Introduction

The Chevrolet Silverado is the second-best-selling pickup in America, but that still adds up to a lot of trucks. By consciously avoiding the more radical concept styling of its competitors, the bluff-nosed, square-shouldered Silverado seems to have found its own secure niche in the hearts of many American truck buyers.

But don't let Silverado's conservative demeanor fool you. This truck is every bit as technically advanced, every bit as car-like and user-friendly as its aero-look competitors. It rides, handles, and stops as well as, maybe better than, the best of them. It's quick and it's comfortable.

The base price is higher for 2002, but it now buys more standard equipment, including the chrome bumper and grille that Chevrolet claims most buyers want. Silverado prices still start about $700 below Ford's F-150. Option packages have been streamlined for value and convenience.

Introduced last year, this is the first full production year for the new 1500 HD model, which combines light-duty 1500-series styling in a heavy-duty six-passenger crew cab with a 300-horsepower Vortec V8.

Also available for 2002 is Quadrasteer, an electronically controlled four-wheel-steering system that makes parking much easier and pulling a trailer a breeze.

Model Lineup

Like all full-size pickups, Silverado is available in a vast array of versions: two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive; standard-length regular cabs, extended cabs, and crew cabs; short (6-1/2-foot) and long (8-foot) bed lengths. Three trim levels are available: base, LS, and LT. Full-width Fleetside beds are standard on all models, but LS and LT short-bed buyers can choose a stylishly retro Sportside ($795).

Various payload capacities are offered as well. The so-called half-ton range includes both the 1500 series, with actual payloads ranging from 1593 to 2334 pounds (depending on bed, cab, and drive configuration), and the heavier-duty 2500 series with payloads in the 2600-3200-pound range.

Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, or 5.3-liter V8. The 1500 HD Crew Cab and 2500 are powered exclusively by a 6.0-liter V8.

(Three-quarter-ton Silverados are badged 2500HD and 3500, and offer payloads up to 6089 pounds. Look for those in a separate nctd.com review.)

Walkaround

Silverado's frame is the stiffest and lightest truck frame General Motors has ever built. The front frame rails are hydroformed, a process that uses high-pressure hydraulics to shape large and complex components that used to be fabricated from smaller stampings. Tubular crossmembers and roll-formed mid-rails increase rigidity even more. This stiff structure enhances handling and ride quality immensely, while improving crashworthiness.

The front suspension comprises aluminum upper and lower control arms, with coil springs on two-wheel-drive 1500s. Torsion bars are used on all 4x4 models and 2500 models.

Brakes are large, heavy-duty discs on all four corners. ABS is standard on all models.

The V8 engines are based on the new GM SB-2 small-block architecture that was introduced on the Corvette four years ago and extended to the Camaro and Firebird in 1999.

A five-speed manual gearbox is standard in the base truck, but most buyers will opt for the 4L60E and 4L80E four-speed automatics. These feature a delayed-upshift mode for towing. They are excellent transmissions.

Interior Features

Like its exterior design, Silverado's interior reflects traditional Chevrolet thinking. The doors and door openings are the largest in the industry, and the cab is the roomiest.

The instrument package looks like a cross between a Corvette's and a traditional pickup's. It includes a large speedometer and tachometer flanked by four smaller gauges. All use pleasant, highly legible white-on-black graphics.

The sound-system control panel is located above the climate controls. The climate control system uses a rotary-dial layout that works perfectly. There are three 12-volt outlets at the bottom center of the dashboard for radar detectors, cellular telephones, laptop computers, and other accessories.

An LT Extended Cab we drove awhile back came with six-way power front bucket seats with seat heaters and memory. The doors lock automatically as soon as you pull away, a security feature that can be de-programmed at the dealership. The LT also comes with a lockable floor console large enough to hold a picnic lunch for a family of four; it comes with a reversible, removable cup holder tray and a storage nook in front of the lid. Air conditioning outlets and a set of drop-down cup holders are built in for rear-seat passengers. A compass is incorporated into the LT's overhead console, along with three storage areas for sunglasses, garage door opener, and small items. The door trim is a nice combination of vinyl panels and dotted velour that is soft and warm to the touch.

The back seat in the extended cab offers more room and comfort than we expected. When cargo capacity is more important than hauling passengers, the entire rear seat assembly can be removed with a wrench and lifted out through the door.

A more recent drive in a 1500 HD crew cab revealed a really comfortable truck. The back seats are roomy and comfortable, very similar to those in an uplevel Suburban. The seats were trimmed in handsome leather and they could be flipped down to provide a big, secure cargo area. This is a great truck for someone who wants a roomy rear seat with interior cargo space and big trailer-towing capability.

About the only thing we don't like about the Silverado interior is the design of the interior door handles, which swivel through an up-and-in arc, and felt loose whenever we used them. We'd prefer more resistance and a more positive feel.

