This all-new "first generation" Chevrolet Silverado pickup was introduced in 1999. Although there has been a full size pickup in Chevrolet's lineup for eons, this generation was the first Chevrolet pickup to drop the traditional C/K designation – which had been in use since 1960 – and adopt the Silverado name. The new Silverado, known internally as the GMT800, replaced the GMT400 platform that was produced from 1988 through 2000, overlapping the new model for a couple of years. The 1999 Silverado sported a much rounder look, was slightly larger than the previous generation and came with a much more luxurious interior, as well as all-new engines. The 1500 model designation refers to the half-ton models; the 2500, 3500 and greater models are designated as heavy duty models and receive the HD logo .The Silverado won Motor Trend's magazine's Truck of the Year contest in 1999 and was designated Car and Driver's Best Pickup Truck for three years from 2001 to 2003.
Why You Want It
If you need to haul stuff around or pull a trailer there's nothing better than a full-size pickup. Although there are five full-size pickup models from different manufacturers on the market, the majority of buyers opt for the Ford F-150, which is the top-selling pickup, or the Chevrolet Silverado, which is the second best-selling vehicle in the US. The Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 each have legions of fervent fans and they both do a good job of getting work done. The choice more often than not comes down to familiarity with one model or another. When looking for a Silverado of this age there are plenty of choices. You'll find regular cab models with a V6 engine that have been used as work horses – they'll likely be covered in dings and have dirty carpets. Be sure to have a truck in this condition thoroughly checked out by a trusted mechanic, as reliability is an important factor. Higher end trims may have been owned by one or two families and been well cared for, as if it were a luxury car.
Notable Features and Options
It would be easy to fill several screens with a list of all the permutations possible with the Silverado 1500. They start with the Work model, which is available with a V6 engine, manual transmission, regular cab and a short bed, but no air conditioning, radio or cruise control. The same model with a long bed (8 ft.) only cost $100 more. You then start adding creature comforts, a V8 engine, 4WD or opting for the extended cab or Crew Cab and the price quickly escalates. The Work is followed by the Base, LS, Z71, LT and SS trim levels. However the prices of the different trim levels bare little relationship to each other, as there are so many variations with each trim.
Quadrasteer, a unique four-wheel steering feature, was optional on the Silverado between 2002 and 2005, but despite its advantage it sold in very small quantities, mostly because it was perceived as too expensive. The extended cab models initially came with just a single rear-hinged door on the passenger side but a second door was added in 2001.
1999: New model introduced with a rounder look, more power and increased refinement.
2000: A rear door on the driver's side is now offered on the extended cab models. Output for both V8 engines increased by 15 horsepower. Several new option packages added.
2001: A Crew Cab model with four front opening side doors is offered.
2002: Quadrasteer 4-wheel steering system offered on extended cab models.
2003: Revised grill and minor cosmetic changes. Optional rear seat entertainment system added. High performance Silverado SS launched.
2004: Base equipment upgraded with cruise control, power locks and CD player.
2005: Hybrid model available in limited numbers. ABS brakes now standard on all models.
2006-2007: There were no significant changes in the final two years of the GMT800 model.
Engines and Performance
A 195-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6 engine was only available in the Work and Base models. Those trim levels also offered a five-speed manual transmission, otherwise all Silverados came with a four-speed automatic transmission. The other models, except for the SS, came with either a 285-horsepower, 4.8-liter V8 or 295-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 engine. Just to confuse the issue both these engines were also optional on the Work and Base models. What's most amazing is that with 2WD all these engines returned much the same fuel economy – 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway – according to the EPA. Fuel consumption dropped by 1-2 mpg with 4WD. The performance Silverado SS had a 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter V8 that returned somewhat lower fuel consumption.
Given the big difference in performance between the V6 and V8 engines and the almost negligible difference in fuel economy, it makes sense to opt for a Silverado powered by a V8 engine.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 1999-2006 Chevrolet Silverado:
1999-2004: Front right-hand brake hose too close to cross sill in some vehicles. Salt corrosion could affect ABS systems. Rear tailgate cables can corrode.
2000: Some vehicles had an out of alignment clip on the ABS system. Airbag sensor problem could affect deployment. Hydraulic pump shaft can fail leading to steering and possible brake boost loss.
2003: Some windshields not bonded probably and may not be retained properly in an accident.
2003-2005: Second row center seat belt misrouted on some Crew Cab models.
2004-2005: Hydraulic brake booster accumulator may crack on some models with hydro-boost brakes.
2005: Some vehicles with 5.3-liter engine may have weak fuel rail crossover retainer screws that can break. Bolt on steering shaft may fracture.
2005-2006: Power Steering hose could leak or break under extreme steering maneuvers.
There are some less serious non-safety recalls as well as numerous recalls for dealer-installed accessories and various aftermarket replacement parts which can affect a few vehicles sold during this period.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs where performed and if not, will make the fixes at no charge to you.
As for safety, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Silverado four out of five stars for the driver and three stars for the passenger in the side impact crash test. It gets four out of five stars in the rollover strength test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives a Marginal rating to frontal offset test and did not test it for side impact or roof strength.
The 1999-2006 Chevrolet Silverado came with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty, plus a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion warranty.
Word on the Web
Overall, the Silverado seems to garner positive responses from owners. J.D. Power and Associates generally gives this generation Silverado about average in its Circle Ratings. When the vehicles were new, owners reported being very satisfied with the vehicle features and accessories. After three years of ownership the only area of potential concern seemed to be in the powertrain. Consumer Reports pretty much mirrored these findings. It seems the powertrain concerns were primarily among 4WD models.
When you search the numerous forums you'll find many fans of Chevrolet pickups. Considering around 3 million were sold during the seven years this generation was on the market, the handful of complaints you'll find on sites such as complaints.com are not hugely significant overall.
Naturally the Ford F-150 is the closet competitor to the Chevrolet Silverado (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra) and the specifications of these dueling trucks are very similar even down to engine performance and dimensions. The EPA fuel ratings for the Silverado are a shade better than the F-150. The Dodge RAM 1500 is also similar but has never been quite as popular.
The Nissan Titan was the only import branded model to go head to head with the three domestic models during this period. However it was not available with a regular cab or a full-length bed with a crew cab. Its sales were far smaller so there are relatively few on the used vehicle market. The Toyota Tundra of that era was slightly smaller and less rugged than any of these true full-size pickups.
If you need a tough truck the 1999-2006 Chevrolet Silverado is a good choice. Compared to previous generation Chevrolet pickup trucks, the 1999-2006 models delivered a far smoother ride and more luxurious interiors. Consequently they can be thought of as an alternative to a SUV while also serving as a workhorse. When new, these trucks cost anywhere from $19,000 to $40,000 or more. A quick look at listings on autotrader.com confirms that high mileage examples of the Work model with a regular cab can be found now for just a few thousand dollars while a low mileage high end 4x4 Crew Cab from 2006 can still easily top $27,000. There are literally choices to fit every need and budget.