As pickup trucks have become such a prominent part of our domestic driving fleet, their retail prices have also increased. Greater amenities, improved powertrain options, as well as luxurious appearance and interior features, have worked to increase retail sticker prices to sometimes shocking levels. Chrysler/Fiat, Ford and General Motors are all building high-end pickup trucks now with stickers well over $60,000 — an amount almost double the average transaction price for new vehicles in America, but also a retail number contributing to that high average.
How are buyers paying for these coveted pickup trucks — personal statement vehicles that work and play? For a growing segment of the population, leasing is becoming the avenue to purchasing more vehicle, and in many cases, more truck.
Leasing generally offers buyers lower monthly payments, puts buyers back into the market in three to four years and often creates greater brand (and dealer) loyalty. Leasing now accounts for 26 percent of new vehicle purchases nationally and in parts of Maine. Some parts of the country see leasing as over 45 percent of new vehicle purchases.
Leasing becomes attractive when shoppers see prices such as this. A base Chevy Silverado starts at around $26,000 — give or take what features and powertrain are selected. Move up to our LTZ Crew Cab sampled, at a $45,810 base price, and the payments obviously escalate dramatically.
But then hit the options list to get just the features that you want; 6.2-liter 420-hp V-8 teamed to the new eight-speed automatic transmission, $2,495, Custom Sport package — body colored trim, chrome bumpers and 20-inch wheels, Z-71 badges, plus spray-on bedliner, $2,000, power sunroof, $995, White Diamond Paint, another $995, Driver alert package with forward and rear parking alert, forward collision alert, lane departure alert — all through GM’s vibrating safety seat, $845, heated and cooled leather seats, $650, chromed side-steps, $700, Bose audio upgrade, $500, Chevy’s MyLink upgrade — navigation, 8-inch touchscreen, $495, full-feature leather seating with memory and upgraded center console, $375, and you need a trailer brake controller for the 12,000-pound tow rating, $230, and you should get LED lighting for the pickup box plus moveable tie-down anchors — $60 each. Total SRP, $57,405 with the destination charges.
Granted, this is a lot of truck — base features include a power sliding rear window, tilt/telescoping steering column, remote starting, Stabilitrak controls, electronic shift 4WD with auto-mode, hill descent control, split folding rear seat, OnStar, EZ lift and lower tailgate, Cornerstep bumper steps, tow hooks, dual-zone auto climate controls, extensive driver control panels, steering wheel audio controls (on the back, where your fingertips can readily feel), rear view camera, plus numerous other features that raise the Chevy’s content level to luxury class. All in a ‘work’ truck based vehicle that can carry over 2,000 pounds, pull 12,000 pounds, and push tons of snow if you really have to.
Most notable here is the 6.2-liter EcoTec V-8. With the most horsepower in the half-ton pickup segment — more even than the HD2500’s 6.0-liter V-8 — this Camaro SS shared engine spins out 420-horsepower @ 5,600 rpms and reaches 460 pound/feet of peak torque at 4,100 rpms. Teamed to a new eight-speed automatic, the 6.2 is the most powerful engine in the segment while also earning EPA mileage estimates of 15/21/17-mpg. Our 1,125-mile week together returned a stellar 19.9-mpg while exploring the limits of the engine’s power envelope as well as the traction-deactivated ability to emulate the aforementioned Camaro SS. Similar results are possible, rest assured.
The 6.2-liter V-8 may share roots with the Camaro SS, as well as Chevy’s Corvette, but is decidedly tuned for torque for towing and working. With direct injection, throttle responsiveness is crisp yet subtly smooth. Power flows with no large intake honk, no exaggerated exhaust note, just lineally direct and continuous. Feather the right pedal and V-4 mode saves fuel while coasting, plus the eight-speed transmission lowers engine revolutions when cruising, even at an elevated highway pace.
Pickup truck sales first started to rise during the late 1970s and early 1980s as these vehicles gravitated to social status from a simple workmen’s vehicle. Components customarily reserved for luxury sedans are now commonly found on pickup trucks, while work pieces that were unheard of in trucks two or three generations ago, are now expected. Pieces like easy-lift-and-lower tailgates, a rear bumper with corner steps, and even LED lighting in the pickup bed — now available with spray-on linings on all trim levels — seem so simple now that we often take for granted the many subtle features that make up today’s pickups.
Inside, the Silverado adds to its impressive equipment list with one-touch power windows, clear visibility outward, concise controls readily accessed, plus comfortable seats. It is appreciated that the rear bench splits to fold, and creates a flat load floor, while the Crew Cab affords occupants as pleasant a place to enjoy the trip as any SUV. GM’s decision to adopt front-hinged doors to its extended cab model pickups is also commended, yet those passengers will not enjoy the space, comfort, and view available from the Crew Cab design. The compromise is you lose a foot of bed length.
The Chevy also earns high marks for the safety seat design. Deviate from your lane, left or right, without using your turn signals, and the on-board computer reads the painted lines and thinks you are an errant driver and sends a corresponding vibration into the driver’s seat, shaking the left side of the cushion, or the right, depending upon your path deviation. Approach a forward object too quickly, without braking, and the whole seat notably shakes, the safety seat doing its best to keep you paying attention and in the game. One can debate the merits of such driving aids, to much entertainment, but the fact remains that too many drivers on the road are not paying enough attention to the principal task of driving, so any electronic aids that help keep those drivers more alert — and from hitting me — are most welcome.
Built of heavy-duty steel as well as a lot of aluminum, the Chevy barely weighs more than the much-ballyhooed new aluminum Ford pickup; 5,300 pounds base, 5,500 pounds as sampled. Heavy, yes. Significantly more than the Ford — no. Significantly less than the Ram — yes.
After eight days and a lot of miles, there was only one meaningful complaint in my logbook. The optional Z-71 off-road chassis package — monotube shocks, different springs, different axle ratio, plus badges to denote same — only served to highlight the many shortcomings in our crumbling infrastructure. Bridge expansion joints? Bang, the Chevy signaled every one of them with a notable bump. Protruding culverts; the Z-71 danced across every one of them, giving you a little tail nod to tell you that yes, there is a solid axle still in the rear, but now it has stiffer springs too. GM has sold a LOT of pickup trucks in these parts with Z-71 suspensions; the base Silverado chassis is good enough to avoid spending the money anymore — unless you are spending a LOT of time with heavy loads, off-road.
Strong performance, surprising fuel economy, and a cabin swathed in creature features, the Silverado LTZ Crew Cab 4X4 proves how far the segment has come and how good our current pickup trucks really are. Kudos to the engineers in Detroit for making us plebes look so good, work so hard, and have so much fun all at the wheel of the venerable pickup truck.