EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


Pickup trucks are big business. Nearly half of all Chevrolet light trucks sold in 2006 were Silverado pickups, so redesigning such an important product is not taken lightly.

Pickups are no longer primarily work vehicles. Like sports cars and SUVs, they are personal-choice vehicles whose style, function and flair differentiate them from automobiles. The fact that they’re practical is often merely a bonus.

The redesigned 2007 Chevrolet Silverado is an excellent example of how trucks have changed. I drove a four-wheel-drive crew cab equipped with the top LTZ trim package. Its base price was $38,090 and the sticker was $45,424, but it had a Bose stereo, heated leather seats, navigation system, 20-inch wheels, tow package and a rear-seat entertainment system. That’s hardly a work truck.

A regular cab, two-wheel-drive Silverado begins at $23,605, and the crew cab starts at $27,000. Those prices include the 4.8-liter V-8 engine.

The new Silverado looks beefy on the outside, but the upscale LTZ has an interior that is as well appointed as a Tahoe. Pickup trucks are getting nicer and nicer because, for a high percentage of buyers who use trucks as personal vehicles, comfort is as important as load capacity or towing weight.

The ’07 Silverado comes in regular, extended and crew-cab models, with three box lengths: 5 foot 8 inches, 6 foot 6 inches, and 8 feet long. There are three trim levels: WT, LT and LTZ, available with four engines, in two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Chevy describes the WT and LT interior thus: “The pure pickup interior offered on WT and LT trim levels features larger controls and door handles that are easier to use with gloves. A large-capacity, double glove box is integrated into the instrument panel. Cloth seats are standard. A lockable in-seat storage bin is built into a new 40/20/40-split bench, and it is large enough to store a laptop computer and features a 12-volt power outlet.”

The LTZ has a larger center console, a heated leather driver’s seat, Bose stereo and heated windshield washer fluid. The crew cab gets rain-sensing automatic wipers, rear-seat audio system and a large glove box.

Chevy also offers an easy-lift tailgate that can be opened and closed with one hand.

The test truck’s 5.3-liter V-8 had Active Fuel Management, which means it shuts down four cylinders under moderate loads to save fuel. When I hauled a skid full of book boxes weighing about 540 pounds, the truck would still cycle into four-cylinder mode at constant highway speed. The Environmental Protection Agency rated the mileage at 16 city and 20 highway, and I was able to hit those numbers even with a modest load.

The 5.3-liter engine has 315 horsepower, and it comes in four versions. Two have cast-iron engine blocks and two have aluminum. Two engines are flex-fuel models capable of burning E85 ethanol. A 6.0-liter engine with 367 horsepower is optional. Towing capacity is 8,500 pounds with the 5.3-liter and 10,500 pounds with the 6.0-liter.

The Silverado’s cabin feels spacious because the instrument panel has been moved down and away from the driver. The LTZ interior is very similar to that of the new Tahoe, which is to say it has woodgrain trim, brushed aluminum accents and a leather-like texture. Seams are few and gaps are small.

The crew cab’s 60/40 back seat folds flat for extra load space, and the side doors open 170 degrees for easier loading.

The Silverado has four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock standard. GM’s StabiliTrak vehicle stability system is standard on the crew cab and optional on the extended cab.

Roof-mounted side curtain airbags are optional on the LT and LTZ models.

The Silverado comes with five different suspension packages. The test truck was equipped with the Z85 handling/trailering option, and it provided a reasonably smooth ride and competent handling. The truck’s stability is due in part to a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension and a track that is three inches wider in front and one inch wider in back.

Shock absorbers on the rear axle are splayed outward and upright for better handling, according to Chevy.

Chevy brought the new Silverado to market a few weeks earlier than originally planned, and that enables it to beat the upcoming redesigned Toyota Tundra to the sales floor. Chevy sold nearly 600,000 pickups in the first 11 months of 2006, and the all-new Silverado is poised to keep, if not exceed, that pace.

Price

The test truck’s base price was $38,090. Options included the LTZ trim package of heated leather seats, Bose audio system, heated windshield washer fluid, rain-sensing wipers, remote vehicle start, trailer towing package, locking rear differential and automatic four-wheel drive. Other options included the easy-lift tailgate, navigation system, rear-seat entertainment center, power sliding rear window, power sunroof, XM satellite radio and 3.73 rear axle ratio. The sticker price was $45,424.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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