My colleague Alvin Reyes wrote an excellent, in-depth article on the 2020 Silverado HD in the summer of 2019. At that time, the max towing capacity was 35,500 lbs. for the Silverado HD when properly equipped. This represented – believe it or not – a whopping 52 percent increase in max towing capacity versus a 2019 Silverado. Talk about a significant jump!
Now, Chevy has tipped the scales again, even if ever so slightly this time around. As of this writing, the 2021 Chevy Silverado HD has a max towing capacity of 36,000 lbs. when properly equipped. For the sake of conversion, that’s 18 tons. So you can tow a bus with the 2021 Chevy Silverado HD. You know, just in case.
2021 Chevy Silverado HD: How It Tows So Much
It’s a three-tier system with the Silverado HD, the first tier being the truck’s architecture and structural components. The hydroformed high-tensile-strength steel, which serves as the fabric for the ladder-style frame, lends itself to a greater degree of torsional rigidity. This is done intentionally by the Silverado’s engineering team, and their marketing colleagues are keen to point out the advantages. In other words, unless it’s an ice cream cone, Chevy would prefer not to twist.
Having a more rigid platform that is twist-resistant, according to Chevy, is ideal for hauling heavy payloads, especially on uneven terrain. When properly configured, a 2021 Chevy Silverado HD will provide a GCWR in excess of 43,000 lbs.
Second Tier: Duramax Turbo-Diesel
The Duramax (or the “Dirty Max” as it’s sometimes affectionately referred to) is the Silverado HD’s beating heart. The 6.6-liter diesel engine spits out 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft. of torque and is complete with a cast-iron block, induction-hardened cylinder walls, five nodular iron main bearings, cross-bolted (four-bolt) main caps, and common-rail direct fuel injection. In 2017, significant upgrades were made to the rotating assembly and piston-cooling oil jets (the output spay was effectively doubled to lower engine temperatures).
The spec sheet on the Duramax is impressive, but the allure here is probably the diesel engine’s resume as a whole. Loyal Chevy fans adore the Duramax for its long and uninterrupted history. Whereas Ford did a few diesel engine swaps over the last 15 years (6.0, 6.4, 6.7), the Duramax has been living under the hood of the Silverado HD for the better part of two decades.
Third Tier: Allison Transmission
Married to the Duramax is an Allison 10-speed automatic (10L1000) transmission with a 3.42 final drive ratio. The first gear ratio of the Allision 10-speed automatic is a numerically high 4.54, which helps get the Silverado HD moving from a stop with a heavy payload. Conversely, gear 10 is a modest 0.63 to help maximize fuel on the open road.
Like the Duramax, the Allison transmission also has an impressive resume. Chevy fans appreciate the “Oreos and milk” relationship here. When you see the Duramax badge on the side of a Silverado HD, the Allison Transmission logo is right there with it.
New Towing & Safety Features
The 2021 Chevy Silverado (both 1500 and HD models) receive a new suite of advanced towing assist technologies. These items will help when hitching up a trailer and hauling it down the road. Here is what is available for the 2021 Silverado.
Eight cameras are available for a total of 15 different views around the truck. These will be beneficial while maneuvering in tighter areas, especially with a trailer.
Trailer Length Indicator
Displays a red overlay twice the trailer’s length in the center screen. The feature is designed to prevent a Silverado driver from striking another car while changing lanes with their trailer. The system engages automatically when the turn signal is activated.
Rear Side View Enhancement
Provides a split view of the left and right sides of the truck and trailer, based on the trailer’s angle. This view can be seen either driving forward or in reverse, which will help when maneuvering a trailer in closer quarters.
Monitors the position of the trailer and displays an alert if the front of the trailer suddenly moves toward the bed of the truck. The Jack-Knife Alert system is a complement to other features like the built-in trailer brakes, diesel exhaust brake, and trailer sway control.
The 2021 Chevy Silverado HD will have four special editions. Here is a brief overview of each.
Carhartt Special Edition
One of the more popular Silverado special editions in recent years, the Carhartt returns for 2021. All Carhartt Special Edition trucks include unique pinstriping, special badging on the doors and tailgate, soft tonneau cover with the Carhartt logo, 20-inch wheels, and all-terrain tires. Once inside, drivers are treated to a two-tone Jet Black and Carhartt Brown color combo for the leather seats.
The Carhartt Edition is an LTZ (in terms of trim level) and offered exclusively in Mosaic Black Metallic. Even though it’s meant to, it seems wrong to get a truck like this dirty.
Like the Carhartt, the Midnight Edition Sliverado has turned heads since its introduction in 2015 at the Chicago Auto Show. And like the Carhartt, it seems like it would be a shame to get a Midnight Edition Silverado dirty. Nevertheless, it comes with 18-inch aluminum wheels with aggressive mud-terrain tires. 20-inch wheels are available.
Midnight Editions are available on LT and LTZ trim levels.
Z71 Sport Edition
Like the Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, the Z71 Sport Edition is Blue on Black. Northsky Blue to be exact. Available on LT and LTZ, Z71 Sport Edition drivers can pick between 18-inch wheels and mud-terrain tires, or 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. Black accents include the Silverado badging, mirror caps, hood vent, and even the skid plate.
If the blue ain’t your thing, the Z71 Sport Edition is also available in Red Hot and Summit White.
Z71 Chrome Sport Edition
Flashy and fancy, this special edition lathers on the chrome. The door handles, grille insert, side steps, skid plate, and Silverado badging are all chromed out. Available in just two colors, Summit White and Black, the Z71 Chrome Sport Edition rides on 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with Grazen metallic accents (LT trim), or 20-inch polished aluminum wheels (LTZ trim).
One Final Point of Clarification
As stated earlier, the max towing capacity of a 2021 Chevy Silverado HD is 36,000 lbs. It should be noted, however, the new Silverado HD can only tow this amount as a 3500 Regular Cab Work Truck. Said truck must have dual-rear-wheels and be a two-wheel-drive configuration. Buyers must opt for the 6.6-liter Duramax and 10-speed Allison transmission with the Max Tow Package. The 36,000 lbs. figure applies to 5th wheel and gooseneck towing, notconventional towing (this same truck will conventionally tow 20,000 lbs.).
While these high figures are something else, it’s wise to still be cautious. Even though manufacturers claim it’s possible (Ram and Ford do it too), don’t be tempted. Towing heavy alters your steering and braking and pushing your truck too close to capacity may compromise your safety. It’s one thing to tow a boatload of weight in a straight line, but it’s another to keep it under control driving through a city or over the mountains.
The average Crew Cab Silverado HD (or Ram 3500 or Ford F-350 for that matter) cannot handle the max towing numbers that are floated through the media and promoted by the automaker’s marketing department. For example, the 2021 Chevy Siverado 3500 HD Crew Cab 4×4, in a single-rear-wheel and standard bed configuration, tows a max of 21,300 lbs. from inside the box (or rather 5th wheel/gooseneck). It’s slightly lower yet (21,040 lbs.) if buyers opt for the long bed.
That’s a far cry from 36,000 lbs.
To make a long story short, always do your research before buying a truck, especially if you plan to tow a trailer. Trucks these days have so many different packages and combinations that it can be hard to keep them all straight. Assume that if you are opting for a crew cab 4×4, your towing capacity will be less than an extended or regular cab with two-wheel drive. While max towing and payload numbers promoted by each automaker are incredible, always read the fine print.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.