By on November 29, 2010

Styling changes at GM seem to either come either in questionable radical leaps like the Pontiac Aztec, or creep glacially by, and GM’s 2500HD trucks definitely fit into the latter category. Despite being fully redesigned in 2007 as a 2008 model year truck and gaining a “full mid-cycle refresh” for the 2010 model year, the 2500HD is undeniably a GM truck. That means you get basic slab sides, a large square maw and the same sort of styling creases in the sheet metal that everything else from GM wears.

When GM’s PR people dropped the 2500HD off, the first thing I noticed from my window was the incredibly large, incredibly ugly plastic power dome on the hood.  I understand the desire for something unique, but I have to agree with PickupTrucks.com when they say that it appears GM just got “louver envy” and tacked something on that looks more aftermarket than the aftermarket would ever think possible. Aside from the wart on its nose however the rest of the GMC HD is as plain Jane as a Buick, which is to say attractive in a farm-girl kind of way.

Inside the GMC 2500HD you’ll find two different interiors. If you opt for the basic work-truck you get the basic interior; style circa 1995. While the base interior is certainly functional for a work truck, it is at least a decade behind the competition. The acres of questionable black plastic circa the redesign in 2007 have not aged well. While I understand that interior quality is not really the most important item when buying a ¾ ton pickup truck, it would be nice if you didn’t have to spend your day in a plastic penalty box. If you step-up to the SLT trim (our tester was so equipped), GMC swaps the black plastic dash in the 2500HD with the dashboard from the GMT900 series SUVs (Suburban and Yukon). While I appreciate the intention of offering a more car-like dashboard in a heavy duty pickup, I question if a work truck is the right place for acres of awful fake wood? Aside from the never-seen-a-forest veneer, the plastics in our tester were already moderately scuffed after only 2,300 miles of press fleet duty. Make your own longevity conclusion.

On the road the GMC 2500HD yields road manners that are easily second only to the Dodge Ram 2500. For a truck capable of hauling a small house, the GMC drives like a smaller vehicle without any of the harsh “crashy” ride quality that you would assume a high-load capacity truck would bring to the table. Even when loaded up with 3,360lbs of concrete (my favorite load comparison), the road manners of the 2500HD were impeccable. The brakes easily scrubbed away speed, and the 765lb-ft of torque make themselves known when climbing any kind of hill.

Speaking of engines, GM’s V8 diesel is a willing companion for any kind of work. If it weren’t for Ford stealing GM’s thunder with their 800ft-lb torque monster, everyone would still sing GM’s praises. Truth be told the GMC 2500HD scoots to 60 faster with or without a load than the Ford truck. This difference is likely due to the gearing in the Ford and some differences in curb weight. Churning out 397HP and 765ft-lbs of torque, the GM 6.6L V8 sends power to the ground via a 6-speed Allison transmission and this is where the GM disappoints a bit.

The gearing of the Allison transmission’s first gear isn’t as low as Ford’s new 6-speed tranny. This makes the Ford “feel” faster when taking off from stop lights or dealing with stop-and-go traffic. When the accelerometer comes out however it was obvious that the GM truck is still the speed king eeking out a 0.2 second better 0-60 time (8.8 seconds vs 9.0 for the Ford). This area is so subjective that after a back-to-back drive I have to still call this a wash. The GMC is still objectively faster to 60, but the lower first gear of the Ford makes stop-and-go traffic while hauling 13,000lbs far less tiring than the GMC.

If there is one area where GM falls seriously behind even Chrysler, it’s in the electronic gadgets department. While the sounds produced by the top-of-the-line audio system sounded good, they didn’t have the premium feel of the Kicker system Dodge makes available in the RAM. Had it sounded as good I might have been tempted to overlook the lack of decent digital music player connectivity. Yes the GM stereo does let you control your iPod, but attempting to do so will fill you with frustration until you just unplug the damn thing and just browse it manually.

When out on the job payloads and towing capabilities are important but in typical use, the payloads and towing are essentially the same between the F250 and 2500HD depending more upon what tire and option packages the buyer chooses than what brand of truck. When configured more-or-less identically the payload capacity differs by a few hundred pounds, but since most of this is not verified to any specific metric independently, I have to call it a wash. While we’re on the topic of payloads, the days of needing a dually are over for most buyers. There was a time when you needed a 3500 series truck with four tires out back to haul crap but no more, today’s 2500s will carry more than a 3500 could handle a decade ago. Back in 2009 a SRW 3500HD could only haul 2,906lbs and tow 13,000lbs while the dually equipped 3500 DRW could haul 4,042 (about 40% more). In 2011 the GMC 2500HD can haul a whopping 4,192 in its bed when properly equipped. Yowza!

