The light-duty, half-ton Chevrolet Silverados are available in a multitude of combinations of cabs (regular, extended, and crew, seating from two to six passengers) and pickup boxes (step-side six-foot and "fleetside" six- or eight-foot) that can be positioned atop a rear- or four-wheel-drive layout. Spice up your favorite arrangement with one of four engine choices and five available transmissions, and you'll likely find a model that fits both your style and your needs. And this doesn't include the heavy-duty Silverados (designated by the "HD" suffix), true bulls that you can order in an additional 49 different blends of body style and powertrain.
A near-twin of the GMC Sierra, the aging current-generation Silverado has been on sale since 1999. The all-new Silverado will arrive during calendar year 2006--well ahead of previously announced schedules--in an attempt to help right GM's listing corporate ship. By contrast, the new, more-refined Ford F-150 has been at dealers since late 2003, and other competitors have also received more recent renewals.
The most notable news on the 2005 Silverado is the Hybrid package, which may sound pretty good efficiency-wise, but erase those images of a Toyota Prius-fighter; this "mild hybrid" system is basically a higher-powered electrical system that allows the engine to shut down stop at traffic stops while keeping the accessories going, for a minor 10-percent savings in fuel economy. The "starter/generator," as GM calls it, can also be used as a source of 120-volt alternating-current power when the truck is parked. Unfortunately, the stop/start system feels like an annoying passenger who insists on reaching over and killing the ignition every time you're about to take off from a light.
The Chevy is a big, all-American truck, and it looks the part, with its wide face and stylish yet slab-sided flanks. Ninety-degree angles dominate here--unlike most of the Silverado's more modern competitors--and the horizontal chrome strip along the grille ensures the truck's dramatic road presence. The Silverado is currently offered in nine exterior colors, all of them reasonably conservative. The "sportside," or step-side, pickup box adds flair to the short-box Silverado, but bed cargo space is diminished from that of the regular short box. The long-box layout--available only on regular- and extended -cab 1500s--provides a maximum bed length of 97.6 inches. The light-duty crew cab comes only with the short box, measuring 69.2 inches.
The interior of the Silverado is functional but dated through design and finish, and ultimately, it's not as pleasant to inhabit as that of its competitors. Chevrolet didn't use a lot of cutting-edge--or even attractive--interior materials in this truck. Buyers' interior options are many: three colors of leather, three colors of cloth patterns, and one basic vinyl color.
If your dinner table is set for more than two, you'll probably want to opt for the extended- or crew-cab trucks. Adults taller than 5 feet 5 inches won't want to spend much time in the back seat of the extended cab, but the crew cab gives rear-seat occupants the legroom of a mid-size sedan (though the seatbacks are a bit too upright for sustained comfort). Both cabs are convenient if you have gear you want to be able to protect without a tonneau cover, or if you have items you want to access while on the go.
Either bucket or bench seating can be specified for front passengers, while all rear seats, whether in the extended- or crew-cab trim, have three seatbelts. Three-across rear seating in the extended cab is less than ideal due to legroom constraints, however, making the crew-cab configuration preferable for a full work team.
Climbing up into the 4x4 models takes a hearty step up, but ingress and egress is eased for nimble folks thanks to wide-swinging doors, obligatory grab handles, and seatbelts integrated out of the way in the front seatbacks. Extended cabs feature a rear-opening half door, while crew-cab Silverados have four regular full-size doors.
A few nice options can dress up the interior: redundant, steering -wheel-mounted audio controls, XM radio, and DVD entertainment.
The exclusive (except for the corporate twin Sierra) availability of OnStar in-vehicle safety and security system puts Chevy ahead of the competition in one safety arena, but in nearly every other, it lags behind. The Silverado scores worst among full-size trucks in the NHTSA's frontal crash tests (three to four stars out of five), though rollover ratings are equal to those of the Dodge and Ford (four stars).
ABS and front airbags are standard on all models except those with the Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system. Traction control is available, but stability control and additional air bags do not grace the Silverado's option sheet.
Four-wheel-drive Silverados feature a useful automatic four-wheel-drive setting, which, when selected, uses only the rear wheels in most situations and sends power to the front wheels only as needed, improving fuel economy.