The verdict: The 2016 Chevrolet Silverado exudes a good, old-fashioned trucklike attitude with its bold presence, but it isn’t the least bit outdated, with highly competitive capabilities and the latest multimedia technology.
Versus the competition: A 2016 Chevrolet Silverado with the optional 6.2-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission is a nearly unstoppable combination in overall performance against the most powerful half-tons the other guys have to offer.
With its latest update, the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado adds a few features on the inside and under the hood to keep the full-size, half-ton truck up to date in a constantly changing segment. For 2016, the Silverado’s styling is mildly updated, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are added, and an optional eight-speed automatic transmission previously teamed only with the 6.2-liter V-8 now comes with the 5.3-liter V-8s on some trim levels. The base engine is a 4.3-liter V-6.
Silverado trim levels start with the Work Truck and progress to the LS, LT, LTZ and top-of-the-line High Country. Cab configurations include regular and extended (double) cabs as well as a crew cab with four full-size doors. Cargo box lengths are 6 feet 6 inches or 8 feet on regular cabs, 6 feet 6 inches on the double cab; and a choice of 5 feet 8 inches, or 6 feet 6 inches on the crew cab.
Exterior & Styling
The Silverado’s bulging fenders and bolder, in-your-face front-end styling for 2016 create one of the most aggressive appearances in the half-ton game. The 2016’s new hood, made of aluminum, is designed more like a raised cowl-induction hood from a 1960s muscle car than anything you’d find on a pickup truck. From behind the wheel, the tall, carved hood makes you feel like you’re driving a substantial piece of hardware.
The 2016’s new look is more than just a makeover as Chevrolet added xenon high-intensity-discharge projector headlights and LED daytime running lights as standard equipment, while full-blown LED headlights are standard on LTZ and High Country trim levels.
Speaking of the most-expensive High Country trim level, that’s the only one where you’ll find power retractable running boards for an extra $995. Otherwise, fixed running boards are available in squared or round tubing forms on the WT, LS, LT and LTZ trims for $630 to $700 depending on the shape. Either way, they’re a must-have feature for stepping into the towering Silverado without ripping your pants wide open.
How It Drives
Up until 2016, an eight-speed automatic transmission was teamed only with the more-powerful 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8, which proved an unbeatable combination stuffed in a Silverado during our 2015 Light-Duty V-8 Challenge. The related GMC Sierra took top spot in our 2016 Texas Truck Showdown: Max Towing tests in part because of how well the eight-speed harnessed the 6.2-liter’s big power. Now the eight-speed joins the smaller, 355-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 for 2016 and makes a sizable impact on drivability. Don’t get too excited, however, because the transmission is available with the 5.3-liter only on LTZ and High Country trim levels. To get the eight-speed, you’ll need the Z71 off-road model like we tested where the transmission is grouped with Z71 equipment, or step up to the High Country where it’s standard or equip an LTZ with the Max Trailering Package. All other 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s with the 5.3-liter retain the six-speed automatic transmission.
Splurging for the Silverado LTZ with the 5.3-liter and eight-speed transmission is an easy decision if you need to haul a full box of payload and are torn between a six-speed trim level and the LTZ or High Country. With the eight-speed, the short 4.56 1st gear ratio combined with the standard 3.42 axle ratio gives the 2016 Silverado unbelievable pop from a standstill when loaded with 1,750 pounds of payload. The truck jumps away from a stoplight as if there’s nothing in the bed. Every gear ratio through 6th is shorter (numerically higher) than in the six-speed transmission, while 7th and 8th are overdrive gears to keep engine speed low during highway cruising.
The combo’s responsiveness when towing or empty is extremely respectable: Though there are eight gears, the Silverado always seems to pick the right one in normal drive mode and the Tow/Haul mode. The lightest touch of the accelerator at cruising speeds results in a downshift and immediate acceleration. Keep the accelerator pinned and the gears whizz by with little drop in engine speed between shifts. The eight-speed transmission seems to squeeze every last bit of usable horsepower and torque out of the little 5.3-liter.
