With so much attention paid to the Allison's shifting to take advantage of engine braking and the turbo's exhaust braking, we hardly had cause to test the truck's traditional brakes. Remember, I said hardly. With 14-inch rotors on each corner that are thicker than before, stiffer calipers, and revised hydraboost calibration, the 2011's pack some powerful binders. On our final driving session of the trip we stepped into a Duramax crew cab dually that was carrying 2,000 pounds in the bed and had over 10,000 pounds of skid steer loader on a conventional trailer. My copilot, so confident in my skills and so comfortable in the passenger seat, fell asleep (he obviously doesn't know you well-Ed. Dan). The ride was completely uneventful and I felt perfectly at ease towing the heavy trailer, but a wayward tourist was bound and determined to shake things up. The confused driver, who was nearly totally committed to exiting the highway, changed their mind and their lane, simultaneously it seemed, into the one we were occupying. I'd use the term "merge", but that would imply at least some attempt on their part to match our speed. I don't know how an earlier version of the HD would have handled the situation, but the truck didn't miss a beat as we were able to quickly reduce our speed without any unexpected feedback from the truck or trailer and all parties were able to continue unscathed. Uncharacteristically, I didn't even feel the need to shout obscenities.
No doubt the Chevy and GMC faithful will fall in love with the newest iteration of their HDs; they've improved on everything that they already had done quite well, but will this new HD pry owners out of their Ram HD or Super Duty? Even GM's engineers and marketing admit that Ford and Ram offer competitive products, in fact they enjoy the rivalry because competition drives them all to produce the best product they possibly can. What GM focused on was trying to capture the segment of the market that they call "free agents", those buyers who aren't fiercely brand loyal. Never has their decision been more difficult, as the Big 3 have some amazing HD offerings, but if ride quality, steering feel, and driving confidence are high priorities, we can easily see them with one of the General's new HDs in their driveway.