At the end of the week with the 2500HD I decided to drop by my local Ford store to compare the trucks side by side and as a result I must say the 2500HD comes in a close second to the F250, but still second and here’s why: the devil is in the details. Yes the GMC delivers better numbers in many areas, but the difference is small enough that the smaller touches in the F250 swing my personal vote. Ford may not have über-cool exhaust brake option as the Dodge of GMC truck, but Ford offers superior control over the transmission shifts which I found very helpful while hauling heavy loads. In addition the Ford SYNC system makes it easier to focus on your driving instead of your iPod. Adding to the “little touches” list are the 4.2” LCD info center in the Ford’s dash (Dodge has one as well) that is much better at giving the driver feedback than the small electro-fluorescent display GM uses. Ford manages to also put the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) filler in a more sensible location (behind the fuel door rather than under the hood) making filling far more convenient. Finally at nearly $57,000 as equipped the comparable F250 rings in a hair cheaper. While you can’t go wrong buying the GMC Sierra 2500HD for its better performance, if this is a truck you personally have to live with every day there is a better option.

GMC provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.


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46 Comments on “Review: 2011 GMC 2500HD...”


  • avatar
    atvman

    The Silverado/Sierra HD’s paper thin sheet metal and problem prone IFS are big deal breakers for me when it comes to HD trucks.  The Duramax is strong, but the rest of the truck just won’t hold up over time.

  • avatar
    basho

    Ford also has an exhaust brake. http://www.ford.com/trucks/superduty/features/#page=Feature21

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    This site gets better by the day. An in depth character analysis of an egomaniac and a test of a huge truck which manages to describe the road manners when loaded with more than a ton and a half of concrete but also celebrates the speed king because it outruns the competitor by the whole 0.2 seconds.
    Both very interesting sociology lessons.
     

  • avatar
    jimbowski

    Awesome, another HD truck review!  I enjoy reading truck reviews by this site’s writers more than any other website.  Find somebody with a new Cummins powered Ram 2500, hook bumpers, and lets see which side wins.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    ” Ford manages to also put the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) filler in a more sensible location (behind the fuel door rather than under the hood) making filling far more convenient.”
    Won’t be so sensible the first time a confused attendant/customer puts diesel in DEF receptacle. And the DEF needs to be filled roughly once every 4,000 miles. Major advantage to the GMC is the proven Duramax diesel/Allison tranny combo while Ford debuts it’s Powerstroke replacement and “new” (unproven) 6 speed tranny. Think I’ll pass on being a guinea pig.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Not to mention that the Max and Al combo is far better overall than the new PowerChoke.
       
      Max and Al are more efficient, better haulers, better stoppers, etc.  GM was wise…rather than load their trucks up with electronic gimmicks as a way to mask their shortcomings (like Ford did), they spent their money where it counts…Engine, trans, frame, suspension, etc.
       
      And even despite it’s age, the GM interior is nice, refined and elegant while the Super Dooty interior is a functional nightmare.
       
      Ford is having their ass handed to them by the GM HDs…it’s only because Ford whores themselves out to fleets that they retain the best selling trucks award.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Ford’s new box uses the LePelletier gear layout with a Ravigneaux gearset.  Will be interesting to see how this holds up in a serious high torque truck application.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Fortunately that is unlikely since the DEF filler port is considerably smaller than the fuel “port”.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      As stated above, the Diesel Exhaust Fluid port is much smaller than the Diesel Fuel port, and the knobs are quite different, so it would take some doing it confuse them.  The Diesel Fuel nozzle won’t even go into the Diesel Exhaust Fluid port.
       
      If you accidentally put Diesel Exhaust Fluid into the Diesel Fuel tank, the water separator will remove it for you.
       
      As far as reliability goes – so far the new engine and transmission have been pretty much bulletproof.  Ford designed all of this in house, so no more compromises due to Navistar to hold back the designs.  Ford also has the F-450 trim that has capabilities far higher than any current GM HD pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      so no more compromises due to Navistar to hold back the designs.
       
      FORD…not Navistar, was the reason behind the 6.0 having so many issues.
       
      Again, Navistar did not have anywhere NEAR the issues with the 6.0 when built properly and used in their applications.  It’s only when Ford stuck their nose where it didn’t belong (in the design of something) when the problems arose.

    • 0 avatar
      redwood2

      Z71-Silvy: Please get a clue.  At this point you have lost any credibility as an objective car critic.  Every post you’ve ever had on this site has been an emotional and reactionary tantrum against Ford products. The end result is that nothing you say is believable.  I suppose you provide some entertainment value as everyone is laughing at your predictable comments.
      Anyone who has followed politics recently has noticed that those who espouse the most vitriol and bigotry are generally hypocrites.  See eliot spitzer, george rekers, mark foley, ted haggard, etc…
      In that vein, you probably have a Ford Super Duty hidden in the barn that you sneak out to drive at night.
       

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

       Okay…so Silvy is a Ford basher. Post something positive about GM or the UAW. and see the response.

