On the Road Review: Chevrolet Silverado LT Crew Cab

2015 was a very good year to be a new car retailer. Sales reached almost 17.5 million new vehicles sold (including leases, now about 30 percent of the new market), creating the largest sales year ever.

Pickup trucks were a large part of the year’s success. Ford has the best selling pickup line, as well as the top selling vehicle overall, but GM enjoyed great prosperity with combined sales of the number two-selling Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra exceeding the Ford pickups by a decent margin.

For 2016, Chevrolet wants to build on that momentum of selling almost 600,000 pickups — more total sales than Subaru, Dodge, Ram, Mercedes or GMC overall — by offering some additional electronic features plus a friendly, visually pleasing new face.

Adorned with multiple LED lights up front, our Red Hot-painted Silverado LT Crew Cab makes a distinctive impression. It looks sophisticated, composed, even confident in ways that some recent editions have not. Shod with 20-inch wheels with the All Star Edition package, the Chevy has good street presence.

As most pickup buyers are now gravitating to four-door crew-cab configurations, the Chevy presents a well-optioned, nicely refined cabin that young and old can appreciate. Indeed, during the Chevy’s extended holiday season visit, it was used to ferry the extended family out for a formal holiday dinner, it played bus for some rural coastal sightseeing — with all seats comfortably filled — plus it made numerous commuter/business trips including a long sojourn to the Connecticut River Valley and White Mountains in very sub-zero temperatures. Compliments were plentiful.

The “State of the Pickup” is well represented in the latest Silverado. We as consumers have been asking more of these workhorse vehicles for decades; the manufacturers are only too happy to provide the added features and capabilities evident in these personal-use trucks, as they contribute mightily to the corporate bottom line. Invest in your best-selling, most profitable products and the boardroom will always be happy.

Besides the new face, the 2016 Silverado gains improvements in its audio connectivity with both Apple Carplay and compatible Android systems, 4G-LTE Wi-Fi hot spot access, as well as enhanced OnStar functions, including accident notification and instant navigational aids. Yes, there are driving aids such as lane-watch, lane keeping and blind-spot detection too — yet the Chevy’s access to OnStar and the immediacy in which it can provide access to support people in times of trouble is sometimes an overlooked driving aid that represents excellent value.

Standard power is now a 285-hp 4.3-liter V-6 that eclipses the former 5.7-liter V-8’s output of just 15 years ago. Optional power, and present in our Crew Cab, is the 5.3-liter V-8 now making 355 hp. A 6.2-liter Corvette-derived V-8 is available — it spins out 420 hp and leads the half-ton gas engine segment. A six-speed automatic is standard across the board, while a new eight-speed automatic transmission is optional on some packages. GM and Ford also continue to work on a new 10-speed truck transmission. EPA estimates for our Crew Cab 4X4 were 16/22/18 mpg, with a multi-week average of 17.3 mpg during winter driving that included lots of idle running.

GM is playing things tight, yet speculation remains that a 4.5-liter Duramax diesel is under development for half-ton pickups. GM has a 2.8-liter four available for its new midsize trucks, FCA has the 3.0-liter V-6 in the Ram series trucks, while Nissan’s new Titan sports a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel — so the Duramax rumors won’t go away. In order to meet looming fuel economy standards — just 10 years away — dramatic increases in fuel economy have to be developed soon, and a diesel would go a long way to help increase those pickup economy numbers.

The current 5.3-liter V-8 employs direct injection and cylinder deactivation to improve fuel efficiency. V-4-mode usually appears on the expansive display screen when coasting, traveling downhill, or with extremely light throttle use on level ground — no matter what speed. While it certainly helps fuel economy, you are not going to see several more miles per gallon added to each tank because of its function. Occasionally, the Chevy would stumble as you plied the throttle, forcing a quick series of downshifts, plus engaging the other four cylinders at the same time. Otherwise, the engine deactivation operates seamlessly.

Stormy weather led to exploring the traction capabilities of GM’s patented AutoTrac automatic four-wheel drive. Available in one form or another since 1996, this 4X4 setup lets the driver choose between 2WD, 4WD-auto, 4WD-high range and 4WD low range. With 6 inches of white stuff on the ground, the Chevy never bobbled its position, never lost its grip, and never put a wheel astray as the AutoTrac, a limited slip rear axle, plus traction control, kept the Chevy headed where the driver intended — despite ham-fisted throttle use.

While exploring all of this winter wonderfulness, the Chevy’s heated cloth seats proved to be superb partners for long days on the road, or short excursions about town. Two buttons let you select full back and buttocks heat — in three stages — or, just your back. Very comfortable.

Add remote starting — it worked at over 200 feet away — and the Red Hot Chevy earned its keep, and favorable platitudes, every day.

Our Crew Cab, fresh off the delivery trailer, also arrived sans the Z-71 off-road suspension favored by many. I think the Silverado is a better riding, better driving truck without Z-71. Unless you are towing heavy loads constantly, or, are really going off-road a lot, the base suspension is more than adequate and much more polished for everyday driving. Pushing the Silverado up and down the highway, along rolling rural settings, or navigating Portland’s narrow streets, the Chevy proved to be agile and efficient without punishing its occupants.

Gripes are few. I would wish for a 2-inch shorter shift lever (even as I appreciate it on the column rather than the console) so my right hand doesn’t swipe the butt end of the shifter as it swiftly moves to the user-friendly center-dash control buttons, and the front fender-mounted antenna whiplashes your snow-removal efforts on the passenger side. Surely, the engineers can find a more suitable location on the back of the cab, atop the cab, along the bedwall fenders — somewhere else.

Picks are numerous. The XM-aided stereo works great, with convenient fingertip controls on the back of the steering wheel like in the Ram, the heated cloth seats are preferable to leather and were on almost all of the time, and the cabin is hushed at all speeds. The step-bumpers are smart, the back seat folds easily while revealing an expansive flat load deck for articles you do not want exposed outside, and the subtle little features such as indirect overhead lighting and strategic slots and power sockets are all appreciated.

Silverado pricing starts around $26,000. Our All Start Edition LT Crew Cab lists for $41,370 before destination fee and options, with a total retail of $49,080. This truck was built in Silao, Mexico.

We traveled over 1,900 miles in the Silverado, including one 500-mile day. The truck was washed three times, fueled seven times, and it got used like a pickup owner would generally use their truck — for all of the tasks of life. It proved to be more than a competitive truck; the new Silverado proved to be a very likeable pickup, a real potential 10 Favorite truck for 2016.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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