2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 8, 2009

With work truck roots and upmarket style, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado is very big and very versatile.

TheCarConnection.com's truck editors drove the new Silverado in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's SUV enthusiasts also researched available road tests on the new Silverado to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

The 2007 Chevrolet Silverado was graced with a complete redesign, and in 2009, it returns with minor upgrades. The Silverado, like it competition, is available in various models, including two interior designs and three cab styles. With its great payload and towing capabilities, the Silverado is versatile enough to serve the needs of Midwest farmers, suburban contractors, and Texas hipsters alike.

For 2009 the Silverado features a new six-speed automatic transmission with 5.3-, 6.0-, and 6.2-liter engines, while a more powerful, E85-capable 6.2-liter V-8 is available in the crew cab. By lowering the freeway rpm, the new Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic helps achieve better fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels. Furthermore, the Silverado’s towing capacity is now 7,000 pounds, a 400-pound increase. The E85-capable 6.2-liter features variable valve timing and is rated at 403 horsepower; base Silverados do just fine with a 195-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6.

The 2009 Silverado is one of the easiest full-size pickups to drive, with great communicative steering and refined, responsive engines. The 5.3-liter is TheCarConnection.com editors' pick, as it has plenty of power for most needs without much lower fuel economy than the base V-6.

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The stadium-style rear seat that's offered on the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado has a 60/40-split design, and it can be easily folded up to provide an uninterrupted load floor. For extra versatility, either section of the split seat can be stowed independently, allowing room for both cargo and a rear-seat passenger, and the rear access doors on extended-cab models open 170 degrees.

Inside, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado is very quiet, with little road or wind noise, and the upscale instrument panels that top-trim models get is very carlike, with a smooth, low design and high-quality feel. Models that are more work-oriented get a simpler, more upright design, with larger door handles and controls.

The Silverado boasts an options list as long a luxury-brand SUV, including new 2009 offerings such as Bluetooth phone connectivity, XM Satellite Radio with new NavTraffic feature, and OnStar 8.0 with Turn-by-Turn navigation and Destination Download. Additionally, a rearview camera system is available on extended and crew cab models.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Styling

The 2009 Chevy Silverado pleases nearly everyone by offering two different interiors, but overall styling remains safe.

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado shares elements, such as a steeper windshield, with the full-size Tahoe SUV, but this time the Silverado takes a slightly different tack in front, incorporatin “vertically-stacked headlamp elements, heavily flared front fenders, and the largest Bowtie badge that we’ve ever seen on a Chevrolet,” according to Autoblog. The front of the Silverado continues to differentiate itself with a look that was redesigned in 2007. With a different front end, headlamps, taillights, bedsides, and box designs, the Silverado’s styling varies significantly from that of its mechanically identical sibling, the GMC Sierra. “To our eye, the GMC looks stockier and brawnier than in the past, the Chevy perhaps a bit sleeker and aerodynamic,” says Four Wheeler. Autobytel considers the Silverado’s mirrors very useful: “With mirrors properly adjusted, small cars stand little chance of getting lost from view when merging, and the tall rear window affords a good look at what’s going on behind you.” Car and Driver, on the other hand, criticizes the Silverado’s “cheesy mirrors,” which occupy space in the driver’s peripheral vision.

Two different interiors are offered for the Silverado: the work-oriented Pure Pickup setup on the WT and LT, or the luxurious variation inside the LTZ. Reviewers appreciate both interiors but are critical of the LTZ’s carlike setup, pointing out that drivers wearing work gloves would have to remove them to use some controls. Consumer Guide sums up the difference: “The Pure Pickup interior places radio and climate controls high on the dashboard, just out of easy reach. The available luxury interior mimics that of Chevy's Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs, with controls mounted lower but in easy reach."

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Performance

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado steers and handles better than most pickups.

TheCarConnection.com is impressed by the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado’s high standards of refinement. The Silverado clearly isn't a standout in acceleration or braking, but it steers and handles more crisply than we’ve come to expect, easing the white-knuckle affair that full-size pickup piloting can be on narrow city streets.

Motor Trend compliments the Silverado’s handling, saying it “takes a set as flat as any modified tuner truck we've driven.” They continue, praising the Silverado for providing “the smoothest road feel and most confident turn-in of any full-size pickup,” while Autoblog proclaims 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 remarks that the Silverado handles the most confidently, with crisp steering and braking, while delivering a smoother ride than other pickups tested. However, Edmunds finds the braking performance of their truck, which weighs almost 5,500 pounds unloaded, a bit unimpressive.

Reviewers are generally happy with the performance provided by the 5.3- and 6.0-liter engines, but complaints almost unanimously center around hesitant reactions from the four-speed automatic transmission, which is still the only automatic offered with the base 4.3-liter V-6 and step-up 4.8-liter V-8 engine.

While off-roading, Autobytel.com notes 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.” The Web site adds that “on the plus side, the steering wheel stays steady and straight even when inching over uneven boulders or ruts.”

According to Consumer Guide, the Silverado with the 5.3-liter engine is 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.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Comfort & Quality

The excellent interior design of the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado is diminished by the use of mediocre materials and build quality.