Towing a 10,100-pound trailer with the Max Trailering Package ($925) stretches the acceleration capabilities of the 5.3-liter and eight-speed pretty thin, however, as noted by judges in our 2016 Texas Truck Showdown: Max Towing where the Silverado 5.3-liter faced competition from Ford, GMC, Ram and Toyota. It still put up decent acceleration times for being at a power and torque disadvantage from the rest of the field. It’s worth noting the Silverado was lighter than the others except for the F-150. The max tow rating of that Silverado was 11,000 pounds.
For a non-performance pickup truck, the Silverado with the 6.2-liter can best be described as a rocket ship, hot rod, fast, stupid fast, etc. Even the Ford F-150 with a potent turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost can’t match the acceleration or responsiveness of a 6.2-liter-equipped Silverado. We tested these two engines at the same time while collecting data for two previous Challenges, and the results back up that statement. An empty 6.2-liter Silverado crew cab ran zero-to-60 mph in 5.92 seconds, with the quarter-mile coming up in 14.3 seconds at 97.6 mph while an empty Ford 3.5-liter EcoBoost crew cab did 60 mph in 6.22 seconds and the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 94.1 mph.
Fuel economy for the 5.3-liter and eight-speed is rated slightly worse than the six-speed in EPA estimates, probably because eight-speed trim levels include only the heavy crew-cab LTZ and High Country. Comparing fuel economy of rear-wheel-drive trucks, a 5.3-liter with the six-speed transmission is rated at 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined, a 5.3-liter with the eight-speed gets 16/22/18 mpg and the top-dog 6.2-liter with the eight-speed is 15/21/17 mpg — a marginal difference among the three. Ford has the Chevrolet licked in fuel economy with EPA ratings of 18/24/21 mpg with the midtier 2.7-liter V-6 EcoBoost falling between the 5.0-liter V-8’s lackluster 14/20/16 mpg ratings and the 3.5-liter EcoBoost’s 16/22/18 mpg ratings, which matches the Silverado’s 5.3-liter and eight-speed but with a lot more kick, plus availability in trim levels other than the most expensive.
Our 5.3-liter LTZ with Z71 off-road equipment had an old-school trucklike ride, which is to say not very pleasant, with harsh suspension thwacks over big bumps and expansion joints. The Z71 comes with monotube shock absorbers, automatic locking rear differential, transfer case shielding and hill descent control; a locking rear differential is part of the Max Trailering Package. Ford’s 2015 F-150 redesign raised the bar big time, with ride quality and maneuverability approaching crossover or SUV refinement. The Silverado mostly drives like a truck even without the Z71 suspension, albeit a very refined one, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing when combined with the truck’s finely tuned steering, brake and accelerator responsiveness. The F-150 doesn’t quite have that rough-and-tough trucklike attitude anymore, though it’s definitely the more pleasant truck to drive in the city.
The Silverado’s interior leans more toward utilitarian than flashy even though it has many of the same features as a Ram 1500 or Ford F-150, such as a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, power adjustable pedals and more. The top of the Silverado trim range doesn’t have touches that scream high quality or luxury the way an F-150 Platinum or Ram Longhorn do, and that’s notable when these trucks can easily crest the $50,000 mark — like our 5.3-liter LTZ crew cab’s $52,585 retail price (includes destination fee).
Controls are all laid out nicely, especially the trailer brake controller that’s out in the open within easy reach and not tucked away or hidden behind the steering wheel like in other half-tons. It’s part of the Max Trailering Package or a stand-alone option for $275.
Front-seat comfort is great with the optional leather seats, providing a tall seating position and commanding view of the road. The standard side mirrors are small for the truck’s size, so the truck feels even larger and less negotiable while changing lanes. Optional huge, retractable trailering mirrors fix the issue, providing a proper view, but the option also requires the Max Trailering Package as a prerequisite.
Backseat comfort isn’t lacking in any of the full-size crew-cab trucks. The Silverado’s is plenty comfortable with a good seating position and thigh support, though those looking for max room and a flat cargo floor should check out the limousine backseats in the F-150 and Tundra.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The Silverado is a mecca of in-car tech with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi and an insane number of ways to charge devices big and small. Perhaps most notable are optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that join the party for 2016, simplifying smartphone integration with the Silverado’s 7- or 8-inch touch-screens, mirroring numerous smartphone applications including navigation.
