2006 Chevy Silverado 2500HD Duramax offers more complete shifting control

The Silverado 2500HD with Duramax diesel power is just about as heavy duty a pickup as you can buy from Chevrolet. Only its 3500HD package is brawnier. But with a starting price around $26,000 (for two-wheel-drive models) the 2500HD is an excellent work truck with plenty of towing capacity and a robust frame to handle jobsite rigors.

I spent a week tooling around town in a gray 2500 HD extended cab, on loan from GM. The truck featured the LT2 trim package, which offered a nice array of amenities, including cloth seats, automatic HVAC system, power seats, tilt steering wheel and front fog lamps. Optional equipment included a Bose stereo, polished chrome rims and Chevy’s heavy-duty power package, consisting of a Duramax diesel 6600 V-8 engine mated to an Allison six-speed automatic transmission and a locking rear differential. These add-ons drove the price of the truck up to $40,000.

On the surface, there weren’t a lot of new tweaks separating the 2006 model from the previous year. Chevy’s cleaned up its front appearance some, which pleased me. I’ve never been a fan of the Avalanche-inspired grill that appeared on Silverado trucks in 2003. But most of the interior is readily familiar to anyone who’s driven a Silverado or Sierra truck in the past two or three years. The only notable change inside the cab was the column-mounted transmission selector.

This particular Silverado 2500HD came with the Allison six-speed automatic (you can also spec a ZF six-speed manual gearbox). Right off the bat, I noticed the gear selector felt awkward when I grabbed hold of it. It felt angular, compared to the cylindrical GM shifters I’ve grown used to over the years.

A closer inspection revealed the new shifter design had a purpose: A toggle switch mounted mid-way up the shifter allows you to take control of the Allison transmission and manually shift gears. It works like this: Instead of PRND123, the gear selector indicator on this Allison automatic reads PRNDM. Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive I’m sure you recognize. M stands for “Manual.” When you shift into manual mode, the gear selector switches immediately to 654321 (why they did it in that sequence is beyond me – American sensibilities say it ought to read 123456). At any rate, once in Manual, you can quickly see which gear you’re in, and easily shift up or down via the toggle switch on the shifter. It gives you extremely precise control of the transmission and would be a definite advantage in towing situations.

On the road, the Duramax diesel engine provides plenty of low-end and high-end power. The truck tends to lope a bit on the highway when empty. But that’s to be expected with its robust suspension and heavy-duty frame. But overall the ride is smooth and you don’t notice the loping at all after a few minutes and not at all after a few days. It’s also quiet and smooth for a diesel – two of this engine’s hallmarks from its earliest inceptions. The truck handles great – despite its size, it corners as well as a 1500 GM pickup model.