead I clambered up into the cab to see if the interior was a little more subdued and find out how well the heater worked.
Before we get more in depth with all of that, just like the competition labeled RAM and Ford, GM with its Chevrolet and GMC fraternal twins obviously sells pickup trucks in all sizes. However they shine a special focus on the largest ones whose segment the foreign half-(ton)-hearted entrants dare not fully tread on as of yet.
For normal folk such as most us to drive with a standard license, there are the 3/4 ton as well as 1-ton models, commonly denoted as starting with a 2 and a 3 in their respective makers’ numeric designation or known as the Heavy Duty versions. In this case, it’s a 2500 model, thus a 3/4 ton version – as with every brand, these share a body with the 1-ton version while the smaller half-ton looks similar at first glance, but is actually quite different.
While half-ton trucks are commonly offered in crew cab form with either a short or medium bed (and sometimes only short), the heavier trucks start with the medium-length bed and then also offer a larger, usually 8-foot or slightly longer, option. In this case we actually have the smaller version of the two, so this is the largest cab with the smallest bed on offer in the line, in this case just over 6.75 feet long.
The majority of 3/4 ton trucks are sold to those whose professions require them to tow or haul moderately large and/or heavy loads, but there is also a large segment of the buying population that prefers to be able to do double duty with their truck, i.e. use it for work and play.
In the form that this one is, it’s likely targeted to that type of consumer, as it has a number of cosmetic and convenience features that certainly no business owner would pay to provide in an employee-driven vehicle, while still having a GVWR rating over 10,650lbs as well as sporting a gooseneck and fifth wheel prep package in the bed.
Equipped this way, it’s able to tow almost any configuration of work-related trailer within its weight limits, but also capable of easily and securely handling the typical owner’s camping trailer or toy-hauler, boat, etc. during the off-duty hours (or weekends or weeks).
Of the three main competitors in the segment, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that GM’s offerings this time around are the most controversial from a design standpoint and that the Chevy version bears the brunt of the not always flattering commentary. It wasn’t very long ago that it was somewhat difficult to tell their HD models from the regular ones, the pendulum has swung the other way this time around. It’s certainly bold and expressive.
While the front end really isn’t any more bluff than that of the Ford and not much more than the RAM, it somehow has been sculpted to look more aggressive. The cab upper section seems lower to boot, and not as upright. In a purely commercial setting, most would (or should) not care, after all, the vehicle that does the job the best and offers the most return on investment gets the nod.
In the personal arena, that calculus changes a little bit and looks do matter to a greater extent. Purely anecdotally and while trying to parse actual model years to keep it accurate, I believe I see less current Chevy HD’s than I do of the competition, especially in colors other than white, the overwhelmingly default fleet color, although plenty of private owners opt for that hue as well.
There are things to like about the exterior though. Beyond the front, there is actual design going on in the body with powerfully sculpted fenders for example. From a purely functional perspective, the frankly brilliant integrated steps in not just the rear bumper but also in the sides of the bed nearest the cab are things that cost virtually nothing, take up no space, add no weight, and have no moving parts to wear or break and completely speak to the mission of a truck.
The only thing keeping the others from doing the same is their pride, neither the swing-down steps of one nor the integrated in the tailgate option of the other are anywhere near as good solutions to the self-imposed issue of the high bedsides – which are probably a result of demand to be able to carry greater volume due to the greater weight capacity over the old days. There’s no point in being able to carry over 3000 pounds of gravel or blocks in the bed if it won’t actually fit in the bed.
Chevy would tell you that their tailgate that not only lowers via a motor but also raises back up with one is another plus point. I was initially a little on the fence about that one, although when I lowered it to take a picture in the wild I realized it would absolve me from having to touch the filthy handle or edge with my hand to raise it again, trucks aren’t always spotless. I first saw this feature demonstrated at an auto show a couple of years ago (remember those?), and when I asked the attendant what would happen if a little kid stuck their hand or finger in the aperture, he responded that it “should” stop moving. Little kids aren’t allowed in the oil patch or on the job site, so no worries there.
No, I didn’t actually test it myself either. It can be lifted by hand though if one is so inclined as one might be after hauling gravel or similar where softly raising it to feel if everything is out of the mechanism is a wise idea.
