Left Coast do-gooders? Take a hike. East Coast intellectuals? On your bike. The Chevy Silverado doesn’t give a damn about you and your fancy gas electric cars. GM’s new[ish] pickup is a rolling tribute to the working class people who form the backbone of our country– as defined by the musical stylings of John Cougar Mellencamp. More to the point, a good old Harvard boy named Rick Wagoner says his company’s turnaround depends on the Silverado. So are its flat-bedded shoulders strong enough to support
the world’s America’s largest automaker?
The Silverado's clean-sheet sheetmetal starts with a front grille that forgoes the Dodge Boys’ Schwarzeneggerian schnoz and Ford’s forgettable face for something big, butch and bland. As for the rest of the rig, Chevy avoided radical change by deploying the plus-sized Colorado look. That's no bad thing. Even with badging the size of Texas road kill, the Silverado’s creased sheetmetal gives the truck a restrained toughness that harkens back to previous Bowtie classics. But if industrial-chic rules the day, Ford’s Sub-Zero on wheels wins.
Step inside and it’s obvious that Chevy’s clarion call to working stiffs is nothing more than media manipulation. The Silverado is the most car-like pickup truck ever made. Check out those tiny vents and buttons, the fussy knobs and the cowled binnacle sheltering gently glowing gauges. OK, you can’t blame The General for following the well-established trend towards civilized pickup interiors, or using generic GMT900 bits for both SUV and pickup. Well, actually, you can. While the base model has a functional (yet uninspiring) dashboard with all the right knobs and binnacles, the Buick-like dash in our tester is about as work friendly as union busters at a sweatshop. Why not make one perfectly truckish dashboard and call it a day?
When it comes to high dollar luxury, the leather hides on our $40k tester were unimpressive even by (admittedly low) truck standards. Still, Americans can rejoice in a pair of wide, comfortable buckets (up front) with a trick-folding split bench (out back). The crew-cab’s rear cabin accommodates the Corn-Fed and Yankee Doodle alike; ample seat cushions provide a terrific view over the low-rise Tahoe dashboard onto the road ahead. The BOSE stereo provided surprisingly responsive imaging with A-pillar mounted tweeters, a console-mount subwoofer and welcome goodies like XM radio and an MP3 hookup.
The Silverado’s underhood beat box sounds even better. The Corvette-based 5.3L V8 is the right mill for the job, stumping-up (literally) 338 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4400rpm. Want extra camshafts? Put ‘em in the bed; the Silverado puts out 315hp on its way to a buttery-smooth 5500rpm redline. Indeed, there’s enough grunt to tow Milwaukee and sufficient horsepower to, um, pass a Camry on the interstate. Thanks to a lightning-quick axle ratio, the four-speed automatic's quick trigger finger makes the lack of extra gears only mildly disappointing. More alarming, even with Active Fuel Management, the Silverado clocks-up an EPA optimistic 16/20mpg.
Handling is another issue. Push the Silverado hard in a corner and it’ll fight back like an over-eager stuntman at a Boar’s Nest bar fight. Steering feel is decent, with precise turn-in. But the off-road Z71 suspension tuning is hardly an on-road driving enthusiast's best friend. Winding country roads quickly unleash Titanic body roll and endless understeer. No matter. Driving enthusiasts have no business in a pickup truck, and anyone brave or stupid enough to push this rig hard in a corner will find the Silverado’s strong brakes and progressive pedal feel equal to the challenge of slowing the Hell down.
While the Silverado is library quiet at highway speeds, potholed roads still send shivers down the back half of the chassis. Such dynamically-challenged behavior was once standard fare for a pickup truck; today it’s a sign of an incomplete homework assignment. Even with plenty of time to match the F150’s well-established chassis benchmark, the Silverado is way off the mark. Chevy’s new[ish] rig simply can’t hang with the existing Ford F150’s disturbingly good steering, ride, handling and braking.
The bed is the business end of any good truck. In this the Silverado doesn't disappoint. Too bad it doesn't impress. Cumbersome tailgates went out of style after Ford boldly took the torsion bar where it’s never been before. Toyota’s Tacoma introduced an all-weather power port for stereos, electric tools and neon Budweiser signage (for the perfect tailgate party). Even if the aftermarket fills in the blanks, Chevy still failed to usher their core-competency to the head of its class.
What was needed here was a beefy-looking pickup with a work-oriented cabin, all the F150’s dynamic capabilities and strength, Chevy’s kick-ass powerplant and a proper, modern six-speed transmission. (Dodge? What Dodge?) All of which leaves Toyota– the benchmark company for benchmarking– plenty of room for advancement. Judging by the hardware in the upcoming Tundra and the not good enough vibes emanating from the Silverado and its wicked tailpipe, next year shall be one for the history books.