Rising interest rates, a spiralling cost of living, low wage growth, they’re all common themes on the nightly news. But while those economic nasties might be postponing holidays and elective surgery, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest they’re making people think twice about big, US-made, $100,000-plus pick-ups.
Nor have those North American manufacturers been put off the idea of regular facelifts and updates. To prove that point, General Motors Speciality Vehicles (GMSV) has just released an updated (mid-cycle enhancement, in GM-speak) version of its Silverado 1500. The move has added equipment and capacity to the familiar LTZ Premium model, while also ushering in a new variant, dubbed ZR2, which aims to point the Silverado concept even farther off road and into the outback. Gone, meanwhile, is the Trailboss variant which will disappoint many buyers.
Along the way, there’s a brand new interior for both variants as well as a concerted effort on making the pick-up the tow vehicle of choice. But it needs to be good; both Ford (F-150) and Toyota (Tundra) have their own big guys waiting in the wings. Any ground the Chevy can gain now will be invaluable when things really heat up.
Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 6/10
The new Silverado line-up now kicks off with the LTZ Premium at $128,000 and tops out with the ZR2 at $133,000. But it’s not as simple as the latter getting more equipment, because there’s a marked difference in the two packages, aimed at making the ZR2 more off-road capable as well as pulling some weight out of it to prop up its towing ability.
Both variants are well equipped by most standards with privacy glass, LED lighting, keyless entry and start, wireless device charging, dual info screens, USB ports front and rear, dual-zone air-conditioning and 10-way power adjustable front seats with a driver’s seat memory.
The new Silverado line-up now kicks off from $128,000 and tops out at $133,000.
From there is gets a bit murky as the equipment levels are juggled somewhat. For instance, the ZR2 gets all that off-road gear including mud terrain tyres, different bash plates, tow-hooks, an optimised transfer-case allowing for one-pedal driving and a crawl mode, lifted suspension and clever, passive-adaptive dampers.
The ZR2 specification also adds a full-sized spare wheel, rear park-assist and a head-up display, but loses the side-steps, sunroof and powered steering column adjustment. It’s all a juggling act of trying to make the ZR2 as bush-capable as possible while also trying to compensate for the extra kerb mass cutting into the vehicle’s towing limit; a hill it must certainly be prepared to die on.
Design - Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
The big, bold look of US pick-ups has certainly not been allowed to fade away on this latest Silverado. It's a monster from any angle and you have to imagine Chevrolet has done everything to magnify that effect, from the chrome grille highlights on the LTZ version to the raised and blacked-out bonnet hump for the ZR2 model.
As well as being a bit hard to pick from each other, though, the new Silverados are also a bit hard to discern from the old model. Of course, this is a mid-life facelift, to an all new-model, so maybe it's a good thing that Chevrolet has left well enough (mostly) alone and concentrated on content, not appearance.
If you do spot a new LTZ in the wild, you'll be able to identify it by the chrome details such as door handles, beltline mouldings, wheels and door handles, all of which are blacked out on the ZR2. The latter also has cut-away front bumpers for off-road clearance and hidden tailpipes, where the LTZ displays its chrome exhaust tips proudly.
The Silverado is a monster from any angle.
Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside? 6/10
If space is the measure of practicality in a vehicle like this, then the Silverado has the game shot to bits. With a dual-cab layout and seats for five, the interior space is vast. But just as importantly, the tray also addresses the major complaint among conventional dual-cab ute owners; that the load space is just too short. No such problem here, even if the load space contributes to the vast 5931mm overall length. The load area dwarfs conventional dual-cabs with a total length of 1776mm and depth of 569mm and there are no fewer than 12 tie-down points. Crucially, the Chevy will take a standard pallet between the wheel-arches, although the loading height is very high.
Inside, the Silverado sticks with the American theme of convenience with lots of charging and USB ports front and rear. The front seats are comfy and there’s plenty of stretching room in every direction, and the steering column is electrically adjustable for rake and reach. Interestingly, though, the column-mounted gear selector of the previous model seems like a better idea to us, and the console-mounted shifter now occupies a space that would probably make more sense as a cup-holder.
And while we’re on the subject of that shifter, there’s a tiny bit of play in its action that a is at odds with a quality feel. Similarly, while the 12.3-inch animated dashboard layout of the new car looks reasonably high-end, it doesn’t have the character of the previous version’s analogue gauge array. Sometimes progress is hard to fathom. The 13.4-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, meanwhile, is a clear improvement over the previous model.
The interior space of the Silverado is vast.
The rear seat is where a ute like the Chevy should excel and, in one sense, it does. The seat itself is a much more comfortable pew than the previous car’s and there’s certainly no shortage of space for either legs, knees or heads. There’s lots of foot-room under the front seats, too.
