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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
February 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview Redesigned for the 2003 model year, Chevrolets full-size pickups display more of a family resemblance to the Avalanche and TrailBlazer sport utility vehicles. The Silverado sports new angular wheel openings and an aero-styled hood. Front tow hooks and fog lamps are recessed into the front bumper, and the front fascia is flush mounted to the trucks body. An XM Satellite Radio is now offered as an option.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering became available during 2002 and is offered on extended-cab short-box versions. The electromechanical system turns the trucks rear wheels up to 12 degrees in relation to the front wheels for greatly improved low-speed maneuverability and stability.
A special Silverado SS (Super Sport) truck will be available in the first quarter of 2003. Distinct SS features will include a high-output 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 engine, a high-performance chassis and 20-inch tires. What Chevrolet calls a trim, aggressive stance with a lowered ride height will differentiate the SS from other extended-cab short-bed Silverado models.
GMCs Sierra pickups are similar to equivalent Silverados.
All extended-cab Silverados have four doors. The narrow back doors are rear hinged and cannot be opened unless the trucks front doors are open. Chevrolet claims that its extended-cab models have the largest rear-door openings in the industry.
Offered in base, LS and LT trim levels, the Silverado 1500 comes in four sizes: regular cab and extended cab, and with either a 6.5- or 8-foot cargo bed. Four wheelbases that range from 119 to 157.5 inches are available. Fleetside (slab-sided) cargo beds are standard, but a Sportside design with flared rear fenders is offered by the manufacturer.
The Silverado 1500s payloads range from 1,288 to 2,123 pounds, and light-duty models come in gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) from 6,100 to 6,400 pounds. Silverados equipped with two-wheel drive (2WD) have front coil springs, while four-wheel-drive (4WD) versions use torsion bars. The Z71 Offroad Package for half-ton 4x4s includes gas shocks, offroad jounce bumpers, specific stabilizer bars, distinctive decals, skid plates and a high-capacity air cleaner. A cargo bed made of molded composite materials is optional.
Offered in LS and LT trim levels, the Silverado 1500HD comes only in the Crew Cab body style, which comes with four, conventional, front-hinged doors and a 6.5-foot cargo bed. The 1500HD has a 153-inch wheelbase and measures 237.2 inches long overall. Only the Fleetside (slab-sided) cargo bed is available. A Ride Control suspension package is optional.
The Silverado 2500 regular-cab version comes with a long, 8-foot cargo box, and the four-door extended-cab model is equipped with a 6.5-foot box. The wheelbases measure 133 inches and 143.5 inches, respectively. Extended-cab models have two back doors that open toward the rear. The front suspensions on Silverado 2500 trucks use torsion bars. All models have Fleetside (slab-sided) cargo beds.
The towing capacity of Silverado 2500 models equipped with a weight-distributing hitch and sway control is 10,700 pounds. Standard 16-inch tires mount on eight-bolt wheels. Skid plates and tubular side steps are available.
The Silverado 2500HD also comes in plain chassis-cab form, which lacks a cargo box. The Silverado 2500HDs styling is similar to that of the light-duty Silverado 1500, which differs in size, engine availability and payload capacity.
Payloads for the Silverado 2500HD models range from 3,144 pounds to 4,047 pounds. Silverado 2500HD pickups with the two larger engines can tow trailers up to 12,000 pounds and possibly more when special equipment is installed. The GVWRs are as high as 9,200 pounds. Standard 16-inch tires mount on eight-bolt wheels.
Silverado 3500 pickups come in four body styles: regular cab, four-door extended cab, four-door Crew Cab or plain chassis cab (with no cargo box). All models have Fleetside (slab-sided) cargo beds, which are available in long or short sizes. Extended cabs have two back doors that open to the rear, while Crew Cabs have conventional back doors that open toward the front.
Payloads for the Silverado 3500 models start at 4,941 pounds and reach as high as 5,550 pounds for the regular-cab 3500 dualie version. The Silverado HD pickups with the two larger engines can tow trailers up to 12,000 pounds. In addition, the GVWRs are as high as 11,400 pounds. Standard 16-inch tires mount on eight-bolt wheels.
Regular-cab Silverado 1500 pickups come with either a three-place bench or a pair of bucket seats. Extended-cab models have a three-place rear bench and either two front buckets or a front bench that holds three occupants.
The Silverado 1500HD seats either five or six occupants on a three-place bench in the rear and a bench or twin bucket seats up front. Extra features on the upscale LT edition include heated, leather-surfaced front bucket seats; a six-CD changer; automatic dual-zone air conditioning; a six-way power drivers seat; heated power-folding outside mirrors; and GMs OnStar communication system.
In the Silverado 2500, 2500HD and 3500, regular-cab versions seat two or three occupants, while extended-cab pickups carry up to six passengers. The front occupants can have a split, three-place bench or a pair of bucket seats. Extended-cabs add a three-place rear bench seat that folds to produce additional cargo space. GMs OnStar communication system is standard in LT extended-cab models and optional in the LS edition. Extra features in the upscale LT also include dual-zone automatic air conditioning, leather-surfaced bucket seats and a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
Four engines are available for the Silverado 1500. A 200-hp, 4.3-liter V-6 is standard in most 2WD models, but most buyers select one of two available V-8 power plants: the 4.8-liter produces 270 hp and the 5.3-liter delivers 285 hp. The new SS version will get a high-output 6.0-liter V-8 that pumps out 345 hp. A four-speed-automatic and five-speed-manual transmission are available.
Only one engine is available for the Silverado 1500HD. The 6.0-liter V-8 cranks out 300 hp and teams only with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Two 4WD systems are available for the 1500 and 1500HD. Insta-Trac permits shifting in and out of 4WD High on the move through a floor-mounted transfer case. Autotrac sends all of the power to the rear wheels on smooth, dry pavement and automatically transfers power to the front wheels as needed on slippery surfaces. Electronic traction control is offered only on 2WD trucks.
The Silverado 2500s sole engine is a 300-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 that teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission.
The Silverado 2500HD and 3500HDs base engine is a 300-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8; it teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The 8.1-liter gasoline V-8 engine generates 340 hp and 455 pounds-feet of torque. A Duramax 6.6-liter, direct-injection turbo-diesel V-8 delivers 300 hp and 520 pounds-feet of torque. The 6.6-liter and 8.1-liter engines team with either a six-speed ZF manual transmission or an Allison five-speed automatic.
All Silverados can be equipped to run on compressed natural gas or a bi-fuel mixture.
Antilock brakes are standard on all Silverado modles. Child-restraint top-tether anchors are standard on the 1500 and 1500HD trucks. Dual front airbags include a new passenger-sensing system, and a passenger-side deactivation switch is equipped for these airbags in the regular-cand and extended cab models.
In its basic regular-cab form and with few extras installed, the Silverado 1500 behaves like a serious workhorse. You can expect a traditional pickup-truck experience, which translates to a bouncy ride especially when the cargo bed isnt loaded. But theres plenty of energy, at least when one of the V-8 engines is installed.
Performance with the automatic transmission is satisfying but hardly seamless, and each shift is noticeable. Handling is not especially ponderous, as the manageable 1500 maneuvers rather well through urban environments. The fully calibrated instruments are excellent and easy to read, and the Silverado runs rather quietly for a truck.