I used CarPlay with an iPhone 6 in the Silverado without issue, though some editors encountered problems in our Silverado test truck, so bring your iPhone on the test drive. All that’s required to take advantage of CarPlay is to plug the phone’s charge cable into any one of the multiple USB outlets, follow the prompts on the phone and hit the CarPlay icon on the touch-screen. And that’s it. There aren’t any complicated phone pairing procedures or extra apps required to use the painlessly easy Bluetooth and voice-to-text functions. CarPlay also mirrors Apple Maps to the truck’s touch-screen, but without the intuitive pinch and zoom functions you get on the phone.
An entire truckload of your phone-happy friends won’t have any problems finding juice with up to five USB ports, a household AC outlet, two 12-volt outlets and a wireless charging pad for compatible phones all within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat. In-car Wi-Fi was certainly gimmicky at first, but now 4G LTE speeds make the technology more usable. A strong antenna on top of the truck receives data in areas where a phone comes up short. Internet connectivity is provided through 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hot spot; it’s optional on WT trims and standard on all others. A subscription is required after the three-month or 3-gigabyte trial expires, whichever comes first, and monthly plans range from $15 to $50 a month.
All Silverado cab styles test well in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, scoring five out of five stars in overall, frontal and side tests. NHTSA rates the Silverado’s risk of rollover at four out of five stars. Ford’s F-150 gets an overall rating of five stars across all cab configurations; the Ram 1500 and Tundra get four stars. At time of publication, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not fully crash-tested the Silverado, but it scored the agency’s best rating of good in the moderate overlap front crash test.
An Enhanced Driver Alert Package offered on most trim levels and cab styles includes a lane departure warning system, forward collision alert (without autonomous braking), front and rear park assist, and a few other features. Missing from the Silverado altogether is a blind spot monitoring system that could have made negotiating hairy lane changes easier. The Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra offer this feature.
Click here to see how well child-safety seats fit in the Silverado.
Cargo & Towing
Crew-cab Silverado 1500s offer a 5-foot-8-inch or 6-foot-6-inch box with a maximum width of 5.4 feet at the box’s floor. Numerous niceties in the cargo box make using the Silverado as a hauler a painless experience. Those include the soft-closing EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate on the LT, LTZ and High Country, which you can whip open and walk away from without the tailgate bouncing open. The tailgate is also power- and remote-lockable on those trim levels, and available on the WT and LS.
Other cargo box options include a factory spray-in bedliner as a $495 stand-alone option or lumped into the $795 Cargo Convenience Package that includes four cargo hooks rated to hold 250 pounds each. A standard single light illuminates the box, but LED lights under the box rails are available for $125.
Those looking for maximum payload should go after a Silverado 5.3-liter crew cab with the Max Trailering Package, two-wheel drive and the 5-foot, 8-inch cargo box, which maxes out payload capacity at 2,160 pounds. The lowest payload rating is 1,650 pounds in the crew cab 4×4 with the 6.2-liter and 6-foot, 6-inch cargo box.
On the inside, the Silverado’s flip-up rear seat is painless to use and only requires a good tug to pull up from the floor and a good push to put it back in place. The wide, expansive Silverado interior has no shortage of cargo space for personal items. Tablets or small laptops fit in the deep and wide center console.
Value in Its Class
The Silverado crew cab we tested with 5.3-liter engine, eight-speed transmission, Z71 off-road equipment and four-wheel drive racked up a bill of $52,585, which seems pricey if you haven’t shopped for a truck in a while, but it doesn’t take much to hit $50,000 on a new Silverado if you want goods like the eight-speed automatic transmission or the 6.2-liter.
Roughly $50,000 is where you’re going to be on any full-size truck equipped with options such as leather heated and cooled seats, four-wheel drive, spray-in bedliner, advanced multimedia system, remote start and the hauling capabilities of a Chevrolet Silverado 1500.
Limiting the 5.3-liter and eight-speed automatic combination to higher trim levels means the 6.2-liter V-8 is within reach by a few grand, and without a considerable loss in fuel economy. The 5.3-liter and eight-speed are available only on LTZ and High Country trim levels, just like the 6.2-liter, so for an extra $2,695 the 6.2-liter isn’t a bad deal. Cargo and trailers feel lighter when being hauled by the beastly 6.2-liter compared with not only the 5.3-liter, but also the most potent engines in other half-tons.