Reviewers report that the 2009 Silverado exudes various levels of build quality. “Call it a 20-footer,” advises Autobytel.com; any closer than that, the “build quality issues become apparent.” They point to a misaligned hood, tailgate, and panels, along with various assembly issues, and “plastic bits behind the rear seat that were holding on for dear life.” However, other reviewers report that the Silverado is tremendously improved in refinement and/or assembly quality versus the previous model. “Nearly every exterior component shows remarkable attention to detail,” comments Autoblog, “and the result is a truck that’s assembled like a fine piece of furniture.”

Refinement from within the cabin is another area where reviewers differ. Autobytel.com notes “strong doses of wind, tire, and engine noise” and says that despite all of the luxurious appointments in their test LTZ, it “does not provide a cabin suitable for a serene cool-down after a difficult work day.” They also point out that the V-8’s rumble is an ever-present sound, which may tire some drivers. Edmunds, however, states that noise at highway speeds was “minimal.” and the interior sound level at 70 mph is lower than an Audi A6 sedan's. Meanwhile, Motor Trend mentions the attention to tighter seals, smaller door gaps, and increased sound deadening and attests that “wind noise is almost eliminated.”

Edmunds won’t call the materials in the Silverado the best, but says, “they’re as good, or better, than any other full-size truck,” and Autobytel.com notes the hard plastics on top of the dash but points out that “most of the hard plastics feel solid and durable.” Consumer Guide is also impressed with the Pure Pickup interior and the materials used in it, which “don’t look bargain basement.” Jalopnik sums it up well: “There’s still plenty of cheap n’ flimsy to go around, but new fabrics and plastics and a deft designer’s touch make the cab feel less institutional and more familial.”

The Silverado comes with several suspension calibrations. Consumer Guide tests the passenger-oriented Z85 suspension and finds it “compliant and fairly comfortable, with less reverberation over bumps than in most pickups,” while the Z60 and off-road-oriented Z71 calibrations are stiffer and harder riding. Ride quality tends to be a sore point with pickups, but the Silverado passes this test with flying colors, according to most reviewers. “There is a quiet, understated confidence to the Silverado's dynamic behavior that should be very pleasing to those who find themselves intimidated by older pickup trucks,” says Autoblog in describing the Silverado’s very refined driving manners. “We hope that GM finds a way to blend this voodoo into every product it builds.”

Autoblog is clearly not a fan of the seats in the LTZ, warning that larger drivers might find the interior tight due to the center console design and low dash; the seats themselves, they say, “felt more like an overstuffed arm chair than a proper automotive seating surface.” They aren't the only one to complain; Car and Driver mentions that headroom is tight for a 6’6” driver. Seating comfort is a subject of controversy, leading us to believe that the Silverado’s seats cater well to some body types and not to others. Consumer Guide notes of the Crew Cab body style, “With front bucket seats, the center console restricts toe space for the center rear-seat passenger.” Headroom and legroom are generous, they comment. Autobytel.com contends that there was plentiful headroom, legroom, and shoulder room. They find the LTZ’s front seats large and well padded, aided by padded doorsills and armrests, and claim that they remained supportive after several hours of driving. Autobytel.com also concludes that entry and exit are a little hard in their Crew Cab test truck due to the lack of running board but applauds the wide-opening doors.

TheCarConnection.com’s opinion about pickup trucks is that they are built to haul heavy loads, which reduces ride quality by default. That applies to the Silverado, but the editors find the level of seating comfort and the apparent quality of the materials inside to be pretty impressive, and its interior is one of their top choices for long-haul duty.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Safety

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado lacks some of the safety features shoppers expect, but the truck does provide good protection.



One of the Silverado’s chief competitors, the Tundra, has standard seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain bags, whereas head-protecting side curtain airbags are optional and side airbags aren’t available on the Silverado, including top-trim models. However, the Silverado now has standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control—a feature that can make a very significant difference in avoiding accidents, especially for pickups.

The Silverado 1500 achieves straight five-star ratings—the top possible—in federal crash tests for frontal and side impacts, along with top Good ratings in the insurance industry’s frontal offset and side crash tests. But in the IIHS rear protection tests, the Silverado gets an overall rating of Acceptable.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Features

In top-of-the-line LTZ trim, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado piles on luxury extras but lacks the innovative storage features that would make it an obvious winner.

New features on the 2009 Silverado include: 18- and 20-inch chrome-clad wheel designs, Bluetooth phone connectivity, XM Satellite Radio with new NavTraffic feature, OnStar 8.0 with Turn-by-Turn navigation and Destination Download, and Black Granite Metallic and Imperial Blue Metallic exterior colors.

The LTZ model offers a more carlike interior and many features not always seen among full-size pickups, such as remote engine start, a touch-screen navigation system, a fold-down rear entertainment system, power-adjustable pedals, and power-adjustable leather seats. Options include a power sliding rear window, big 20-inch alloy wheels, and a rear parking-assist system.

Several reviewers criticize the lack of a bedliner, but kind words are otherwise lavished on the cargo area. Jalopnik calls the flat loading floor “one of the coolest features on the truck.” Autoblog also notes the deeper cargo box, along with the load-assist torsion bars in the tailgate, allowing it to be closed with one arm. Car and Driver points out that the Silverado’s storage spaces lack organizing dividers and aren't as innovative as those of competitors. (The work-oriented Pure Pickup interior has separate upper and lower glove boxes, while the luxury version featured in the LTZ only has the lower one.)

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