2016 Chevrolet Silverado reaches across pickup truck market


Pickup truck buyers tend to be conservative.

You could drive the current Chevrolet Silverado down any street in America 25 years ago, and few people would blink an eye. Oh, there would be head-snapping in pickup-priority places, but the current design would feel comfortable to any truck buyer back then.

Basically, pickup-truck design just doesn't change much in general, although the designers would point out all the special "unique" touches that make the current model special. While that is all true, it hasn't changed the basic design philosophy of what a pickup should look like.

It is basically three boxes – the one that's the hood, the one that's the cabin and the one that's the bed. That doesn't leave you much room for blinding flashes on design inspiration. Basically the front end and fenders get bigger and meaner then smoother and cleaner. Then it starts all over again.

But pickups are defined by their noses. The General Motors face is flat in both the Chevrolet and GMC iterations. This model, thanks to the modern projection headlights have thin, almost squinty "eyes." The large grille communicates that this is a powerful vehicle which needs a lot of air. Its jaw if firm and strong, clearly ready to push through any obstacle.

The entirety of the Silverado's message is that this is a truck unfazed by any task.

Within the range of what light pickups do, it is well within its rights be comfortable with anything its owner can think up for it to do.

This starts with them choosing a powertrain. Obviously every Silverado can't accomplish everything. If you need the grunt to tow heavy loads, you aren't going to be getting the best advertised mileage. For that you would have to choose the 4.3-liter V6 which produces 285 hp. and 305 lb.-ft. of peak torque.

EcoTec3 powertrains. It's EPA fuel mileage rating is 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

The smaller of two V8 engines is a 5.3-liter V8 generating 355 hp. and 383 lb.-ft. of peak torque. Chevrolet says it has the best EPA-estimated fuel economy of any V-8 pickup. That would be 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

If you are going to be hauling horses that don't count for horsepower, or any other equally onerous task, the engine choice would need to be the 6.2-liter V8, the most powerful engine in any light-duty pickup truck. It produces 420 hp. and 460 lb.-ft. of peak torque. This engine is only offered on the LTZ and High Country trim levels and has an eight-speed transmission. Even with this much power the engine is rated at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.

All three are direct gasoline-injection engines and feature cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing.

The next element necessary to easily perform some of the tasks owners can think up is a tough, rigid frame. The Silverado has a fully-boxed frame. The main rails and major crossmembers are high-strength steel. This strength and rigidity makes hauling easier and safer, but also reduces noise and vibration in the cabin.

As this truck's cabin is literally as quiet as a Cadillac, that is something worthwhile. Driving it on dirt or gravel roads is an illuminating experience, as the steering wheel remains still in your hand, and you can actually feel that the wheels are staying – for the most part – in contact with the road. Particularly on washboard surfaces, this is something experienced pickup truck owners will love. Almost as much as how quiet it is in the cabin.

All Silverado 1500 models use a coil-over-shock, independent front suspension setup. A Hotchkiss-type axle/rear suspension and more robust axles are available which use two-stage, semi-elliptical multi-leaf springs. Some interesting numbers, the maximum gross vehicle weight rating is 7,600 lb. The maximum payload rating is 2,260 lb. and the maximum trailering rating is 12,000 lb.

If there was anything to do with a pickup that would bedazzle that customer of a quarter of a century ago it would be the interior. It is simply too nice, too plush, with way too many things to entertain and inform the folks inside. Having said that, it wouldn't take them long to figure their way around the new Silverado's cabin.

While the trim is different for each trim level, the upright instrument panel uses a six-gauge instrument cluster. The instrumentation and interior is a strange mixture of analog features and yet current capability. For example, you need to push a button on a key fob to unlock the doors. That's okay because you then have to insert the key into the ignition and turn it.

While that actually may appeal to many pickup buyers, it is one of the few vehicles to actually require a physical key, rather than merely carrying an electronic fob, but leaving it permanently in your pocket or purse.

The radio, excuse me, infotainment system, functions based on someone actually turning a dial to change the station or the volume. They even use the term "radio" on the dashboard screen. That too seems dated, although its capabilities are up to standard. It is a little on the small side, and isn't of the most precise resolution. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability comes with the MyLink telematics systems, integrating the smartphone into the truck's system. Okay, this would totally blow away that buyer from a quarter of a century ago.

At the same time, the screen between the dials on the instrument panel is razor sharp, with a modern design that projected gobs of information. It is easy to use, downright sensible, and perhaps the best of these instrument display setups available.

The center console is huge, well designed to function well for people who want to work in the truck's cabin, as the center storage area will swallow plenty of electronics so they aren't sitting in view and out in the sun.

The seats are comfortable, there is as much room as you want, and the interior feels and looks manly and that is backed up by the touch and feel of the controls. They clearly communicate just who is in control, and it is the finger that's pushing a button, not the electronic control unit deciding what you want done. High-wear material is used on the cloth seats. Along with greater durability, it is stain-resistant and can be cleaned.

The 2016 Silverado 1500 model range has a regular cab and two four-door cabs (double and crew), all offered with two- or four-wheel drive. Trims start with the WT, then the LS – available on all three cab styles and configurations. Next up, the LT comes in 1LT and 2LT trims, although the 2LT come only with 4WD. The upscale LTZ – come in 1LZ and 2LZ trims on double cab and crew cab but again the 2LZ is only 4WD. The top-of-the-line is the High Country on only comes on a crew cab, but can be RWD and 4WD.

Prices for the Silverado begin at $29,120 for the LS regular cab with rear-wheel drive and run to the top with the High Country, with four-wheel drive starts at $$63,755. While that seems like quite a spread, that's what customers want today. With cars the prices are spread out over several sizes and styles.

But pickup trucks need to be luxurious enough for rich Texas ranchers and their wives, as well as a model priced for the young fellow who just got a job with him and everybody in between. Most of these people are going to buy pickups their whole lives.

Eventually many will be driving that top-of-the-line version, so they all have to be worth the money, however much that is.

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