But the vents that feed air to the rear seat area seem fairly inadequate and even when the front vents are pumping lots of cold air, there never seems to be enough to go around in the back. And with the deletion of the side-steps on the ZR2 model (to save weight and gain greater off-road clearance) the step up into the cabin is made very difficult for shorter folk. Yes, there’s a grab-handle on the B-pillar for easier access, but it’s still a long trip up. And that same grab-handle, once you’re seated, is too far away to be a useful grab-point when you’re being thrown around off road.
The Silverado’s real practicality issues begin, of course, when you have to leave it unattended. Finding a parking space sufficient for the pick-up’s two-metre-plus width will test some car parks, but it’s the overall length of almost six metres that will test driver skill most. The height of 1900-plus millimetres will make you think twice about some underground car-parks and the turning circle of 14.3m kerb to kerb will turn a trip to the drive-through into a test of faith in the front-facing camera. Speaking of cameras, the Chevy has plenty. Eight in fact, with a potential 14 different views on offer including four of the tray area.
The load space of the Silverado has a total length of 1776mm and depth of 569mm.
There are also four parking view modes and, if you option the accessory camera, even a screen view that renders the trailer invisible for greater convenience and safety. All up, the system uses eight cameras dotted around the vehicle with a potential 14 points of view. It’s impressive and when added to the other towing tech such as standard sway control, hill-start assist and auto grade braking, the Silverado emerges as a seriously accomplished tow truck.
The other new design direction is the off-road oriented ZR2 version of the ute which sacrifices a little towing capacity but gains a host of equipment designed to get it as far into the bush as most owners would ever want. Those additions range from everything from the suspension, differentials, drive modes, camera placement, front bumper design, tyres and even underbody protection.
The other big ticket item for a vehicle like this is its towing ability. Start thinking big. As in, 4.5 tonnes of towing limit for the LTZ and – technically - 4.2 tonnes for the ZR2 (with a 70mm tow-ball) with its lifted suspension. Chevrolet has also added a raft of features aimed at making towing simpler and safer, many of which come to life as soon as a trailer is connected to the car. Those include a light-check program (making checking the trailer lights a one-person job) and an anti trailer-theft function (which sounds the car’s alarm if the trailer is unhitched by somebody without the ignition key).
The other big ticket item for a vehicle like this is its towing ability.
The Silverado also features a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) warning as the mass of the vehicle and trailer edge towards the legal limit (7160kg for the LTZ and 6851kg for the ZR2). Using a load-sensor in the transmission, the ute can judge the mass it’s hauling and will issue the first warning as the GCM gets within 15 per cent of its maximum. Once that maximum has been exceeded, a red alert is shown to the driver.
And here’s the sting in the tail. With the full 4.5 tonnes on the tow-hook, the LTZ is left with a payload of just 117kg (that’s passengers, fuel, camping gear, everything), while the ZR2 is even more knobbled with a payload of just 68kg with all 4.2 tonnes hitched up. In practical terms then, that rules it out towing its full legal capacity unless the driver is unaccompanied and weighs less than the national average. Even without a trailer connected, the Chevy’s payload is less than 800kg; enough for some, not others.
Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission? 8/10
The Silverado is resolutely old-school when it comes to its motivation. You won’t find a hybrid driveline nor even a common-rail turbo-diesel. What you will find on lifting the half-acre of bonnet, however, is a huge lump of petrol V8.
All Silverado variants get the same 6.2-litre alloy V8 with pushrod valve operation. It’s a familiar powerplant within the GM family and delivers peak outputs of 313kW of power and 624Nm of torque. GM claims it’s the most powerful engine in the over-$100K pick-up market segment.
All Silverado variants get the same 6.2-litre alloy V8 producing 313kW/624Nm.
Transmission is a 10-speed automatic which is now shifted via a console-mounted control. All versions retain all-wheel-drive, while the ZR2 backs up its rock-hopping claims with `Terrain’ and `Crawl’ mode settings for the low ratio gears in the transfer case (with push-button control). The ZR2 also gets lifted suspension with adaptive dampers, electrically locking differentials (the LTZ stays with a mechanical rear locking diff) front and rear and off-road driving modes. The downside of all that is that slight reduction – from 4.5 tonnes to 4.2 tonnes – in towing capacity.
Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range? 6/10
The ability of the V8 to switch off cylinders is aimed at reducing fuel consumption in cruising situations. In fact, the Silverado can shut down up to six of its cylinders, with the computer managing power demands and using only the amount of engine required at the time. It’s pretty seamless, too, and can’t be detected from behind the wheel.
The official combined fuel economy figure for the pick-up is 12.2 litres per 100km, but our real-world testing suggests that’s more likely to be the freeway consumption. That’s helped by the tall gearing that sees the Chevy rumble along at 1500rpm at an indicated 115km/h.
The fuel tank is a 91-litre unit that should give the truck a range of around 700km.
The official combined fuel economy figure for the pick-up is 12.2 litres per 100km.
Driving – What's it like to drive? 7/10
While full-sized pick-ups with more modern suspension have certainly improved things, there’s still absolutely no doubt that the Silverado is, indeed, a body-on-frame design with a leaf-sprung live axle at the rear. There’s always the impression of a fair bit of unsprung weight and the steering, while light, offers little in the way of communication.
