2006 Silverado 3500 New Car Test Drive
The choice for best full-size pickup is not as clear as it was three years ago, when the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra appeared to be the leaders of the pack. Since then, Ford has introduced an all-new F-150, Dodge has re-engineered the Ram, Toyota has added a Crew Cab model to its Tundra line, and Nissan has rolled out the appropriately named Titan. There isn't a dog among them. All are superb in their own way.
Yet Silverado still rides as well or better than any of them, and it handles well. It's quick and it's comfortable. Boxed and hydroformed frame rails give Silverado a strong, rigid platform. It is, as the advertising tagline says, like a rock. Silverado's interior was significantly updated in 2003, and so was its electrical system. Quadrasteer, GM's heavy-duty four-wheel-steering, is available for a number of different 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 comfortable and enjoyable.
For 2005, most Silverados come with wider, lower-profile tires on 17-inch wheels, promising better handling than before. Short-box Extended Cabs with 4WD now offer a more powerful all-alumium V8, while a gas/electric Hybrid option promises lower operating cost with V8 performance. There's a sporty SS model, for buyers who value muscle-car acceleration and handling over towing/hauling capacity. More minor changes for 2005 include dual electric cooling fans, which are quieter and more efficient than the engine-driven fan used previously. Aerodynamic refinements to the front end and running boards reduce wind noise and promise a slight improvement in fuel economy,
Those who value a smooth-riding truck with a low load height should compare a two-wheel-drive Silverado to the other full-size pickups; lifting heavy equipment into the back of high-riding trucks is hard on the back.
Like all full-size pickups, the Silverado is available in a vast array of configurations: two-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD); 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, but this review focuses on the light-duty 1500 series, which offers payload ratings from 1,215 to 2,040 pounds. Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, a 4.8-liter V8, a 5.3-liter V8, or a 6.0-liter V8.
Returning after a one-year hiatus is the 1500HD, which represents a compromise between the light-duty 1500 series and the medium-to-heavy-duty (and correspondingly harder-riding) 2500HD and 3500 series. Avaialble only as a Crew Cab with a 6-foot, 6-inch bed (instead of the standard 1500 Crew Cab's 5-foot, 8-inch bed), the 1500HD hauls 3,073 pounds with 2WD, 2,766 pounds with 4WD, and tows 10,200 pounds. Power is provided by the big 6.0-liter V8 that's used in the 2500HD/3500.
Standard equipment on all Silverado models are cruise control, CD player, a step bumper, and 17-inch chromed steel wheels. The W/T (Work Truck) package, intended primarily for commercial and municipal fleet sales, deletes these niceties for an average credit of $1,600.
Moving up to LS trim (starting at $25,265) adds a long list of comforts and appointments, including power windows, locks and mirrors; upgraded audio and upholstery; and the 4.8-liter V8 with automatic transmission. LS Crew Cabs come with the 5.3-liter V8 and automatic. Silverado LT (starting at $32,965) is downright luxurious, with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, Bose audio, and a new version of the OnStar telematics system. The 5.3-liter V8 is standard on all LT models.
The Z71 off-road package includes full LS trim, plus special off-road suspension, locking rear differential, P265/70R17 on/off-road tires, skid plates, high-capacity air cleaner, wheel flares, fog lamps, and deep-tinted glass.
Silverado SS is a performance model equipped with a high-output 345 horsepower Vortec 6000 6.0-liter engine designed for quick 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.
A Silverado Hybrid is available in several states and, with its unique starter/generator combined with a 5.3-liter V8, offers up to 10 percent improvement in fuel economy while delivering the same 295 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque as any other Silverado with the 5.3-liter engine.
Options include XM Satellite Radio ($325), 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 ($1,295) and rear-seat audio controls. Late in the model year, Extended Cabs and Crew Cabs will offer a power sunroof ($1,100). OnStar ($695) 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 most 1500 models include dual-level front 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 anti-lock brakes (ABS) on all models. GM's Autotrac 4WD improves traction and stability of four-wheel-drive models on slippery roads.