Overview

The Chevy Silverado was lavished with product awards when it was totally redesigned for 2007. For 2008, Silverado gets some detail improvements and minor pricing adjustments.

The styling is bold yet still conservative when compared with the latest pickups from Dodge, Nissan, Toyota, and Ford. While the sheet metal was all-new for 2007, the main reason the new Silverado looks bolder is that it's three inches wider in front and an inch wider in the rear than the previous generation, a big difference.

The Silverado is, of course, available in a range of cab styles and bed lengths with a wide variety of engines, drivetrains and suspensions designed to meet every need.

Upgrades for 2008 include revisions to instruments, seats, radio, a new integrated brake controller option, and more reds in the color palette.

We found the LTZ crew cab with the Z85 suspension offers a nice ride, soaking up vibration on gravel desert roads and offer sure-footed handling on winding paved mountain roads. The popular 5.3-liter V8 delivers good power when needed and quiet cruising when not.

Model Lineup

The 2008 Chevy Silverado is available in several trim levels: WT, LT1, LT2, and LTZ. Regular cab WT models may be upgraded with an LS package (about $500) and some larger cab models have an LS version about $1,000 above a WT.

The WT ($17,070) is a basic work truck that comes with a driver information center, AM/FM/XM stereo, 40/20/40 split-bench, vinyl-covered front seat, dual glove boxes, two auxiliary power outlets, tire pressure monitoring system, OnStar and a four-speed automatic transmission.

The LT models start with LT1 ($24,150) which adds a cloth-covered front seat with lockable storage under the seat, a CD player and MP3 compatibility, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature displays, 17-inch chrome-styled steel wheels and power folding and heated exterior mirrors. The more upscale LT2 ($28,065) comes with premium cloth front bucket seats with six-way power adjustment, dual-zone automatic temperature controls, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, fog lamps, aluminum wheels, chromed bumper, and a spare tire lock.

The LTZ ($31,260) adds heavy-duty trailering equipment, an automatic locking rear differential, body-colored bumpers, reclining and heated leather front seats with 12-way power, an in-dash six-CD changer with Bose speakers, turn signal indicators in the exterior rearview mirrors and heated windshield washers.

Engines include a 195-hp 4.3-liter V6 engine; a 295-hp 4.8-liter V8; a 315-hp 5.3-liter V8 in gasoline or flexfuel (gasoline and E85 ethanol, about $600 extra and deduct 4-5 mpg) versions; and a 367-hp 6.0-liter V8. Naturally, not all engines are available in all models (for example, and LS crew cab is 4.8-liter only) but they all come with a four-speed automatic.

Extended cab and crew cab models have back seats and windows in the side doors that power down. The crew cab has four front-hinged doors, much like a sport utility vehicle. The extended cab has rear access doors that are hinged at the rear but that open to 170 degrees to provide full access to the rear seating area.

The standard cab can be outfitted with a standard (6-foot, 6-inch) or long (8-foot) beds. The extended cab also offers a short (5-foot, 8-inch) bed, which is the only bed available on the crew cab.

Cab configuration and drive have significant influence on pricing. Larger cabs typically include more standard equipment, and 4WD adds $2,000-$3,000.

Five suspension setups are available: Z83 is the standard suspension and is designed for a smooth ride; Z85 is a little firmer for enhanced handling and towing; Z71 is for off-road driving and includes 18-inch wheels; Z60 is for maximum street performance and includes 20-inch wheels; NHT is for maximum towing capacity and includes high-capacity rear springs as well as all-terrain tires.

Safety features on all Silverado models dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system. Options include side-curtain airbags (LT, LTZ only), StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology (extended cab only, standard crew), Autotrac active transfer case, Ultrasonic rear parking assist, OnStar.

Option prices vary by trim level and body style. Among them (LTZ prices shown): a cargo management system for the truck bed ($95), a power sliding sunroof ($795), 20-inch wheels/suspension ($995), a power sliding rear window ($200), rear-seat entertainment system ($1,295), and navigation system ($2,250). On lesser models: locking differential ($395), StabiliTrak electronic stability control ($425), tow packages (about $300-$750).

Walkaround

The 2008 Chevy Silverado may not have the aggressive styling of the Dodge Ram or Nissan Titan or even the Toyota Tundra or Ford F-150, but its upright design may be considered both bold and appealing to its faithful customers, and they buy hundreds of thousands of Silverados each year.

A raked windshield (raked at 57 degrees) and careful aerodynamic and body-building engineering make the truck both quieter on the inside and more fuel efficient. GM boasts that the Silverado and GMC Sierra are the first full-size trucks to offer both 300 horsepower and EPA highway ratings of 20 miles per gallon (2WD 4.3 and 5.3 on gasoline).

The large, gold Chevy bowtie badge is set against a wide, three-bar chrome grille. The grille is flanked by stacked headlamps sporting the latest reflector-optics. The front bumper incorporates rectangular fog lamps.

The hood has a wide power dome. Bulging front fenders wrap over the front wheels and incorporate the headlamps within their forward sweep. Likewise, the rear quarter panels are punctuated by large faired wheel wells.

The rear view of the truck features stacked tail lamps on either side of a tall tailgate that has a sculpted center section that mimics and inverts the shape of the fender flares.

