Driving a full-size pickup truck presents a few obstacles you normally don’t encounter in a full-size sedan.
For starters, unless you earn your living on the basketball court, you may need a stepladder or a running start and good spring in your knees to get into the truck cabin-as we found out test-driving the full-size 1993 Chevrolet Fleetside K2500 pickup.
The other obstacle you’ll encounter is trying to pull into that parking space between cars at the mall. A simple tug on the steering wheel in a car allows you to slip within the yellow lines. Do the same with the truck and the cab might be within those lines, but the 8-foot bed will block another vehicle from entering or exiting.
Oh, there is a third obstacle, a sticker that reads $23,205-after a $1,000 discount for a special option package. You have to really love a truck to pay the same price or more than you would for a mid- or full-size car.
We test-drove a 1993 extended-cab, four-wheel-drive Chevy Fleetside K2500 pickup in Silverado trim. The name is almost as long as the truck and serves ample notice of what you’re getting for your money-an extended cab with two added seats in back for kids, groceries, dry cleaning or luggage; four-wheel drive, so that when it snows you’ll still have total command of the road; and K2500, meaning a three-quarter ton pickup with a cargo bed large enough to move a room or two full of furniture or sufficient sod to redo the front lawn.
With the extended cab, the pickup has truly become a multipurpose vehicle for work by day or play at night and on weekends-if, of course, you don’t mind pulling up to the country club and having to use a forklift to gracefully extricate your spouse or date from the cab.
Extended cabs have become hot items, and Chevy reports that depending on the size of the truck-from compact to full size-demand for the cab ranges from 30 to 46 percent. “They don’t sit on the dealer’s lot very long,” one Chevy official noted.
With an extended cab, parents with little kids don’t have to settle for a station wagon, because the family will fit inside the truck.
Those bucket seats in back also hold the groceries, luggage or pet without subjecting them to the weather, jostling or theft if carried in the exposed bed.
Full-size Chevy trucks also offer anti-lock brakes, though only on the rear wheels. Chevy offers four-wheel anti-lock brakes in its compact sport-utility vehicles and vans. The full-size trucks will get them next, though maybe not for another year or more.
The Fleetside also is missing an air bag. This fall the 1994 Dodge Ram full-size pickup will be the first in the industry with a driver-side air bag as standard. At Chevy the system is one or two years away.
Another feature you can’t get from the factory is a running board or step to help those with short inseams enter or exit without a groin pull. It’s not available from the factory, one source said, because the addition of a running board would require applying and tightening 30 to 40 screws per side. On the assembly line that means complexity and higher cost.
However, Chevy is considering adding a built-in molded step, a concession and realization that more women are not only riding in, but also purchasing, pickups.
The truck we drove sits high to allow for the four-wheel-drive hardware and the ground clearance needed to pass over mounds of snow or through piles of sand. Chevy doesn’t offer the ability to engage four-wheel drive at the push of a button as Ford does, but it does allow shifting on the fly, meaning you can reach down and give the lever on the transfer case a tug to engage all four wheels even while the vehicle is moving.
A 4.3-liter, 165-horsepower V-6 is standard. Three V-8s-175-horsepower, 5-liter and 210-horsepower, 5.7-liter gas-powered engines and a 190-horsepower, 6.2- iter diesel-are optional.
The 5-liter is $575 extra with automatic transmission, but it is a no-cost option with the five-speed manual. The 5.7-liter runs $845 with automatic, $270 with manual. The 6.2-liter diesel runs $2,400 with automatic, $1,825 with manual.
The fuel-economy ratings are 14 m.p.g. city/18 highway with the V-6 and manual, 15/18 with automatic; 13/17 with the 5-liter and manual, 14/18 with automatic; 13/17 with the 5.7-liter and manual, 13/17 with automatic; and 19/23 with the diesel and manual, 18/22 with automatic.
Because the diesel provides the best mileage, it also has the greatest range between fillups, but the price of diesel fuel compared with gas has made gas engines the choice among buyers. When last we looked, diesel was 13 cents a gallon more than lead-free gas at our local station.
Our test truck was equipped with the 5.7-liter V-8, teamed with the optional four-speed automatic with overdrive. Chevy also offers natural-gas and propane versions of the 5.7-liter V-8, but in limited quantities and not with the extended cab or four-wheel drive.
Though tough to get into, the truck is roomy and comfortable once you’re inside. Sitting high provides excellent down-the-road visibility. Also, in some regular-cab trucks the driver and passenger seats are snug against the back of the cabin. You sit too erect, and long-distance travel is annoying. In an extended cab with seats behind you, there’s room to recline your seat-back so you can stretch out.
As evidence that trucks no longer are the sole domain of tradesmen, our truck came with dual cupholders, and the cloth seats were Scotchgarded for protection in case you miss the holders.
While the truck can be loaded with about every feature you’ll find in a car, you’ll pay a stiff price for those amenities. High-back bucket seats with a center floor console run $291; the four-speed automatic $890; a heavy-duty trailer-towing package $408; a chromed rear step bumper with rub strip for access to the bed $229; and a sliding rear window, which allows you to vent the interior, $113.
The preferred-equipment package, which includes air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with cassette and digital clock, power steering, cruise control, auxiliary lighting, stainless-steel exterior mirrors and Silverado trim and name badges, is $2,429.
We noted above three obstacles with the Chevy pickup. Some might consider a fourth-the recent adverse publicity for General Motors trucks built from 1973 to 1987 over charges that because the fuel tanks were outside the frame rails the vehicles were susceptible to fires in accidents.
We didn’t let that influence our opinion of the pickup, because (1) The tank is now within the frame rails and (2) The 17-year-old who died when his 1985 GMC pickup was struck by a car and whose parents were awarded $105.2 million was hit by a car going 70 m.p .h. We can’t say a gas tank within the frame rails wouldn’t have ruptured and burst into flames at such an impact.