Let me say right off the bat that I'm not a pickup truck kind of guy. My personal vehicle preference pretty much runs the gamut of German luxury cars from A to B. Well actually, A to M-B. The best new car I drove in 2000 was the BMW 530i. The second best was probably the Audi allroad. You get the picture.

So I have to tell you that when I first stomped on the throttle of our Silverado three-quarter-ton heavy-duty pickup test vehicle, it was just about a transcendental experience. The brute lays down 520 lb.-ft of torque on the pavement with the buttery smoothness of a Mercedes S-Class. I am not exaggerating here to make a point. I don't think there's a luxury car out there that can shift any smoother than this beast.

Big honkin' diesels for heavy-duty pickups may not be at the glamorous end of the auto business, but I haven't come across many engines that have raised the bar in their segment like the new General Motors Corp. Duramax 6600 V-8. Only a few come to mind, such as the Honda 2L I-4 that powers the S2000. The Honda powerplant redefines our ideas of how — and where — smallish 4-cyl. engines can be used because it is so advanced and powerful for its size. I think the Duramax has the potential to redefine diesel engines in the same way.

With strong design and the latest technology, this common-rail, direct-injected 4-valve-per-cylinder engine puts its older competitors to shame. It's smaller and more compact than the Ford 7.3L Powerstroke, yet it pumps out 65 more horsepower and 20 more lb.-ft of torque. Its specific output of 45.5 hp/L also makes it superior to DaimlerChrysler's ancient 5.9L diesel I-6. Coupled with the superb Allison 5-speed automatic, the Duramax sets a new standard in refinement for light truck diesel engines. And I wonder, along with the rest of WAW's staffers, why GM can't spread this level of innovation to the rest of its products.