Built on what General Motors calls its GMT900 platform, the Silverado shares much of its underpinnings with the Tahoe SUV, though the pickup truck gets a unique rear suspension and a frame section that is 245 percent stiffer. Compared to the former generation Silverado, the frame is 234 percent stiffer torsionally, 62 percent more resistant to bending and 136 percent stiffer laterally. All of this allows such things as reducing the gap between the truck bed and passenger compartment and between fenders and bumpers. It also enhances aerodynamics and fuel efficiency and allows suspension components to provide improved ride and handling characteristics.

The front suspension uses coil-over shock absorbers (rather than torsion bars) and the rack-and-pinion steering gear is mounted to the engine cross member frame to provide enhanced control and feedback. The Silverado benefits from a rear axle design featuring shocks absorbers mounted outboard and more upright for better dynamic control than that of the previous-generation models.

Interior Features

The Silverado WT and LT come with what Chevy calls the pure pickup truck interior while the LTZ features a more luxurious interior.

The pure pickup interior is more driver and work oriented, includes two glove boxes in the dashboard, one of them just about the right size to hold a pair of work gloves and a few small items, and a 40/20/40-split front bench seat with the center section of the seat back folding down to form a wide arm rest with lots of storage capacity. This interior features large switchgear controls and interior door handles designed to be easily manipulated even while wearing bulky gloves.

The more luxury-oriented interior includes bucket seats with a permanent center console with 20 liters of storage capacity. The center stack puts ventilation and audio controls within easy site and reach of the front seat passenger. This version has a single glove box in the dash.

For 2008, all Silverado models get brighter gauge needles for easier viewing in daylight, XM satellite radio with three months of complimentary service, and a power adjustable driver's seat is available for the 40/20/40 bench on regular cabs.

Extended cabs feature stadium-style seating with an elevated view for those sitting in the second row. Both the extended cab and crew cab versions offer plenty of rear legroom. The rear seat bottoms can be easily be folded up to provide more room on the floor for cargo. Rear seats are split 60/40 so one side can be folded up for cargo while the other is used for seating.

Chevrolet says the interior of the new Sierra is 20 percent quieter than its predecessor (pre-2007 and Silverado Classic models), thanks to enhanced insulation materials, much like those used in the company's sport utility vehicles, and to aerodynamic improvements that reduce wind noise.

Driving Impressions

Suspension choice is key to the driving characteristics of the Silverado, while the cabin configuration (pure pickup WT/LT or luxury LTZ) is key to how you expect to use the truck and what you expect from it.

An LTZ interior mirrors those of GM's full-size sport-utilities and is modeled more like a big touring sedan than a truck. It's a smooth, cohesive design with a central console that rises to a wall of smallish white-on-black buttons you can't operate with mittens like those on the "pure pickup." The optional navigation system is up high for good viewing, intuitive in operation, and offers many choices in radio station memory. The LTZ cabin is available in three interior colors and, though it will show dirt faster, the lightest color gives the most luxurious impression.

On the other hand, the WT/LT version is more conventional truck with a more open floor area, space for junk all over, and no concerns that something might get scratched, scuffed or dirty. Modern electronics suggest hosing them out isn't a good idea anymore, but a shovel and stiff bristle brush should get it done.

The basic Z83 suspension is best chosen for budget constraints or if you plan to make modifications and throw away the stock parts. The Z85 is similar except that it uses better shock absorbers and is calibrated for how today's light-duty pickups are often used as daily transportation. The Z71 package is designed for off-highway use and makes maximum use of suspension travel to keep the wheels on the ground when on the trail or dirt roads; this off-road package frequently provides the best ride quality on anything worse than glass-smooth interstates. The Z60 street package replete with 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires is best used for the city but can be used on a dirt road. The NHT package is designed for maximum loads; ride compliance is good based on how much weight it can carry and tow but driving it around empty may be firmer (harsher) than you want for every day use.

All Sierras benefit from brakes much improved over earlier (pre-2007) models, whether they have the rear discs or drum brakes.

For 2008, drivers who tow will appreciate the optional integrated brake controller like that used on the Sierra heavy-duty trucks. (However, be sure your trailer brakes are compatible with it before choosing the option, as some electro-hydraulic disc conversions do not work with the integrated controller.)

The Silverado can be equipped for a towing capacity of as much as 10,500 pounds (a 4WD longer cab NHT without a long bed); typical maximum tow ratings for other models without the 6-liter/NHT are in the 8000-8900 pound range. If you want a 10,000-plus tow rating in a regular cab you have to look to Ford or Toyota. Remember these trailer weights are usually quoted for an empty truck with a standard-size driver (154 pounds) on board.

Those with limited vertical clearance either at home or in commercial garages should note that the 4WD version of Silverado 1500 extended cab and crew cab is fractionally lower at the roof and loading level than the 2WD version. Some pickup trucks add two to three inches in height for 4WD, and those inches could be critical in tight fits.

Summary

The Chevy Silverado offers more choices in light-duty pickup variations than any manufacturer save the Ford F-150. It is among the smoothest riding and quietest of all full-size pickups, at any comparative price point. We think it's one of the best choices available for 2008.

G.R. Whale contributed to this report from Southern California; with NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall reporting from Phoenix.

 

Copyright © 1994-2007 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

New Car Test Drive

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

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