2009 Chevrolet Silverado: Too Few Gears?

February 15, 2009
Ah, The General. He never lets us down. Good, or, in some cases, bad. While there's a lot to be said for tradition -- especially when your typical customer puts a high price tag on tradition -- there are some arenas in which traditions should be surrendered to the museums. I'm talking technology, an arena in which sticking to tradition is a good way to get one's lunch eaten.

So we come to a mainstay in The General's stable, a tried and true hunk of yesteryear that has become synonymous with GM: the four-speed automatic transmission. Now I know the trusty old HydraMatic four-speed has done so much for so many in so many years of solid, full-size Chevy trucks. God bless it, it's a powerful setup that gets the job done. Besides, isn't there a whole school of thought that says "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Maybe your plumber has said that.

That school of thought is just fine--unless you have competition. And Chevy trucks have competition in spades. Not only old nemeses Ford and Dodge, but also Toyota's first serious contender, the current Tundra. Not to mention Nissan's Titan. Tradition has to go.

Here's what the competition offers:

  • 2009 Nissan Titan: 5-speed auto
  • 2009 Toyota Tundra: 5- or 6-speed auto
  • 2009 Dodge Ram: 5-speed auto (*4-speed auto offered only on base ST with 3.7L V6)
  • 2009 Ford F-150: 6-speed auto (**4-speed offered on the old 2-valve 4.6L V8)
  • 2009 Chevy Silverado: 4-speed auto standard on all models (***6-speed available on LT and LTZ models; standard on XFE)

I'd say it's time for a change. Why does it have to cost an arm and a leg to get the 6-speed on the Silverado? LTs and LTZs are a significant step up in cost, and then you still have to pay more to get the optional 6-speed. I think fuel savings and better performance should proliferate across the range. Don't you? After all, if you're trying to save money at the pump, wouldn't you also be interested in saving money at the dealership?

New transmissions are expensive to develop and produce, yes. Well, so were airbags. Competition is all about figuring out how to make things better and cost-effective at the same time. The benefits of 5- and 6-speed automatic transmissions have been shown throughout the industry. A good 5- or 6-speed better harnesses the engine's power. It gives the engine the right gear. It helps the engine work less. It gets the most out of the powerplant for you. And also returns better gas mileage. So Chevy, stick that in your list of standard features. Please.

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