    • 0 avatar
      Kelster

      Don’t foregt the fact that DEF can damage paint if spilled and can also freeze, and that, in fact; ford’s DEF filler necks have iced up, which might make it a smart move to put the DEF filler neck in the engine compartment.

  • avatar
    Paul W

    “While I understand that interior quality is not really the most important item when buying a ¾ ton pickup truck…”
     
    Could somebody please enlighten to what “¾ ton” is referring to? Load capacity?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Long ago in a galaxie far far away, domestic trucks were offered in 3 basic versions: 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton, with the designation reflecting the approximate load-carrying capacity. The designations persist, long after the vehicles in question have bloated far past their nominal categories. A current “half-ton” F-150 dwarfs my “One-Ton” 89 F-350. And my truck was already grown past its rating, having a payload closer to 3000 lbs than 2000. (roughly 2800#, depending on what’s inthe cab and how full hte fule tanks are.)

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    “GMC provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.”

    Maybe it would have accelerated faster with diesel in the tank. 

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Ahhh…the “disclaimer curse” has struck again!

      I used to have an affinity for full-sized pick-up trucks, but now, not so much as they are not practical as a daily driver or even as a second vehicle unless you need one for business reasons. Their size has far outgrown their usefulness for the average Jane or Doe. Having said that, they are awesome vehicles by any standard and by observing how fast many truck owners drive them, the truck’s road manners must insulate their drivers from any sense of speed, not just GM, but all models. Why else would you drive 75 mph in something that large and enjoy maybe 15 mpg or less?

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      The fastest vehicles I see on the highways are recently bought full-size trucks and SUV’s. If I were to drive something so huge I wouldn’t go past the speedlimit weaving in and out of lanes.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Just about to make an offer to a dealer on a leftover 2010 chev 2500 plow truck (6.0 L) but when I saw the comment about a trouble prone IFS I got nervous.  And yes the looks are plain Jane……and crank windows on the WT?  By comparison though, the F250′s are pretty darn expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      I haven’t heard anything about the IFS being a problem but there are design flaws on these trucks if you intend to use them for plowing. Make sure there is more than enough clearance between the hood and the plow frame as the frame has a nasty habit of contacting the hood and making nasty dents. The built in switch for the overhead beacon, if so equipped, has a very tiny indicator light. Depending on your height, the hood bulges might block your vision, making detailed plowing difficult. Same for the tall bed, although with a sander on it’s a moot point. I don’t know about the newest ones but the ’07s and ’08s had paint peeling problems, usually behind the wheel wells.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      but when I saw the comment about a trouble prone IFS I got nervous.
       
      Remember, this site is very anti GM.  If you have concerns about the front suspension on a GM truck, don’t go to an anti-GM site, talk to people who know what they are talking about…go to a shop that installs plows.  They will tell you what to look out for.

    • 0 avatar
      justin2008

      Ok i have had a sierra with 9″ of lift which is the hardest you could possibly be on IFS and everything is holding up great and i couldnt ask for a better truck. Everyone on here if anti-gm or doesnt know what they are talking about because they are just following what the critics say which in my opinion remind me of the american hating brtish guys on the old top gear. Second, mazder says that paint peeling happens behind the wheel wells….wow…that is called orcks chipping the paint from the tires. I know plenty of people that use those trucks for fleet and beat the crap out of them with over 200,000 miles and still runs good with just regular maintenance done to them

  • avatar
    mazder3

    A truck this big needs a power bulge in the hood? Do the people who drive these things have cloacas or what?

    • 0 avatar
      340-4

      I like to think of them as ‘vents.’
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Kelster

      The story I heard was the GMC power bulge was a result of complaints by GMC salespeople about the louvers on the Silverado hoods. They apparently complained that the GMC’s were too plain and should have “something cooler” than the Silverado look. Stupid, I know. But these are salespeople after all.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    The interior reeks of recent generation Chevy Impala.  Gotta love that column shift.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      What other sort of shifter would you propose for an automatic transmission work truck?

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      A column shifter is the proper type of shifter for any automatic equipped vehicle.
      The console mounted ones take up far too much space.

    • 0 avatar
      HankScorpio

      The column shift is perfect for a truck application.  In fact, it should return in most cars for functional reasons.  With paddle shifters on the wheel and a column selector, you free up the wasted area where a console shifter is located.  More places to put your crap, or another passenger.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Great thing about trucks is you can get a 2011 Sierra 2500HD 4X4 Crew with a rubber floor, vinyl seats and crank windows and save $10,000 over an SLT. It’s also not worth getting the $7000 diesel unless you pull a 5th wheel every weekend. The gas 6.0 and a Gear Vendors underdrive set-up can do wonders plus it can be removed easily when traded in. In the day of $28,000 Hyundia Sonatas you can still order a base regular cab (Ford, Dodge, GM) 1/2 ton with a V8 upgrade pushing almost 400HP and a limited slip 3.73 and get around 20 MPG HWY for well under $25,000.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    Finally at nearly $57,000 as equipped

    For a work truck?  0-60 under 9sec, 400hp, faux wood, wtf!
     
