I hate to admit it, but I’ve grown quite comfortable behind the wheel of a bigger truck. There’s something undeniably attractive about hauling yourself into a seat that towers over the other mere mortals on the road, something delicious about controlling a large beast with your own two hands. And if that’s something that also tickles your fancy, you’ll have to take a look at the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax.
(Full disclosure: Stellantis let me borrow the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax LTZ for a week in exchange for a review at A Girls Guide to Cars. It very kindly let me write a second review for y’all here at Jalopnik.)
What Is It?
The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax is Chevy’s answer to the half-ton diesel pickup truck. It’s a widely-respected machine in the truck world, even though it may not have the same name recognition as the Ford F-150. It’s a capable truck, though it may not win any awards against its competition. But it comes with a huge slew of options at tons of different price points, which is where this truck really shines. You can mix and match features to craft your ideal machine, and that’s what kicks it up a notch.
Specs To Know
- Duramax 3-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine
- 260 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque
- 10-speed automatic transmission
- 4-wheel drive
- 9,700 lb towing capacity
- Around 2,000 lbs payload
- 22 mpg city / 26 highway / 24 combined
- 120v plug in truck bed
- Safety features like teen driver mode, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert, blind spot alert, front and rear parking assist, rear seat reminder
- Heated steering wheel
- Wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay
- Seating for five, but more comfortable for four
- Standard vehicle pricing for LTZ trim: $52,400
- Total price for the vehicle we tested: $59,770
I don’t know how deeply this will resonate with Jalopnik readers, but there was one thing I adored about the Silverado: its storage space. The center console was deep enough for me to store my purse, an upright 26oz Yeti water bottle, and my camera, which was a true godsend. I wish more automakers would consider purse storage, because there’s nothing worse than constantly having your life’s goods outside of arm’s reach and prone to flopping around all over the damn place.
There’s also rear seat back storage. Pull on the tab in the lumbar area of the rear seat, and you’ll find a little pocket perfect for storing cords, gloves, snacks, or whatever other treasures you may want to stow away in your secret stash.
It also drove like a dream for something so large. Yes, you can definitely tell it’s a truly massive vehicle, but its acceleration and stopping power are so smooth and quick that it’s not going to bother you. I’ve driven some older trucks as well as my 1996 Suburban, and there’s a definite hesitation between pressing a pedal and seeing a result in those machines; there wasn’t that on any scale in the Silverado. Obviously you’re not going to get performance car acceleration, but a 0 to 60 time of under eight seconds for a yacht on wheels ain’t half bad.
For most of the week I had the Silverado, it rained something fierce, and in Texas, any amount of rain generally means flooding. On my usual testing route, a few roads were still washed out because they’re almost flush with smaller streams that overflow during wet weather. I didn’t go too crazy, but the Silverado handled six-inch deep water with the ease of an off-roader and made for a delightful addition to my usual drive. And that’s not even with the addition of the dedicated off-road package.
On highways, I felt capable of keeping up with, and even overtaking, traffic. The wider Texas highways provide ample space for bigger trucks to keep up with the 70 mph speed limit with ease, but I would probably feel cramped in a more northern highway or a tighter city street. That is, however, very likely a result of my own perceived driving limits and isn’t any fault of the truck, which I am sure skilled big-vehicle drivers will handle with ease.
The Silverado was also a joy on rural Hill Country highways and gravel roads. It won’t give you the nimble performance of a sports car, but it didn’t take too much brute strength to maneuver. It’s heavier than, say, a Lexus RC F Fuji, but it’s still designed to be as graceful a drive as you can manage in something so large. In fact, its higher ride height and heavier build made for a fairly comfortable drive over some of Texas’s less well-maintained roads that feature jarring pavement-to-gravel transitions and plenty of potholes. The ride won’t always be smooth, but it’ll be assured.
It has around 2,000 pounds payload, and the diesel engine means you have a 9,700 pound towing capacity. That’s going to be enough to haul pretty much everything you need, from a bed loaded with tools to a trailer carrying a boat. Truck bed cameras mean you can keep an eye on everything back there, and there are tons of new technologies designed to make trailering easier, like a jackknife alert which will help prevent the trailer pushing your truck around—something I didn’t have the opportunity to try during my test drive. And the bed itself has an increased volume from previous Silverado editions, so you’ll be able to pack more inside. I just wish there was something like corner step built into the rear bumper available for the cabin.
And the icing on the cake? The Duramax diesel engine wasn’t obnoxiously loud. I’d still turn the truck off to order at a drive-through, but I probably could have gotten away with not doing so.
My biggest qualm with this truck is that it is not short-people-friendly in the slightest. I clock in at 5’3″ on a good day, and while I usually don’t have issues with trucks (most automakers do keep height in mind), I really struggled with the Silverado. There were no running boards, which meant I had to hike myself up with the help of an A-pillar handle. Which is usually fine. But having driven this beast during a wet week, I had a few instances where I struggled to get grip.
My mom, who is a few inches taller than me, also really struggled. I normally chauffeur her around in my press cars, but she wasn’t interested in riding in this one because it was so hard to get in. And even if you’re not short, there are plenty of other ways to struggle. If you have kids that need to be buckled into rear car seats, shorter kids that have aged out of car seats, mobility concerns, or older family members, or if you frequently have a lot of shit in your hands when you’re trying to get into your vehicle, you’ll have a hard time with the Silverado.
When I did get behind the wheel, the fullest seat height still wasn’t enough for me to see the whole head-up display; it was pretty well cut in half, so even a running board wouldn’t solve my short people problems. If you’re a normal-sized human being, I’m sure you’re not going to have any issues with the Silverado. If you are, however, me, you will struggle.
I was also not a big fan of the wireless charging pad placement. It’s a small qualm, but its location was absolutely perfect for catching sunlight and reflecting it back into my eyes—not exactly ideal for anyone living through the beginning of a bright Texas summer.
The overall look of the interior, too, is seriously outdated. It feels like something from the mid-2000s, but with a screen added on. Functionally, everything was great, and I had no issues using anything; it just wasn’t particularly visually pleasing. The cameras, too, are phenomenal.
Its also not as great a value as its direct competitors, like the Ford F-150 or the Ram 1500. The base model Chevy Silverado 1500 starts off the cheapest of its competitors, but as you start to sift through the ranks, you’re going to find better-quality machines that can tow more, do more, go faster, and feel newer. The Silverado benefits from its high customizability, which lets you choose from a whole slew of different engine options, trim levels, packages, suspension kits, and more to create a vehicle that’s in line with your desires—but that cheap-feeling interior and rougher ride kick it down a few notches when you throw it up against the competition.
If you’re in the market for a full-size truck, you can’t go wrong with the 2021 Chevy Silverado Duramax. The engine’s performance is as exceptional as the storage and technology that makes this pickup truck stand out from the crowd—and it even does a lot to mask some of the more disappointingly outdated interior features. If you’re short, you may want to look at a different truck or invest in some running boards. But if you’re someone in the market for a reliable machine with tons of different trim options based on your personal needs, the Silverado will do the trick, and it’ll do it as well as its direct competitors—it just might cost more to get there.