2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Performance

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Performance

Chevy's wide-ranging assortment of engines, transmissions and related hardware gives the Silverado lots of distinct, useful personalities. We think most buyers will be satisfied with the best-selling V-8 version, unless they have fleet-type use in mind.

Chief rival Ford has an edge in fuel economy and performance over Chevy's two base engines. The work-truck staple of the Silverado lineup is powered by a 4.3-liter V-6 with 195 horsepower, an engine teamed with a four-speed automatic. Fleet buyers only need apply for this kind of utilitarian duty, and they may as well pass on the flex-fuel-capable, 302-hp 4.8-liter V-8. It's also coupled to a four-speed automatic, and while it's strong enough for lighter towing, fuel economy lags behind even better Chevys above it in the pecking order.

Handling remains a virtue, and so does the 5.3-liter V-8, in the 2012 Chevy Silverado.

The Silverado to buy--for most of you looking for an all-around player--is one driven by a flex-fuel 5.3-liter V-8. With 315 hp and cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy in XFE models, this and a six-speed automatic make for a responsive drivetrain with excellent fuel economy for the size, and a nice, crisp exhaust note and off-the-line acceleration. There's a much more powerful 6.2-liter, 403-hp, flex-fuel V-8 in top-line LTZ Silverados, but few buyers really need its draining gas bills for the extra hauling capability it provides.

For those who want to go green, at any cost, the Silverado Hybrid has a sophisticated two-mode hybrid powertrain combining an all-aluminum 6.0-liter V-8 featuring variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, to which GM adds an electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motor/generators and four fixed-ratio gears, as well as a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. In all, the hybrid system is rated at 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, which pushes EPA fuel economy to 20 mpg city, 23 highway. Performance feels like that of the 5.3-liter V-8 engine, except for the almost absurd smoothness and quietness as the Silverado runs up to 27 mph on battery power alone.

Almost the entire Silverado lineup comes in either rear- or four-wheel drive. Basic versions use a single-range transfer case, with pricier models graduating to dual-range 4WD or, on top models, electronically controlled four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, a long-bed, rear-drive, V-8 Silverado can tow up to 10,700 pounds. Even saddled with more weight, the Hybrid tows 6,100 pounds with 2WD, or 5,900 pounds with automatic dual-range four-wheel drive.

Aside from its on-paper strength, the Silverado also has some more nuanced skills that aren't shared by many other full-size pickups. It's one of the easiest full-size pickups to drive, with more communicative steering than other trucks. Ride quality has been matched and exceeded by the Ram 1500, but the Silverado still can feel like a smaller truck in most situations. As for the Hybrid, it has less of the natural steering feel--its electric steering isn't as well-tuned as the newest units from Ford--and it feels less satisfying to drive as a result.

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