Chevrolet's high-performance Super Sport moniker is applied to a pickup truck with the Silverado SS. Powered by a 345-horse version of the Vortec V-8, Silverado joins a cadre of Chevy SS editions dating back to 1961, including Impala, Chevelle, Nova
and Camaro. New for 2003, Silverado SS is the first of several upcoming SS models, including Impala SS for 2004 and an all-new Chevelle SS in the near future. Silverado SS is quick, and it's flashy. Still, you have to wonder: a $40,000 Chevy
pickup? That's probably not so outlandish now that pickup trucks are commonly used as personal transportation, and GM has made a mint with high-end, high-priced sport utility vehicles. Silverado SS goes up against two existing full-size
performance trucks, Ford F-150 Lightning and Dodge SRT-10. It gives up some muscle to the archrivals, each of which boasts 500 horsepower, but Silverado SS is the only one of its kind to put power to the pavement through full-time all-wheel drive.
And it looks great. What it is The first in a new generation of Chevy SS performance models, Silverado SS is an extended-cab, short-bed pickup enhanced with a high-output engine and other performance tweaks, plus the macho styling of a
muscle car. Engine and transmission Here's a pickup that can get up and move. Though not as aggressive off the line as the supercharged Lightning or the V-10 Dodge, the Chevy has enough power to back up its SS badge. Hot-rodders should
appreciate the classic configuration of the pushrod V-8 with its muscular torque and distinctive exhaust roar. At nearly 5,300 pounds, the Silverado is a lot of truck to move from a standstill. But once under way, it accelerates swiftly to its fast
cruising speed. The four-speed automatic, hooked up to an engine with 380 pound-feet maximum torque, can afford to have widely spaced gear ratios, ranging from a stump-pulling 3.06 first gear to an overdrive 0.70 in fourth. This provides both
strong acceleration and relaxed freeway cruising. Naturally, fuel mileage is abysmal. According to the trip computer, I averaged just over 13 miles per gallon in a Phoenix-area mix of mostly freeway driving. Handling and drivability
Here's good news and bad news. First the bad news: no smoky rear-wheel tire spinning. The good news: That's because each Silverado SS has a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that delivers the torque through every tire. The electronic AWD
improves both traction and cornering, making this full-size craft feel nicely sure-footed. The suspension is lowered about an inch in front and two inches in the rear, with shock absorbers that are tuned for a smoother ride. Huge 20-inch alloy wheels
are shod with low-profile performance tires that provide lots of grip. Silverado is still a major pickup truck, however, with its inhere
nt top-heaviness and lightly weighted rear, so handling is a matter of relativity. In other words, don't expect it to handle like a Corvette. Styling The updated styling of Chevy's line of full-size trucks is sharply accentuated with the
Silverado SS. The monochromatic grille, bumper and lower body moldings are handsomely accented by bright details in the lower-front air scoops, chrome exhaust tip, SS emblems and gleaming Chevy bow tie. And, of course, those beautiful aluminum wheels.
Silverado SS comes in glossy black, bright red or a cobalt blue. The blue test truck was a consistent head turner, as well it should be. Interior Extended-cab Chevy pickups are roomy and accommodating, with broad cushy seats up front and an
oversized center console. That's up front. The full-width back seat is workable but tight, with limited legroom and an awkwardly upright back. Still, you can fit five people in here, and the rear
clamshell doors provide decent access. The SS version does not come in a quad-cab configuration, which would have a roomier rear seat. For the Silverado SS, Chevy interior stylists pulled out all the trimmings, with lush leather seating with
embroidered SS emblems, leather-trimmed steering wheel, sporty white-faced gauges, steering-wheel audio controls and trip computer. The overall effect remains macho truck. Pricing A lot of truck for a lot of money, Silverado SS comes fully
equipped as a limited-edition performance pickup for $39,205. The tasty test Silverado also included an upgraded six-CD audio system with Bose speakers, $200; trailer package, $215; dual-zone climate control, $195; spare tire lock, $15; and shipping,
$790. Total was $40,620. Bottom Line Silverado SS is certain to be a must-have for the many GM muscle-car fanatics. Like the last generation full-size Impala SS, it's almost certain to be a highly sought-after collector's item, now and in
the future. Chevrolet Silverado SS Vehicle type: Five-passenger, extended-cab pickup truck, all-wheel drive. Base price: $39,205. Price as tested: $40,620. Engine: 6-liter V-8, 345 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, 380 pound-feet of torque at
4,000 rpm. Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 106.5 inches. Curb weight: 5,298 pounds. Towing capacity: 7,500 pounds. EPA mileage: 13 city, 17 highway. Highs: Styling, image. Engine power. All-wheel
drive. Lows: Faster rivals. High base price. Poor fuel mileage.