Photos by Mike Magda
Configured as an attractive and adept personal pickup, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ 4x4 offers an appropriate measure of luxury and convenience without gadgets and commercial themes. The downside is an understandable compromise in capability.
This "image pickup" appealed to many non-traditional truck buyers in the days of reasonably priced gasoline and a steady economy. Although demand is down, it still offers the working-hero persona of a four-wheel-drive truck, the versatility of a four-door crew cab and the comfort of a Chevy Tahoe. These buyers don't care if the cargo bed holds a loveseat but not a sofa with the tailgate up. It will still transport the family and a tow a 20-foot bow rider over the mountains.
For 2012, the Silverado LTZ gets a small but beneficial face-lift with a chrome mesh grille and monochromatic surround. Other upgrades include a new hard-drive-based navigation/audio system and heated and cooled front seats. The Stabilitrak stability control system also gets updated to include trailer-sway control and hill start assist — a change that's standard on all 2012 Silverado 1500 models.
The LTZ trim is Chevy's luxury model. While not as sumptuous as the GMC Denali, it may have a wider appeal with its restrained approach. For those seeking more bling, Chevy offers the White Diamond Package with blinding chrome goodies.
Aside from the grille treatment and the absence of a chrome bumper, the LTZ isn't that distinguishable from other Chevy trim levels. As expected, our Victory Red tester with 20-inch chromed five-spoke wheels stood out. With luxury trims, the drawing power is in the leather power seating, automatic climate controls, potent stereo and the multitude of convenience features such as a backup camera, fold-up rear seats and steering-wheel audio controls, which were welcomed because the gearshift blocked access to the volume control on the center stack. Our truck was also equipped with a power sunroof and a power sliding rear window — perfect for our locale.
The LTZ won't disappoint or excite as an upscale truck package. The bucket seats are supportive, comfortable and well suitable for a cross-country trip. Power-adjustable pedals ensure the desired driving position. Everything works as promised. Going above the call of duty was the Bose stereo. Whether amplifying tunes from satellite radio or an iPod, the sound was well-balanced and assertive. Frustrations included a rather dainty steering wheel (it needs to be thicker) and the lack of a 120-volt outlet.
The LTZ doesn't have multimedia or utility packages comparable to Ford's Sync or Work Solutions. It does have the always-useful OnStar and the dealer-available Chevy WiFi — which, unfortunately, our test model didn't have. In this age of gadgetry, the ability to link smartphone features to the truck is attractive, if not a necessity, to many consumers, and it may be the deciding factor in a luxury purchase. For those who can't even get text messages on their phones, other priorities move up the order sheet.
The Silverado 1500 LTZ crew cab can be equipped to tow 10,400 pounds, but our model's tow rating wasn't even close to five figures. With the 315-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8, a six-speed automatic transmission, heavy-duty trailering/cooling package and 3.08:1 axle ratio, our test model was rated at 6,700 pounds. A 3.42:1 axle ratio would boost that number to 9,500 pounds. By spending about $1,400 more, a buyer could get the Max Trailering Package that includes a 403-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and get a 10,400-pound tow rating. Our test model had a base MSRP of $42,440 with nearly six grand in options ($2,250 for navigation, $995 sunroof, $745 wheels, $689 chrome side steps, $450 rear camera, $250 rear sliding window). Total MSRP, including $995 destination, was $48,419.
Such is the compromise of a personal pickup. Fuel economy — and to some extent, drivability — is better. But most truck buyers will step up to a Silverado 2500 HD model if they're going to tow 10,000 pounds, so there's considerable rationale in selecting the smaller engine for personal use. Our test Silverado's gross vehicle weight rating was 7,000 pounds, and it had a payload rating of 1,712 pounds. That's only 178 pounds less than the best-equipped Silverado 1500 crew cab 4x4.
Our 852-mile run in the Silverado 1500 LTZ included a two-lane highway with ample elevation changes and desert off-roading. The truck favored us with courteous on-road manners and only three noticeable (but short) convulsions over uneven concrete surfaces. Turning circle is one chassis dynamic with which this truck needs help. At 47.2 feet, it's not parking-lot friendly.
Our test Silverado swallowed nearly 52 gallons of fuel for an average of 16.5 mpg, but it was inconsistent even though our driving routes were the same every day. The low end was 15.5 mpg, and the high end — recorded in heavy headwinds at 75 mph on the freeway — was 18.3 mpg.
Tires held the fear factor in our off-road excursions. If we had the more aggressive, taller-profile tires from the Z71 Package, we might have ventured into more daring territory. The electronic locking differential was helpful, but the traction control interfered too often, so it was turned off in loose dirt and deep sand situations.
The Silverado LTZ doesn't have the name recognition of King Ranch or the theatrics of a Laramie Longhorn. Some truck shoppers don't relate to the Old West. They prefer premium vanilla ice cream and add custom toppings as they wish. That's the appetizing appeal of the Silverado LTZ. There's a showroom full of accessories that complement the Silverado, and it's a truck that looks great when it's appropriately personalized. Often you can't customize a factory theme truck without spoiling its original charisma. That's not a problem with the Silverado LTZ.