One oddity on this particular truck that it took me a few days to notice is the badging. Somehow only one side of the truck has the 2500 HD badging on the door; it is supposed to be on both sides. Whether that’s a factory error or if the truck was a victim of something else (over 4,000 miles were accumulated by others before I got it) we’ll likely never know, I asked but did not get a response by press time; I will update if I ever do.
The cab looks sort of like a low affair that is perched atop a tall body, but after entering it there is plenty of head room. This one did not have any kind of roof opening whatsoever and it seemed that I could happily wear a ten-gallon hat and be fine in that respect.
The front pillars are slanted fairly aggressively and as a result are quite near one’s face and serve to create a rather large blind spot facing forward, enough to hide a person crossing the road or even a car turning in at times. Doing a little bob and weave of the head is advised when stationary and looking to move out.
Seats, as in virtually every large truck, are roomy, comfortable and able to accommodate a variety of seating positions. Covered in black leather, these here were heated and ventilated and the set in back had heaters as well. GM does something different than almost everyone else in regard to heated seats (in front at least), there is a button to heat the back and bottom together, and then another button to heat the back only if that’s desired.
This is a nice feature, great on a long trip when the heat can be used to soothe, not just to warm. For those interested, no, you can’t just heat the booty. But what you CAN do is make use of the Safety Alert Seat that is part of the Safety Package II option that instead of beeping or flashing a warning when something may be about to occur, vibrates the seat bottom in the area/direction of the danger.
So if you veer close or over the line at the right of the traffic lane, you feel it deep in the right buttock. Back up too closely to a wall and your entire rear will tell you, and so on. It, ahem, gets your attention with the bonus that your passengers aren’t aware of your foible as they might be with a loud warning tone.
The current interiors in GM trucks have, like the exterior, come in for their share of criticism and reportedly may be getting upgraded soon. First off though, let’s be real and recognize it’s still FAR better than any truck was a decade ago. Problem is, the other trucks have also gotten better and surpassed it. RAM still holds the lead by quite a bit in this arena with materials and designs that are in a different league.
Ford is more similar to GM as far as plastics and switchgear go, i.e. they aren’t really much better in an absolute sense, however the more square design of the Ford interior is perhaps a bit more pleasant or harmonious with the exterior than the more organically shaped theme in the Chevy.
Most of the materials above the beltline are actually soft with a few hard areas sprinkled in for small pieces, the problem occurs when it’s obvious due to the sheen of the plastic or the grain being slightly off from one trim piece to another. For a work truck, this is far softer than it absolutely needs to be, for a personal truck, a revamp should be in the works.
A few generations ago, GM made a point of actually having two interiors for some of their truck lines, one tough and durable and very plasticky, and the other much more elegant. Perhaps that would be advisable again, what’s here now is a middle ground not great for either.
Functionally though, it mostly works well. The center touch screen measures a mere 8″, which is tiny these days, especially in a large cab such as this. Radio and HVAC controls are intuitive, this truck did not have Navigation built in, but did have the option of OnStar guidance to a destination (which I did not take advantage of).
Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto were wireless (the future is now!) which instead took care of the navigation duties I required. Tapping the “home” button below the screen got it back out of that mode visually.
Various camera views are included/available including for the rear, of course there is the standard backup mode, but it is also possible to view the trailer hitch (very useful when hitching up solo), you could also see into the bed from the top of the cab and there is an option to get an optional extra camera package to affix to a trailer in order to “see around” it amongst other things.
The shifter is a column shifter and while the seats and steering wheel are leather covered (and both are heated), the shifter is a lower grade piece of plastic. At the very least it should have a covering, it feels cheap although it works great, will never wear, and frees up room on the console without having to spend engineering time and money on things such as folding levers that just seem like a failure point waiting for a 44-ounce soda spill.
The steering wheel, even in full upright tilt position, ended up blocking about 60% of the four auxiliary gauges when I was sitting normally which is unfortunate. We all know I’m 6’1″ tall with a 32″ inseam, so hardly freakishly sized, but this doesn’t bode well for anyone taller with an inseam proportionally longer, they’ll fit fine, but won’t see what’s going on any better. The above picture was taken from my chest height with the wheel in the highest position.
The back seat was also plus-sized, with loads of room for multiple occupants, both the two legged kind and perhaps four-legged as well. The seat bottoms fold up against the backrest in a 60/40 manner to allow more floor space to be available.
One neat trick was that there is storage inside the rear seat backs, which is a little hilarious as there are few vehicles with this much interior space. But, storage is storage, and the more the better.
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