Silverado good in a big way

You either love big American trucks with a passion or hate them with equal fervour. The Chevrolet Silverado isn’t going to change anyone’s mind on that, even though it is rather good, finds Damien O’Carroll.



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The Chevrolet Silverado is the latest huge American truck to land on our shores, which you may have noticed are considerably smaller than American shores. So does that make the Silverado a very big fish in a very small pond? Or just a very big fish out of water? On the outside Regardless of what you think of the sheer size of the Silverado, you have to admit it makes a serious impact on the road just from its looks alone. The Silverado has a deceptive way of creeping up on you, in that its proportions – from a distance – are roughly the same as the onetonne utes we are used to seeing, but then as you get closer, it just seems to get bigger and bigger until it is towering over you. And at almost 2 metres tall, it will tower over you. The massive ‘‘wall of chrome’’ front end is pretty cool, though I have to admit I could see why someone might be appalled by it. But they’re probably not the target buyer for a Silverado anyway. It is also probably the only thing they can see in their rearview mirror, too. Of course, the Silverado leaves you doubtless as to what it is, with no shortage of badges and logos scattered across its exterior, including the iconic all-caps ‘‘Chevrolet’’ across the tailgate. That tailgate deserves special mention here for being both incredibly light as well as electrically operated. The sheer joy of showing off by operating your tailgate remotely using the key fob is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. But the big question here is: Does the Silverado look better than its only real competitor here in New Zealand, the Ram 1500? It’s a close-run thing, and is massively subjective of course, but for me the Chev takes it. Just. On the inside The Silverado’s interior isn’t quite as cool as the Ram’s, however, with Chevrolet eschewing the hi-tech, big-touchscreen domination of the Ram’s new interior in favour of a more traditional approach, albeit one with as much tech squeezed in there. It’s just presented in a far more classical layout. It is, of course, huge and massively comfortable (although the seats are surprisingly firm for an American truck), and it features a typically American eardestroying audio system that is deafeningly good. It is here that the ‘‘remanufacturing’’ process that takes place in Melbourne to get the steering wheel to the proper side of the car truly shines. It is pretty much impossible to see any signs that it didn’t roll out of the factory this way in the first place. Under the bonnet Of course, the 6.2-litre V8 is a magnificent thing. Refined and quiet, while also being effortlessly powerful, it does a superb job of propelling the big truck along. But the most surprising thing about it is just how frugal it is capable of being. Yes, really. I mean, it’s relative, of course – after all, this is a 2500-kilogram truck with a petrol V8 – but I assumed General Motors’ claim of 12.8L/100km for the Silverado’s average combined consumption was some sort of in-joke or something. But here’s the most surprising thing during my time with the Silverado so far – it’s absolutely accurate. The Silverado has not only bettered Rightcar’s listed figure of 13.7L/100km, but also GM’s official claim by returning 12.4L/100km during my time with it. This is with a good mix of urban and open road running, and more than a few full-throttle blasts simply to hear the V8’s mellifluous bellow. Out on the open road is where it truly shines, with the big V8 barely ticking over at 100kmh. It sits at about 1200rpm at the open road speed limit, and I regularly saw single-digit averages on open road trips (OK, it was 9L/100km, but that’s a single digit) with it generally returning about 11L/100km on an average drive. The brilliantly slick 10-speed automatic works exceptionally well with the engine and is fantastically responsive, kicking it down a few gears at the merest twitch of your ankle, meaning it also doesn’t hang around when you want it to go, even when it is idling along at the open road speed limit. Granted, a figure of 12.4L/100km and a triple-digit CO2 emission figure that starts with a 3 will still horrify many people – and rightfully so, because it’s not where we should be right now. Yet it is still deeply impressive for such an enormous and powerful thing. On the road Although the engine and transmission are absolutely fantastic, the Silverado’s ride quality does let things down a bit, particularly when compared with just how good the new Ram is. Where the new Ram largely irons out road imperfections, the Silverado is rather like the older version of the Ram and lets quite a bit through into the cabin. This is particularly noticeable on rough or broken surfaces, where things can get quite brittle and harsh, jostling the occupants quite a bit as a result. Ninety per cent of the time, the Silverado’s ride is perfectly acceptable, in a big trucky kind of way, but that 10 per cent where it isn’t is quite unpleasant and has a slight negative effect on its handling as well, as things can get unsettled when you hit a big bump at speed. Still, it is predictably telegraphed, and the Silverado is surprisingly agile for such a big chap. In fact, the only places you are really aware of its sheer size is on particularly narrow roads. And in parking lots . . . Verdict Whether or not you consider a big American truck even slightly necessary will shape your final opinion on it, but I genuinely warmed to the Silverado, despite not understanding why anyone would buy it. Sure, it is capable of towing a massive amount, but its small, typically American payload of just 760kg in the tray makes it less relevant in the New Zealand market. Also, if you really want the huge tow rating of 4500kg, then you probably don’t want petrol anyway. The even larger diesel V8 Silverado 2500 HD that is due here soon will take care of that, though. Still, the relative frugality of the LTZ impressed me, as did how easy it actually is to live with – you quickly learn to park further away and walk to where you want to go, but the unexpected upside to that is that it’s a good way to keep the daily step-count up.