New & Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500: In Depth
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The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a mainstay of the full-size pickup truck market. A major rival for the best-selling Ford F-150, it also competes with the Ram 1500 as well as its own kin, the GMC Sierra 1500. Toyota's Tundra and Nissan's Titan also are rivals.
Like any good pickup, the Silverado is available in a number of styles and trim levels that range from work trucks to more luxurious options such as the High Country model. As of its redesign for the 2014 model year, the Silverado is stronger, more efficient, and more pleasant to be in and drive than ever.
For 2016, the Silverado has been updated, though it's only in its third year since a major redesign. Chevy has updated the pickup's look with a more finely detailed front-end design with LED lighting, while making drivetrain upgrades and safety equipment improvements.
MORE: Read our 2016 Chevrolet Silverado review
The Silverado has been on sale since 1999, when General Motors gave the name to its C/K pickup trucks developed under the code name GMT800. In that first generation, the Silverado carried on with the rugged look and capability that GM's trucks used to battle the Ford F-150, their sales arch-rival. From the 1999 to the 2006 model year, the Silverado was sold in hundreds of configurations—nearly all of them powered by a V-8 engine teamed to a four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed automatic came late in the lifecycle, as did GM's first hybrid—which in this case was a very "mild" hybrid which simply stored some recouped energy to feed electrical systems, including a power point in its pickup bed.
In 2007, GM introduced the first of the "GMT900" trucks—the project was accelerated as GM hoped strong sales would lift it back into profitability. While that didn't quite pan out, the GMT900s were an instant success, receiving good reviews for their more upscale styling, rich interiors, and improved drivetrains. The Silverado remained one of the best full-size trucks for its seemingly endless variety of configurations: three body styles that offered seating for up to six in front of a bed that came in short and long variants.
This Silverado shared its running gear with many vehicles across the GM brands. The Chevrolet Silverado, Avalanche, Suburban, and Tahoe all were related, as were the heavy-duty versions of the Silverado and Suburban. GMC's Sierra, Suburban, and Yukon were almost identical to them, spun from the same architecture, as was the Cadillac Escalade. The HUMMER H2 was also a distant cousin of these trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
This Silverado also offered a plainer and a quite nice interior design; a choice of four gas engines and a Two-Mode Hybrid model; and rear- or four-wheel drive. The most powerful, 403-hp V-8 Silverado had fuel economy of 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway, but the Hybrid edition earned ratings of 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Towing topped out at more than 10,700 pounds. While the Silverado's rear seats were a little too vertical, the interior was as comfortable as the competitors', save for the Ram 1500. Advanced features ranged from a trailer-sway mode in the stability-control system, to dealer-installed wireless internet access.
Changes were minimal going through 2013. Powertrain Grade Braking—to improve stability on hills, when towing—was included for 2013 in all models with the six-speed automatic.
The current Chevrolet Silverado 1500
The Chevy Silverado was extensively refreshed for 2014, with an upright, chiseled look inside and out; a stronger yet more fuel-efficient lineup of engines; quieter, more refined cabins; and a noteworthy set of safety and infotainment technology. The beefier visage nods to the looks of Chevy's HD trucks while adding a luxury-car feature set to the top of the lineup.
Under the hood, the Silverado has been fitted with a new generation of GM V-6 and V-8 engines, all with a common architecture, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and continuously variable valve timing. Gas mileage, power, and torque are all improved. The base engine is a 285-hp, 4.3-liter V-6, the mid-level is a 5.3-liter V-8 good for 355 hp, and the top choice is a 6.2-liter eight-cylinder making 420 hp. All used six-speed transmissions from launch, though the 6.2 was upgraded to a new eight-speed auto for 2015, and high-line versions of the 5.3-liter V-8 got it in 2016. The new trucks are truly modern and very competitive with their domestic counterparts.
Chevy has added several active-safety features as options on the latest Silverado, including lane-departure warning and collision warning. For 2016, it also got IntelliBeam headlights and Lane Keep Assist. The infotainment system uses Chevy's latest MyLink software, which can stream audio from Pandora, connect to Bluetooth phones, and accept voice commands or inputs through its eight-inch touch screen. The processor has been upgraded for 2016, and a version with a seven-inch touch screen has been added for lower line models. The extended-cab trucks have switched to front-hinged short doors, with longer doors available and tied to more rear-seat room on crew-cab models. The tailgate is damped for a soft landing when opened, there are lights in the cargo bed, and the rear bumper has small steps integrated into its corners for easier access to cargo.
Updates were few for 2015. In addition to the new transmission, they included available LTE connectivity for OnStar, which could also be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Chevy also offered a Black Out package for WT (work truck) models, which did exactly what you'd expect to the trim and wheels. The Silverado Custom was also added as an LS double cab with 20-inch wheels, chrome bumpers, chrome mirror caps, and a few other dress-up items, creating what can be referred to as a special-value package.
Other 2016 changes include the addition of wireless phone charging for models with front bucket seats, new power-articulating side steps for the High Country, and an available remote locking tailgate.