OnStar, which is now standard on LT models, is a communications and location system that allows customers to call for 24-hour assistance. The system calls for assistance automatically if the truck's airbags have deployed.

Driving Impressions

Silverado LT drives like a luxury car and is supremely smooth and quiet. That smooth, quiet, unified feel is largely due to the stiff frame, which isolates the running gear for reduced noise and vibration. A cast magnesium beam behind the instrument panel and a lateral steel beam between the magnesium beam and the right side of the dash further reinforce the stiff body. Squeaks and rattles simply don't happen. This is one strong truck, and its chassis rigidity allows the suspension to soak up and manage bumps and ruts and tar strips so well that its overall ride behavior is near the luxury class. A long, 143-inch wheelbase improves the ride further and enhances high-speed stability.

The 1500HD crew cab model does not ride quite as smoothly. When the bed is empty there is some road vibration, but drivers used to driving pickups should find it well within acceptable bounds and throwing some weight in the bed or adding a canopy should smooth it out some.

A big four-spoke steering wheel connects to a rack-and-pinion steering gear on 1500 4x2s; other models have recirculating-ball steering. Even the rack-and-pinion system has a fairly wide dead spot in the center when cruising, which Chevrolet says is designed to minimize steering corrections on the highway. The steering feels a bit too light, but Silverado still tracks beautifully and handles well on pavement, loose dirt, deep dirt, and off road.

Although the 4.8-liter small-block V8 is more popular in base models, the up-market LT Extended Cab comes standard with the optional 5.3-liter (327 cubic-inch) engine, rated 285 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque. That's enough grunt to smoke the rear tires at will. The fat torque curve is useful for light towing and hauling, but it's also a lot of fun for commuting and touring. We recommend the 5.3 over the smaller 4.8. The big 6.0-liter V8 that comes on the 1500HD delivers a ton of torque for pulling big, heavy trailers.

Braking hasn't been a traditional strong point for U.S.-built pickups, but here again the Silverado breaks from tradition. Its four-wheel disc brakes are huge and powerful and come standard with ABS. Braking force begins only an inch into the pedal travel. A new feature called Dynamic Rear Proportioning improves stability under heavy braking, whether the truck is loaded or empty. Chevrolet promises excellent fade resistance, with long pad life and good heat dissipation; we worked the brakes hard on our truck and experienced no fade. Anyone used to the brakes in the previous-generation Chevy pickups and full-size SUVs should be very pleased with the brake-pedal response and stopping performance.

Summary

Chevrolet Silverado is overall the best among full-size pickups. Many buyers will prefer its more conservative design. Chevy's full-size Silverado pickups are among the smoothest, quietest, most civilized, best equipped, and most enjoyable trucks we've driven.

 


Model Line Overview

Model lineup: 1500 2WD: Short Box Regular Cab ($17,518); Short Box Extended Cab ($22,537); LS Short Box Extended Cab ($24,484); LT Long Box Extended Cab ($29,658);
R1500 4WD: LS Short Box Regular Cab ($23,724); LT Long Box Extended Cab ($32,778);
2500 2WD: LS Long Box Regular Cab ($24,314);
R2500 4WD: LT Short Box Extended Cab ($34,123)
Engines: 200-hp 4.3-liter ohv V6; 275-hp 4.8-liter ohv V8; 285-hp 5.3-liter ohv V8; 300-hp 6.0-liter ohv V8
Transmissions: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard): dual airbags, ABS
Safety equipment (optional): traction control
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): LT Short Box Extended Cab ($29,358)
Standard equipment: (LT) automatic transmission, ABS, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, light package, tinted glass, tilt wheel, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, OnStar, rear defrost, anti-theft system, leather upholstery for front seats, six-way power heated seats with memory and power lumbar support, overhead console, floor console, cruise control, remote locking/security system, electrochromic mirror with compass, leather-wrapped steering wheel, folding power heated chrome mirrors, cast aluminum wheels, trailer wire harness
Options as tested (MSRP): N/A
Destination charge: N/A
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $30,078
Layout: rear-wheel drive
Engine: 5.3-liter ohv 16-valve V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 285 @ 5200
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 325 @ 4000
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 16/20 mpg
Wheelbase: 143.5 in.
Length/width/height: 227.6/78.5/71.2 in.
Track, f/r: 65.0/66.0 in.
Turning circle: 43.6 ft.
Seating capacity: 5
Head/hip/leg room, f: 41.0/61.4/41.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r: 38.4/61.5/33.7 in.
Trunk volume: N/A
Payload: 1,911 Lbs.
Towing capacity: 7300 Lbs.
Suspension, f: Independent
Suspension, r: live axle
Ground clearance: 8.1 in.
Curb weight: 4289 lbs.
Tires: P255/70R-16
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 26.0 gal.

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of August 31, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-222-1020 - www.chevrolet.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.


 

New Car Test Drive

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

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

Shopping Tools

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content