The brand new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra take pickup trucks to a new refinement. They ride better, handle better and look better.
After flirting for years with kinder, rounder styling, the General Motors pickups are back to basics: A truck should look like a truck, not a sports utility vehicle clone.
The new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra keep this "truckiness" firmly on the outside. Inside, though, there's a functional "pure pickup" interior and a fancy premium interior.
Luckily the Fancy Dan stuff ends with the basic mechanicals. Both Silverado and Sierra ride on the same chassis and are powered by the same array of engines.
The S&Ss come with wider tracks (distance between the two front wheels), rack-and-pinion steering and electronic stability control systems.
The trucks go straight and true down the road and cruise accurately through curves with a just a bit of lean. Overall, the trucks feel carlike and smaller and handier than their size. Bumps and dips in the road are ironed out.
The 5.3L V-8 propelled the two-wheel drive extended cab model to 60 MPH in a commendable 8.7 seconds. Fuel economy is 16/21 miles per gallon.
They come in five suspension flavors: Z83 for smooth ride; Z85 for handling and towing; Z71 for offroading; Z60 for maximum hot rodding and NHT for maximum towing. Engines include a 195-horsepower 4.3L V-6; a 295-horsepower 4.8 L V-8; four 5.3L V-8s including flex (ethanol) fuel and 315 horsepower; and a 6L V-8 of 367 horsepower.
The S&Ss's base and midlevel models are the "pure pickups" with larger controls and door handles that accommodate gloved hands. And not racing gloves, either. The glove box is big and the cabin appears larger with a lower instrument panel that is further from the driver.
The steering wheel has chrome trim and leather. And there are cruise controls mounted on the steering wheel! Old news in many vehicles, but stop-the-press for GM pickups. The historic Smart Stalk combination turn signal and cruise control lever can still be found on some lesser models.
Each of the two sport different and newly changed hoods, fenders, grilles, headlamps, tail lamps and pickup boxes. The Chevy's grille is bigger than before with large center chrome bar and gold bow tie. A raised hood suggests fenders. The GMC's grille is even more massive. Front fenders are accented with stamped in wheel flares.
Both hoods are clearly visible from the front seat where the driving position is nigh perfect. There's plenty of legroom, the seat is commodious and the instrument panel can be quickly scanned. The whole interior feels spacious. Rear doors in the extended cab open a full 170 degrees and the window goes down all the way.
All this improved ride and handling of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pays off in reduced driver fatigue both on the job and on the town.