by John Matras

Slammed for attention.

Base Price $15,422
As Tested $18,624

Chevy's Xtreme attracts attention everywhere it goes. Whenever we're driving this slammed S-10 pickup, young dudes shout "Nice truck!" Or give us the thumbs up or otherwise express their approval. No question, it's the lowered stance, ground effects bodywork, wide tires and general street rod appearance.

Just as important, its price puts it well within grasp, making it a popular choice for lovers of hot-rod trucks.

Model Lineup

The Xtreme is essentially a rear-wheel-drive S-10 pickup that's been lowered two inches; it comes with the ZQ8 suspension and ground effects bodywork. (Look for our review of the standard S-10 pickup.) The Xtreme Sport Appearance Package is available with Base trim or LS trim. You can order it as a Regular Cab or Extended Cab in either Fleetside or Sportside body styles. (Sportside bodies feature stylish exposed fenders and a narrower pickup box. Fleetside bodies offer a standard-size bed with internal fenders. Base trim is only available with a Regular Cab Fleetside body.)

The Xtreme package includes the upgraded dash package with a tachometer and a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Preferred Equipment Group (which retails for $3,236) bundles the Xtreme package with floor mats and an AM/FM stereo; a CD player can be added for $180. High-back bucket seats are a $291 option, as are tilt-wheel and speed control ($395). A third door is available for extended cab bodies for $295 and sliding rear window is available for $120. A Power Convenience Group, including power locks, mirrors and windows, remote keyless entry and content anti-theft are another $795.

A well-optioned Xtreme with the 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine ranges from $15,199 to $18,624. A V6 adds about $1,350 and we drove one equipped this way that retailed for $23,422.

Walkaround

It's amazing how just a few cosmetic changes can make such a huge difference in how a truck looks. The Xtreme barely proclaims it's a truck: Xtreme logos replace S-10 logos everywhere but the panel in the front spoiler -- and that's supposed to be removed for states requiring front license plates.

The Xtreme package includes a body-color grille and bumpers, front spoiler with integrated foglights, wheel-opening flares and rocker panel extensions, unique 16-inch aluminum 5-spoke wheels, P235/55R16 blackwall tires, and a special ZQ8 suspension that lowers the truck for a street rod look.

A 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is standard and it's the most popular choice. The Vortec 2200 inline-4 generates 120 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 140 foot-pounds of torque at 3600 rpm and gets about 19 mpg city, 26 mpg on the highway.

The 4.3-liter V6 delivers 180 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 245 foot-pounds of torque at 2800 rpm. Towing is not recommended with the Xtreme package, and gross vehicle weight is limited to 4400 pounds. That's plenty for light chores, but this is not designed to be a hard-working truck.

Interior Features

The options on our Xtreme make the interior of the S-10 a nice place to be, far removed from our grandfather's farm vehicle. It has all the comforts of any sedan, save a real back seat; the jump seat in the extended cab is not acceptable for more than short hauls for anyone over the age of 12.

The Xtreme is a truck that, if you don't exactly sit down into, you don't have to step up to get in either. The seats are comfortable with a console featuring two usable cupholders and a small storage compartment. The floor-mounted shifter for the 5-speed has a sturdy-looking shaft, and a nice heft to it going into gear. It is a truck, after all.

The riding position is so low that it's easy to forget you're driving a truck. You're riding at about the same height as a NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver. And that's a good feature. Visibility is excellent, there's lots of headroom and legroom and the seats are comfortable.

The optional third door is a great feature. Without it, it's difficult to get to the cargo area behind the front seats, as the seat doesn't easily flip forward.

Other cool features: Shut off the ignition and the radio stays on so you can sit there and, like, chill. Open the door and the radio shuts off automatically. No worries. In fact, all accessories maintain power until the door is opened, so you can roll up the windows if you forgot before shutting off the ignition.

Driving Impressions

Its ride height and comfort aside, the Xtreme's truckness comes out in the driving.

Though the pricing reflects a four-cylinder model, all of our driving was restricted to an Xtreme with the Vortec V6. The V6 is tuned for low-rpm torque. It's best to shift early and use the torque for motivation. Revving beyond 4000 rpm yields acceleration but the engine feels forced. Run it to the redline and the transmission resists shifting, the synchros waiting until revs drop. Zero-to-60 times and quarter-mile ET's will suffer as a result, as will accelerating into a moving stream of traffic. Overall, the acceleration performance is snappy, but not breathtaking. The V6 delivers plenty of power and makes all the right noises.

The ZQ8 suspension that comes on the Xtreme is available on other S-10 models and it improves handling with some sacrifice in ride quality. The Xtreme corners flatter and with more confidence than a standard height S-10. The big tires offer lots of grip, even on wet pavement. Riding low, the Xtreme never feels tippy, so this truck can be hustled through the twisty bits with confidence, just so long as the road is smooth.

But we found the ride to be choppy. Lowering ride height limits suspension travel; add in tires with short sidewalls and a live rear axle with leaf springs and the Xtreme behaves like a throwback to performance from the '60s -- which it should, as cars of that era had a similar suspension setup.

There's a good on-center feel and the steering is responsive. Considered as a sports car, the Xtreme's primitive suspension and trucky engine and transmission give it a decidedly vintage feel. On the other hand, as a truck, the Xtreme handles very well. And no sports car offers the utility of a pickup bed. The Xtreme came in handy when we went to a big picnic, moving a gas grille, several tubs of soft drinks and assorted supplies. Let's see you do that with your Miata! While there, it drew many more positive comments.

Final Word

The Xtreme is a good-looking truck, admired by ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages. Despite the proscription on trailering, the Xtreme is also useful for moving the stuff of your life when that stuff needs to be moved.

The handling is good, considering it's a truck, and the ride isn't terribly bad, though it wouldn't be our choice for a long drive on a bad road. We'd be willing to wager, however, that most Xtremes will be purchased just for its handsome profile because, hey, it's a nice truck.

© New Car Test Drive, Inc.

New Car Test Drive

Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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