There’s also lots of steering lock, too, and even though the turning circle remains a tardy 14-plus metres (partly because of the long wheelbase) you’ll spend a fair bit of time sawing on the wheel to make it around the confines of an underground car-park.
Perhaps the circumstances most likely to show up the old-schoolness of the chassis is the typical regional road with its share of craters, grooves and ridges. While bigger amplitude bumps are swallowed quite convincingly, these pattery conditions illicit a degree of hopping and skipping that almost feels as though it’s setting up a peculiar harmonic in the body itself, complete with a few wobbles and rattles from the rear.
You’ll spend a fair bit of time sawing on the wheel to make it around the confines of an underground car-park.
The engine, however, is a different story with plenty of grunt any time, anywhere. That’s helped by the transmission that is eager to step off the mark but, perhaps, a little too eager to kick down when you feed in some more throttle. But with that urgent petrol V8 humming away at cruising speeds, the Chevy is quiet on the move and can actually feel reasonably refined on a smooth road.
The ZR2 model with its 18-inch mud terrain tyres is a fraction noisier; ironically on those same smooth roads where the tread pattern sets up a faint background whine. We’ve heard a lot noisier mud tyres, however, but the other trade off is that the mud terrains offer nowhere near the bitumen-road grip of the all terrains on the LTZ version.
The Chevy is quiet on the move and can actually feel reasonably refined on a smooth road.
For most people, however, the over-riding impression when piloting the Silverado will be the sheer length and width of the thing. Parking becomes an exercise in accuracy and looking for two adjacent, vacant parking spaces becomes a habit. Life with a truck like this soon becomes a game of parking Tetris, but without the fun. Some drivers will adapt quickly to this, others never will.
In the bush, that stuff is less important and it's here that the Chevy feels like it could tackle anything. Ground clearance and approach and departure angles are all good and there's never any lack of grunt for blasting through or over obstacles. The hill descent works more smoothly than a many earlier attempts, but the jury is still out on the one-pedal off-road mode in terms of it being either an improvement or a novelty.
The ZR2's more sophisticated dampers also make a big difference in the rough stuff, controlling the ride very nicely.
The Silverado never lacks grunt for blasting through or over obstacles.
Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating? 7/10
Trucks really do seem to have caught up with the rest of the world when it comes to safety. But perhaps they still have some way to go, especially at this price-point and especially when you compare them with much more humble passenger cars.
The new Silverado is decently equipped in this department with active safety including rear-cross traffic alert, stability control, traction control, forward collision warning, active cruise-control and low-speed autonomous emergency braking. But where’s the AEB at speeds of more than 80km/h? And even with that safety gear on board, the sheer bulk and weight of the Chevy will ensure it has a pretty aggressive crash signature when clobbering any other vehicle smaller than itself (which is most of them).
The Silverado scored the maximum five stars for safety (to the US standard).
At least with all those cameras dotted around the vehicle, there’s a view of every part of it when you need it, but with a vehicle of these dimensions, that should go without saying anyway.
Six air-bags including curtain bags for all outboard seating positions are standard and the vehicle also extends the scope of the lane-keeping warning when there’s a trailer connected to the car. On-board tyre-pressure monitoring is also included as is front and rear park-assist.
Although GMSV has not locally crash tested the Silverado here, it has been tested in the US (to the US standard) and scored the maximum five stars for safety. Interestingly, though, the car has been locally tested in a side-impact pole-test and apparently performed very well.
Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs? 5/10
Here’s where the Chevy begins to hint that it’s not from around here. While we’re now very accustomed to six and even seven-year warranties, the three years and 100,000km of factory cover will surprise a few people at this price-point.
Like the stereotype of American-made vehicles, the Silverado is a relatively uncomplicated proposition with pros and cons that are easy to identify. Subtlety is not its forte, nor is it difficult to get a read on where the vehicle excels and struggles. With that in mind, the final verdict should be a simple case of balancing those upside and downsides. But it’s at that point that the equation becomes less obvious.
And that’s because if you have a genuine use for the Silverado’s obvious talents – towing capacity and taking the whole crew and all the gear in one vehicle - then it starts to make sense. You begin to forgive the thirst and bulk of the American bruiser, and can make an informed choice. Even then, though, it’s not that simple as, like nearly every other modern ute, hooking up the maximum legal towed load leaves you with a genuine shortage of payload for people, fuel and luggage.
Perhaps, then, it’s better to think of the Silverado as a vehicle that can tow 3.5 tonnes, and still have enough payload for everything you need. But can’t a `normal’ dual-cab ute do the same? Not really, because the same set of circumstances will place the latter in the same marginal situation as the Chevy loaded to its maximum. And even if it could technically do it, a mainstream 3.5-tonne-towing dual-cab ute will never make towing a big caravan or boat as easy as the Silverado does.
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