04-11-18

Silverado

By Jil McIntosh, Driving.ca - In the world of truck advertising, torque and towing are kings.  It's an all-out war and there are some pretty impressive numbers out there, but there's more to a truck than just pound-feet and how much it can pull.

Those biggest numbers belong to the heavy-duty trucks - three-quarter-ton (2500/250) and one-ton (3500/350) - and I had the Chevrolet Silverado 2500.  The heavy-duty Silverado models, and their mechanically-identical GMC Sierra siblings, start with a 6.0-litre V8 gasoline engine making 360 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

My chariot carried the optional Duramax 6.6-L V8 turbodiesel engine, which ups the ante to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.  It's not a cheap upgrade; the engine is an additional $10,430 and it hooks exclusively to an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, priced separately at $1,445.  The Silverado 2500 starts at $42,070 for the Regular Cab 4x2 in Work Truck trim, while my Crew Cab 4x4 LTZ tester began at $63,065 with gas engine.

Adding the optional diesel engine and transmission, along with such options as a Midnight Edition black-out accent package, power sunroof and Z71 off-road package, brought it to $80,005 before freight and taxes.  In a nutshell, trucks ain't cheap anymore.

An all-new Silverado 1500 half-ton is coming for 2019, completely redone from the tires up.  The new heavy-duty versions usually lag at least a year or two behind, so expect the current-generation 2500 and 3500 to hang in for a while.

The Silverado's 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque slots in between archrivals Ford F-250, with a 6.7L Power Stroke diesel that makes 450 hp and 935 lb-ft of torque, and the Ram 2500, with a 6.7-L Cummins engine that cranks out 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque.  That's about it for your choices in this segment.  Toyota doesn't make a heavy-duty Tundra, while Nissan offers the Titan XD, a truck it says bridges the gap between half- and three-quarter-ton models, and with an available 5.0 L Cummins that makes 555 lb-ft of torque.

As for towing, turn off the TV when the oversized numbers start rolling up.  Tow ratings are a complicated science, and whenever an automaker promises you'll be able to haul an apartment building off its foundation, that's the very top number for specific truck configurations with a specific type of hitch.  It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Buy the truck that best matches your trailer.

I recently towed and hauled with all of the Detroit Three heavy-duty trucks in back-to-back testing, and all of them get the job done without fuss, but I give the nod ahead to the Chevy.  That Duramax-Allison combination is a match made in heaven; acceleration is smooth and linear with a heavy load, and braking is confidence inspiring.  The Silverado's exhaust brake sound is nowhere near as much fun as the Ram's booming hey-good-buddy-we-got-a-convoy blatt, but it does a good job of slowing everything down on deceleration.

All of these big trucks are meant to look intimidating, and the Silverado plays the part with its huge domed hood and squared-off styling (beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I think the GMC Sierra is better looking).  At the back, GM uses a simple step into the bumper ends that's absolutely brilliant: Put your foot in, grab the handhold in the box side, and pull yourself up (and you need it, because trucks these days are needlessly oversized).  Ford gives you a tailgate-mounted step that works well, but requires you to pull it out and set it up, while Ram offers nothing more than a sliver of rubber-topped bumper when the tailgate's down, and I'm terrified that my toe will slip and my knee will slam into the edge on my way down.

Still, not everything on the Chevy seems as smart as its step.  The front bumper is cut out to provide airflow for the intercooler, but without a protective mesh over it, it looks vulnerable to stones and debris.  Meanwhile, the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank sits lot under the passenger-side rocker, waiting for a driver to bump over a tall curb.  The stock mirrors are also too small for the truck's size.  Why make a fuss over what it can pull, and then expect customers to pay $450 for optional towing mirrors?

The interior is a nice place to be, and the Silverado features supportive seats, a roomy second row with fold-up seats for extra storage, large centre storage console, and controls that are easy to use, even when you're wearing gloves.  And unfortunately you are likely to have them on in this truck.  While it sounds like a needless luxury, heated steering wheels are the new gotta-have-it feature, especially on a truck where the idea, at least in theory, involves some work outdoors in the cold.  The top-trim High Country has one, but not this LTZ tester, and it's a glaring omission on something that costs 80 grand.

Heavy-duty diesels are seldom an impulse buy, but if it's your first one, remember that in addition to the engine's initial stiff cost, it's also more expensive to service.  So ignore the big numbers in the ads and instead consider your needs, and buy appropriately.

