Versus the competiton:
When I first set eyes on this week’s test vehicle, an extended cab version of the new Chevrolet S-10, I stopped dead in my tracks.
I had never before seen a fluorescent purple pickup truck.
But there it was sitting in the parking lot, all decked out with big alloy wheels and gray and black trim.
This truck had fun written all over it.
And that started me thinking that maybe the guys who run Chevrolet still do have a pulse.
After all, they’ve belted a home run with the new Camaro. They’ve made the Caprice look good.
With sales up 17 percent this year, the Corvette is hot.
And two classic Chevy names from the past, Monte Carlo and Impala SS, will soon rejoin the lineup.
After a few dismal years, wherein precious funds were drained away from Chevrolet and sent to other GM divisions, it’s Chevrolet’s turn to bring out new vehicles.
With the S-10, Chevy is looking to duplicate the success of the red-hot new Camaro.
After a one-week, 512-mile test drive, I believe Chevy has a winner in the new S-10.
The 4.3-liter, 195-horsepower V-6 engine and electronically controlled four-speed automatic is one of the best drivetrains I have tested this year in any vehicle, car, truck or van.
Why do I say that? Because usually a smooth and quiet demeanor is sacrificed for power – especially in trucks.
Not so in the new S-10. The engine is so smooth and quiet that it would not be out of place in a mid priced luxury car. The transmission shifts are nearly undetectable.
Even when you haul heavy loads the S-10’s drivetrain is as smooth as silk. I loaded the bed with more than 400 pounds of mulch, but the performance did not change.
And speaking of performance, there are times you would swear the S-10 had a V-8. From zero to 60 mph, the S-10 will outrun most cars.
One minor gripe: Sometimes the engine’s cooling fan would roar loudly.
Fuel mileage was nothing short of excellent.In the city, with the air conditioning running, the test truck delivered its promised 17 mpg. On the highway, the S-10 consumed a gallon of unleaded regular every 24 miles.
Chevy’s mechanics pulled off an interesting coup with the new S-10. They made it ride and handle just like the full-size Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup.
It’s carlike on the road, but very rugged when you venture into the woods.
In city driving, the S-10 offers a sporty, somewhat soft ride. The power-assisted steering is tight and precise, the anti-lock brakes are strong. And the S-10’s stylish new body does not lean when you hit the curves.
But I really like the way the S-10’s suspension system handles the rough stuff.
Off the road, the S-10’s strong frame allows the wheels generous up-and-down movement. You’ll detect some of that motion in the cab, but what you’ll feel is a gentle up-and-down movement that does not diminish your ability to control the vehicle.
With a load in the bed, the S-10 seemed to handle better. It felt as if the rear was more stable. Indeed, with the bed empty, flooring the accelerator caused ”wheel hop.” In other words, the wheels bounced as they spun.
FIT AND FINISH
The interior is where the old S-10really needed work. Thanks to a new dash, a new set of gauges, better seats and other updates, the interior of the new S-10 is a dramatic leap forward.
But something’s missing: style.
If you were to place a Ford Ranger next to the new S-10, you would probably give the edge to the Ford for having the best-looking, easiest-to-use interior. The Ranger’s curving one-piece dash and attractive gauges and switches just seem more user-friendly.
In contrast, the S-10’s dash has numerous creases and seams. Some things, such as the cigarette lighter and auxiliary power outlets, require the driver to lean forward to reach.
The door panel-mounted switches for the electric windows, door locksan outside mirrors are not lighted and are a bit difficult to use at night. During the day, y ou look at them and think that they will light up at night. They don’t.
The cruise control and windshield wiper switches are all on one stalk. It takes too much time and attention to work them.
These are minor gripes, but with competition being so tough, these little things are what separate the winners from the losers.
In any case, the cloth-covered buckets seats were excellent. I took a two-hour road trip and found that they provide terrific back and lower leg support for long stretches of driving.
Our test truck came with fold-away jump seats for two rear passengers. These were surprisingly comfortable, despite looking otherwise.
Mechanically, I think the new S-10 has set the standard for compact-to-midsize trucks.
You won’t find a better drivetrain.
You won’t find a truck that will handle better.
But you will find one that has a better interior.
Truett’s tip: If you are looking for style, performance, quality and value, you’ll find all of that and much more in the all-new Chevrolet S-10 pickup.