Reviewers were generally happy with the performance provided by the 5.3- and 6.0-liter engines, but complaints almost unanimously centered around a hesitant automatic transmission, which has four speeds while rivals have five or six. The base 4.3-liter V-6 and step-up 4.8-liter V-8 engine were not extensively covered in reviews. Jalopnik, reviewing a Silverado with the 5.3-liter and automatic, said that having only four gears “means that the rev-happy engine is frequently left hanging somewhere away from the meat of the powerband.” Car and Driver found acceleration with the 6.0-liter only average among other top powertrains. However, ConsumerGuide tested both the 5.3- and 6.0-liter engines and found the 5.3-liter version to have acceleration that was “more than adequate at all speeds, aided by the smooth-shifting transmission that kicks down quickly for more power.” The 6.0-liter, they found, was hindered by transmission hesitation. Edmunds noticed the same thing when testing a midgrade LT crew cab with four-wheel drive and the 6.0-liter V-8 engine—along with the trailer package to bump the tow rating up to the 10,500-pound maximum—saying that “once in awhile the transmission will refuse to downshift leaving you lagging along until the engine wakes up at higher rpm.” Autobytel.com noticed the same issue, saying that the transmission “consistently took too long to downshift as we climbed California's Tejon Pass.”
Positive words were flowing for the way that the Silverado steers and handles. Motor Trend had complimented the Silverado’s handling, which “takes a set as flat as any modified tuner truck we've driven.” MT continued to heap on the praise for the truck, which “the smoothest road feel and most confident turn-in of any full-size pickup,” while Autoblog said that the Silverado’s “steering and brake feel defies comparison to other half-ton pickups.” In a comparison test versus some of the Silverado’s main competitors, Car and Driver said that the Silverado handled the most confidently, with crisp steering and braking, while delivering a smoother ride than other pickups tested. However, Edmunds found the braking performance of their truck, which weighed almost 5,500 pounds unloaded, a bit unimpressive.
Autobytel.com also took the Silverado off-roading and said, “On the plus side, the steering wheel stays steady and straight even when inching over uneven boulders or ruts.” While off-roading, they noted trouble seeing over the large hood, especially when cresting large hills. “On more than one occasion, we were forced to stick our heads out for guidance,” they said.
ConsumerGuide also noted that the Silverado with the 5.3-liter engine was among the most frugal in its class. The engine’s Active Fuel Management system can shut off four cylinders to save up to 20 percent in fuel.
In an around-town drive in a lightly optioned Silverado LT with the 5.3-liter engine, TheCarConnection.com was wowed by higher standards of refinement than we’ve come to expect in a pickup. The Silverado clearly wasn’t a standout in acceleration or braking, but it steered and handled more crisply than we’ve come to expect, easing a white-knuckle affair on narrow city streets.