2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD First Drive

Reaction to Chevy's redesigned half-ton Silverado has been muted at best. Though certainly more than capable, the new 1500 just doesn't go far enough to fully compete against its Ram and Ford competitors. The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD models are an inherently different story, however, as they are intended for inherently different purposes.

Many folks buy a 1500 simply because they want a truck — for style or because they occasionally could use one. By contrast, buyers of heavy-duty models need a truck. According to Chevrolet, 90% of HD buyers use it for trailering.

And by "trailering" we don't mean a dirt bike or a small bass boat. We're talking big things, such as one of the roughly 100,000 fifth-wheel RV trailers that were sold in the United States last year. In fact, 2018 was the third-largest sales year for RVs in general, pointing to their increased popularity and therefore the increased importance of heavy-duty trucks like the Silverado 2500 and 3500.

This difference in use can be seen in the sales mix of Silverado models. If you were to plot it on a graph, the 1500's sales mix would look like a bell, with the mid-grade LT and RST being the volume sellers. The HD models are the exact opposite, with a graph resembling a bowl. Basically, businesses buy the Work Truck and Custom, whereas recreational buyers go with the range-topping LTZ and High Country. As such, during our first drive of the 2020 Silverado HD, we tested a Custom with the new 6.6-liter gasoline V8 and a High Country in the HD's volume-selling combination: a Crew Cab with the optional diesel engine.

Now, as you've definitely noticed, every version of the 2020 Silverado HD gets all-new styling that's controversial at best, ghastly at worst and different depending on trim. In any event, know that every body panel apart from the roof is now unique to the HD. The interior is pretty much shared, but more on that later, because as we've already noted, it's capability that matters here.

To that end, the 2020 Silverado HD gets an enhanced version of Chevy's boxed rail frame design, which has been beefed up to handle greater loads. It's also been stretched in crew cab models an extra 5.2 inches for greater interior space. There are also larger and more robust front axles, while the prop shaft is 30% larger. The fifth wheel connection can also now be ordered directly from the factory, as opposed to relying on dealers to effectively dismantle the rear end of the truck, attach the fifth-wheel connection to the frame, and cut holes in the bed.

Within the frame is now the diesel DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) tank, relocated from underneath the hood, and now attached to a filler adjacent to the diesel one. An electronic DEF gauge has also been added to the instrument panel. Diesel owners should also appreciate the standard engine block heater and its outlet neatly integrated into the lower left bumper. You won't see a 2020 Silverado HD with a plug hanging out of the grille.

The Silverado is also the first heavy-duty truck to offer an automatic mode for 4x4 models — much like an all-wheel drive system, it'll send power to the front axle when the system detects rear wheel slippage. We found it works exactly as advertised.