Overview: Chevrolet's entry in the tow-and-torque wars

Pros: Impressive engine and transmission combination, simple box step, nice interior

Cons: A few missing items, considering its trim level

Value for money: Good

What I would change: Give it bigger mirrors

How I would spec it: LT trim; it is one step below, but still lots of stuff

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2016 SilveradoTHE SILVERADO'S BOXY STYLING IS SUBTLY UPDATED FOR 2016,
MAKING IT A HANDSOME BEAST.

By Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - When you live in the city, it's easy to dismiss pickup trucks as being over-compensating gas-guzzlers, hauling air while hogging most of the road.  To truly appreciate the beauty of a good truck, you've got to experience it in its own environment.  And there's nothing like 10 kilometres of unplowed cottage road to make a four-wheel-drive truck seem as attractive as any premium German sedan.

The unpaved road north of Apsley would've been completely impassable in any but the toughest of all-wheel-drive cars.  Heavy snow through the forest gave way to patches of yellow mud in the clearings, warmed by the sun and thick as gumbo.  Treacherously greasy, it sucked and pulled the wheels of the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado, skewing us sideways down the slick incline.

When we ground to a halt, bogged down to the running boards and flanks spackled with muck flung by the spinning rear wheels, it was time for intervention.  Switching to 4-LO engages the heavy duty locking differential, and with power driving all four wheels, we easily shook free of the mud and continued on our way.

Canadians bought more than 46,000 Chevrolet Silverados last year; it's one of the most important products in GM's portfolio.  For 2016, the Silverado receives a couple of important changes to help it stay competitive in a field that includes a fully revised Ford F150 and the Ram 1500, with its popular coil spring and air suspension.

The Silverado's boxy styling is subtly updated for 2016, with new trim-specific grilles and LED head and tail lamps, while upper trim levels get segment-first LED fog lights.  Divided by a strong, horizontal bar, the truck's new face appears wider, and a revised hood gives it a stronger, more muscular look.

Perhaps more important than the external changes is the increased use of GM's eight-speed transmission, which is now available with the 5.3-litre V-8 engine on LTZ and High Country models.  It's a big improvement on the six-speed, providing quicker torque delivery, faster acceleration and better fuel economy.

The Silverado is a handsome beast, particularly in my tester's LTZ trim, which eschews chrome bling for a more subtle look.  Running boards finish off the look nicely, and corner bumper steps provide easy access to the bed.  I particularly liked the "EZ Lift and Lower" tailgate, which can be locked remotely, keeping cargo safe beneath the tri-fold tonneau cover.

The cabin retains its blunt and chunky design, with most of the changes centred on technology.  The crew cab is an enormously roomy environment, and even the rear seats have enough legroom for a pro basketball player.  The flat and boxy centre console has plenty of cubby space, and a gigantic storage area beneath the armrest.

The eight-inch colour touch screen now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and there's on-board 4G LTE Wi-Fi and wireless cellphone charging.

Safety systems include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, driver's safety-alert seat, and a rear-view camera.  There's a heated steering wheel and front seats are heated and ventilated.  Surprisingly, given the amount of sophisticated technology, there's no push-button start, even in this upper-trim-level tester.

Although you never forget that you're driving a very large vehicle, the Silverado is well mannered and very quiet, with a minimum of road and wind noise.  While the lane-keeping assist initially feels rather intrusive, it doesn't take long to appreciate its ability to keep the big truck within the lines.  Combined with adaptive cruise control, it takes a lot of stress out of commuting in congested traffic.

The big V-8 features active cylinder management, which shuts down four cylinders during light load for better fuel efficiency.  It's smooth and seamless, with only the TFT display informing you that the truck is operating as a four-cylinder.

Steering is very good, with the right amount of heft for a vehicle this size, but having separate adjusters for tilting and telescoping the column is confusing.

Apple CarPlay is literally plug and play; tethering an iPhone instantly launches the application and it's ready for hands-free messaging.  But the Bluetooth system had the annoying habit of occasionally interrupting the audio system to make contact with my phone.

The Silverado Z71 is a formidable off-roader, with Rancho shocks, transfer case, locking differential and underbody shields.  Equipped with the Max Tow package, it's capable of towing up to 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms), which is less than the F-150's 12,200 lbs. (5,535 kg) but just over the Ram 1500's max rating of 10,800 lbs (4,900 kg).

Although the Silverado is up against some stiff competition with the Ram's cushy, self-leveling air suspension, and the F-150's slick new trailer backing-up technology, there's a lot to like about this smooth and capable pickup truck.

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