There's no surprise that V-8 versions of the Chevrolet Silverado are the top sellers; we think that most buyers will be most satisfied with these larger engines, as they're stronger for towing or hauling while returning gas mileage that's about as good in light, real-world driving as with the base V-6.
Rival Ford now has the edge over Chevy against the GM models' most affordable base engines. Fleet and work-truck shoppers might opt for the 4.3-liter V-6 with 195 horsepower and hooked up to a four-speed automatic. These trucks end up with a utilitarian feel and are only adequate in performance—with the combination sacrificing a lot of refinement compared to the V-8s. The next step up, the flex-fuel-capable, 302-hp 4.8-liter V-8, is also coupled to a four-speed automatic; it's a strong combination, yet there's more of a sacrifice in fuel economy. .
The flex-fuel-capable, 5.3-liter V-8 is our pick for most personal truck buyers. With 315 hp and cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy in XFE models, with a six-speed automatic (that now for 2013 includes Powertrain Grade Braking, to help increase safety downhill with heavy loads), it's a responsive, relatively economical setup; plus it has great off-the-line acceleration and a brash exhaust note. In top-of-the-line Silverado LTZ models, you can get a stronger 6.2-liter, 403-hp, flex-fuel V-8, but we tend to think that it's not worth the extra thirst for most buyers' needs.
The Silverado Hybrid remains part of the lineup, and even though it's been a slow seller we think it's worth a look for green-minded business owners—and discounts might apply at the dealership level to bring the cost down. It has a sophisticated, quiet 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. Performance is about as good as that of the 5.3-liter V-8, with the setup making 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. EPA fuel economy for the combo reaches an excellent 20 mpg city, 23 highway.
Rear- or four-wheel drive versions of the Silverado remain available throughout the lineup. A single-range transfer case applies to base models, while pricier models get a 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.
What doesn't transfer as well to spec panels is that the Silverado trucks, for the most part, are some of the easiest full-size trucks to drive, with more communicative steering and good maneuverability—feeling a little smaller than the Ram or F-150, even if it isn't. Our only complaint otherwise is that the electric power steering for the Hybrid isn't tuned quite as well as that of the rest of the lineup.