2003 Silverado 2500HD New Car Test Drive
Chevrolet's full-size pickups get an edgy new look this year. Silverado's aggressive stance is jolting for drivers used to conservative-looking Chevy pickups, but it's an evolutionary change and one that was needed. We'll get used to it.
Hidden beneath are considerable changes. Chevrolet Silverado boasts more than 40 major changes for 2003. Some you'll notice, such as the interior refinements. New audio and climate controls are easier to use and more sophisticated, the latter available with well-designed digital controls. Other changes are harder to discern, but are important from reliability and engineering standpoints, such as the all-new electrical system that eliminates thick bundles of wires and hundreds of connections. V8 engines offer improved throttle response and reliability and reduced emissions, while V6 engines deliver better performance and reduced emissions. (Some of these changes were actually made mid-cycle to the 2002 models.)
Chevy Silverado continues to be one of the best full-size trucks available. It shares that crown with the similar GMC Sierra. Boxed and hydroformed frame rails give the GM trucks a strong, rigid platform. Silverado is a highly capable truck. It rides, handles, and stops as well as, maybe better than, the best of them. It's quick and it's comfortable. These are still full-size work trucks, however, so don't expect a Cadillac ride.
Technology is really improving life with full-size pickups. Quadrasteer, GM's heavy-duty four-wheel-steering system, eases parking and maneuvering in tight places. StabiliTrak, an anti-skid system, improves driver control in avoidance maneuvers and on slick surfaces. Heated seats, a Bose stereo, XM Satellite Radio and other options make long days spent in a Silverado a little more comfortable.
Like all full-size pickups, Silverado is available in a vast array of versions: two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive; standard-length regular cabs, extended cabs, and crew cabs; short (6-1/2-foot) and long (8-foot) bed lengths. Three trim levels are available: base, LS, and LT. Full-width Fleetside beds are standard, but retro Sportside beds are available for selected models.
Payload capacities vary. The 1500 series offers payloads ranging from 1593 to 2334 pounds (depending on bed, cab, and drive configuration). The 2500-series models offer payloads in the 2600- to 3200-pound range.
Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, or 5.3-liter V8. 2500 models and the 1500 HD Crew Cab are powered exclusively by the 6.0-liter V8. The 1500 HD model combines light-duty 1500-series styling in a heavy-duty six-passenger crew cab with a 300-horsepower Vortec V8. (2500HD and 3500 models are covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
Silverado SS is a special high-performance model equipped with a high-output Vortec 6000 designed for exhilarating off-line acceleration. SS gets a unique high-performance Z60 chassis package, 20-inch wheels and tires, full-time all-wheel drive, a lower, wider stance, and special exterior and interior trim.
Options include XM Satellite Radio, which provides CD-quality broadcast of 100 digital channels coast to coast, a Bose sound system. Crew Cab models offer a Panasonic DVD Passenger Entertainment System and rear-seat audio controls. OnStar is also available, which puts a human being at your assistance at the press of a button any time of day. OnStar operators can unlock your doors remotely and the system automatically calls for assistance if the airbags deploy.
Passive safety features: A passenger-sensing system automatically deactivates the passenger-side frontal air bag under certain conditions to protect children. Dual-level frontal air bags are designed to provide an appropriate amount of inflation based on the severity of the crash. Active safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) on all models. Auto4WD improves traction and stability of four-wheel-drive models on slippery roads.