    What about 30.000 ‘
    0-60 before coffee brake, efficient 200 hp diesel engine and a tow and load rating closer to what is really needed.
     
    If you look around, most contractors have a few sheets of plywood on the bed, bulky but not heavy stuff, rarely pull a trailer (and never one with a backhoe on it) and see all the lumber they need at the job site

    • 0 avatar
      celebrity208

      Counter point: as work vehicles become more capable AND refined a contractor does not have to own two vehicles.  Towed equipment weights have come down recently with the introduction of mini- and micro-excavators, various skid-steer loaders, etc.  The two (more capable light duty trucks and heavy equipment) are meeting in the middle.
      Where in the past you might buy a Top-Kick to tow your Deere 320D (7000lbs) on a trailer (2500lbs) and all your gear and materials and drive a f-150 on the weekends and around job sites…
      Now you can do everything you need to do with one 2500HD truck.  At a macro level I’m sure it makes a lot of sense to a number of small business owners.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      There are certainly landscapers, general contractors and farmers that frequently tow monstrous loads, but that leaves all the carpenters, painters, electricians and plumbers.
       
      Most of the contractors would be better served with a more nimble truck with better economics, not to mention all the weekend warriors that may dream about renting a bobcat one day but really don’t need a semi truck wannabee as daily driver since they might resurface the driveway one day.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      If you need a small work truck you’re only options are small used 80′s trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly. I used to joke about the “$40,000 vanity pickup truck”. I didn’t realize people are actually shelling out that much money for them. I don’t see much future in these super heavy duty machines given that the country already has a ridiculous oversupply of both residential and commercial buildings. There’s just no demand.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “ and problem prone IFS are big deal ”

    Never heard that one before. My ’04 GMC 2500HD gasser crew cab is approaching a 100K and I haven’t even touched the brakes on it yet or anything else for that matter.

    I’ll take the GMC over the Ford/Dodge on good looks alone. It’s really the proven reliablility/durability and refinement of the Duramax /Allison combo though that makes it a no brainer. Still all these trucks are way over powered for about 99% of the buyers and as a result the fuel economy suffers.

    GM – Please offer an Isuzu I4 turbo diesel in your 1/2 ton chassis. Something that can pull 20 MPG in town and high 20′s on the road. I don’t need a PU truck the can tow 5 tons up the side of a mountain @ 75 MPH.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    “As far as reliability goes – so far the new engine and transmission have been pretty much bulletproof.  Ford designed all of this in house, so no more compromises due to Navistar to hold back the designs.”
    Yes all those proven miles LOL. You gonna convince all those prior Ford Powerstroke owners that we finally got it right this tiome? C’mon and take a chance? I don’t think so. Versus the Duramax? A motor with literally millions of miles of proven durability mated to the best automatic transmission made?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Bought a lot of work trucks in my time. Wouldn’t pay $57,000 for one of it was dipped in gold.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Trucks with a solid front axle have always been regarded as better for mounting plows, as many publications that do road tests on trucks have mentioned many times. Also, many hardcore off roaders have ditched the independent front suspensions on the 88-97 GM trucks and swapped the soloid front axles from ford and dodge trucks for durability reasons, they started doing it soon as those trucks came out.
    As the newer gm trucks get older and depreciate I’m sure they will do the same thing with those trucks. I have no idea where silvy gets the idea that ford sells so many trucks because of fleet sales, everywhere you go you see ford trucks, especially in rural areas. As far as the diesel goes, only a few years and experience from buyers will tell whether or not it’s any good.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I would use the word “plain Jane” to describe the Ram with every model looking as stark and plain as the stripper version aside from the wheels. You have to pony up for the top trim level to get two -tone paint. The Silverado at least has some exterior trim, chrome and style/character that the overly plain Ram lacks. The upper trim level interior looks fine in most any used example I have sat in, even with up to 80K miles so wear doesn’t seem to be a big issue here and is about even with the other big 3 trucks. I do agree that the lower trim level Silverados need a refresh and upgrade however and the 4.8 and 5.3 are falling behind in power and torque compared to Fords new engine line and Dodges Hemi.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I don’t care for the looks of the redesigned ram myself, but it still looks better than those god awful looking gm trucks, especially the chevy. I think they even have the tundra beat in the ugly department, I know big trucks are supposed to be a bit square looking, but the gm trucks look like they were cut out with an xacto knife. Yeah a buddy of mine has a newer silverado and the center gold piece in that ugly oversized bowtie on the tailgate fell out. GMC = gay man coming.


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