Chevy's 2003 Silverado looks a little like the son of Avalanche. The "expressive front end," with rectangular lights, a trapezoidal grille and a bold chrome bar, uses styling cues whose roots are easily recognized in the Avalanche and TrailBlazer. The Silverado Sport test truck, a two-wheel-drive regular cab Sportside model, had a base price of $18,191 and a sticker price of $22,441. This plain vanilla truck had a bench seat, manual windows and an AM/FM radio (no cassette or CD player), but $22,441 is very reasonable for a full-size truck, and the Silverado gives Chevy an inexpensive foothold in the full-size truck segment.

For many young buyers, the appeal of a truck like this is much like that of a sports car. It is different than a car and it has more individuality than a sedan. And of course, it is practical transportation for those who might want to carry stuff and haul things. The optional 4.8-liter V-8 and automatic transmission ($1,790) not only have enough power to haul loads or tow trailers, but they make the truck more energetic and fun to drive. Chevy's muscular Vortec V-8s are among the sweetest pushrod engines around, and this year the addition of an electronic throttle control gives more precise throttle operation. The Vortec engines have abundant torque so they step off the mark with authority, they are unobtrusive because vibration is minimal and they accelerate with vigor because they are brimming with horsepower. The 4.8-liter has 270, the 5.3-liter has 285 and the 6.0-liter has 300.

The basic interior upholstery was a tan tweed, and the front bench seat was a 40/20/40, which means it has a smaller center section that would be of limited use for an adult. Even though this bench seat is the most basic model, it had good lumbar support. Lateral support, however, was lacking. The Silverado's bucket seats are excellent and would be worth the upgrade.

A dual-zone climate control system allows a 30-degree fluctuation in temperature between the driver and passenger. Dual-level airbags are standard, as is a system that senses if a child or adult is in the passenger seat. If a child is in the seat, the passenger-side airbag is automatically turned off.

Chevrolet offers at least 25 different pickup models, and each of those has various engine and equipment options. Picking a model can be hard. Do you need four-wheel drive, or an extended cab? A short box or long box? For everyday city driving and occasional personal truck use, the test vehicle would be fine, but for hauling or towing a larger engine would be welcome. The extended cab expands the vehicle's versatility, and of course, four-wheel drive gives a truck all-weather traction.

Last year, Chevy offered Quadrasteer on its extended-cab short-box truck, but for 2003 the four-wheel-steering option will also be available on the short-box crew cab. Quadrasteer allows the back wheels to turn opposite to the front wheels, and that makes parking and turning much easier. The turning circle shrinks from 49.6 feet to 37.4 feet, allowing the driver to wheel into parking spaces as easily as a midsize sedan.

Trucks have just as many, if not more, entertainment options as any car. On the Silverado, for example, an XM satellite radio that receives 100 coast-to-coast digital stations will be available. XM radio is one of the next steps in broadcast because it enables the listener to hear the same station or format anywhere in the country.

Crew-cab models can be ordered with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that has a small flip-down screen for those in the back seat.

For those who want a performance truck, Chevy will offer, in the first quarter of 2003, the Silverado SS with a 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter engine under its hood. Built on the extended-cab, short-box frame, the SS will have all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels and a high-performance chassis and suspension. It will sit two inches closer to the ground and have a distinctly onochromatic paint scheme. Available in black, blue or red, the SS revives the spirit of the late Impala SS sedan.

The base price of our test truck was $18,191. Options included the automatic transmission, 4.8-liter V-8, chrome grille, tinted glass, styled wheels, heavy-duty suspension, 3.73 rear axle ratio and color-keyed carpet. The sticker price was $22,441.

Three years or 36,000 miles.

Point: The 2003 Silverado gets a major front-end redesign, with a grille and headlights that bear a strong family resemblance to the Avalanche. The throttle is electronic, the brakes have been improved and new entertainment options abound. The basic, regular-cab Sportside is reasonably priced.

Counterpoint: The downside to a basic model like the test vehicle is a modest equipment list, bench seat, manual windows and no cassette or CD player.

Engine: 4.8-liter, 270-hp V-8
Transmission: automatic Two-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 119 inches
Curb weight: 4,142 lbs.
Base price: $18,191
As driven: $22,441
Mpg rating: 15 city, 19 hwy.
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