2004 Silverado 1500 New Car Test Drive
GM has been the leader in full-size pickups for several years running, but is now facing assaults from all directions. Ford has introduced an all-new F-150. Dodge recently re-engineered the Ram. Toyota has introduced a Tundra crew cab model. And if that isn't enough, Nissan has the gall to launch the Titan, a full-size pickup that's every bit as big as the domestics, if not bigger. Model year 2004 is the year of the pickup. There's more going on with full-size pickup trucks this year than any in the history of the automobile.
Needless to say, the choice for best full-size pickup is no longer as clear as it was a two or three years ago when the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra were, in our opinion, the leaders. This is indeed good news because competition is good for the truck buyer.
That said, the Chevrolet Silverado (and the GMC Sierra) are still the best in terms of ride quality. Those who value a smooth-riding truck with a low load height should take a good hard look at a two-wheel-drive Silverado. And those who value style could do worse. Silverado's aggressive looks draw the eye. This truck is not the wallflower it was a couple of years ago.
Silverado got an edgy new look last year, along with significant interior improvements and an all-new electrical system designed to improve reliability by drastically reducing the number of wires running all over the place. It's all be streamlined.
New for 2004 is a roomy and comfortable 1500 Silverado Crew Cab in either 2WD or 4WD. (This is a half-ton model that should not be confused with last year's heavy-duty 1500 HD.) There’s more standard equipment in base-level models for 2004, and there's more content in the Z71 off-road package.
Silverado rides, handles, and stops as well as the best of them. It's quick and it's comfortable. Boxed and hydroformed frame rails give the GM trucks a strong, rigid platform. It is, as Chevy says, like a rock. Quadrasteer, GM's heavy-duty four-wheel-steering system, is increasingly available for a wider range of models, improving maneuverability in tight quarters or when pulling a trailer. Heated seats, a Bose stereo, XM Satellite Radio and other options make long days spent in a Silverado more comfortable.
Like all full-size pickups, the Chevy Silverado is available in a vast array of configurations: two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive; regular cabs, extended cabs, and crew cabs; short beds (6-1/2-foot) and long beds (8-foot). Three trim levels are available: base, LS, and LT, plus a sporty SS. Full-width Fleetside beds are standard, but retro Sportside beds are offered for selected models. Silverado is available in several load ranges, of course, but this review focuses on the 1500 series. The 1500 series offers actual payload ratings ranging from 1475 to 2123 pounds. Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, or 5.3-liter V8.
The 2004 Silverado comes with more standard features than last year, including cruise control, power door locks, black bodyside moldings, chrome bumpers, uplevel wheels, and an AM/FM radio with CD player. New tire choices are available as well. The Work Truck package, which deletes some trim items for a credit of $200-800, is now available on all Silverado 1500 models.
A light-duty 1500 Crew Cab, powered by the 5.3-liter V8, and more comparable in its payload rating for Ford’s F-150 SuperCrew, is being introduced as a mid-2004 model. (Last year’s 1500 HD model, with its 3094-pound payload, six-passenger Crew Cab, and 300-horsepower, 6.0-liter V8 has been redesignated a 2500-series model for 2004.)
The Z71 off-road package has been upgraded for 2004, and now includes cruise control; a high capacity air cleaner; rear defogger; power door locks; carpeting; remote keyless entry; rearview mirror; AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette player; leather-wrapped steering wheel; power windows; fog lamps; color-keyed grille; and deep-tinted glass.
Silverado SS is a high-performance model equipped with a high-output 345 horsepower Vortec 6000 engine designed for exhilarating off-the-line acceleration and relaxed cruising. SS gets a 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.
Silverado options include XM Satellite Radio, which provides CD-quality broadcast of 100 digital channels coast to coast, and 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.
Safety features on all models include dual-level frontal air bags, which are designed to provide an appropriate amount of inflation based on the severity of the crash. A passenger-sensing system automatically deactivates the passenger-side front air bag under certain conditions to protect children. Active safety features include four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) on all models. Auto4WD improves traction and stability of four-wheel-drive models on slippery roads.