It goes without saying that bidding a valued co-worker farewell can be difficult at best. So it was with our Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LS. By the end of its year-long test, it too seemed like a member of the staff. When we needed to haul sod from the nursery, tow a racecar trailer, move stuff people don't let the movers touch, or even include the family dog on daily maneuvers, there was one long-term vehicle that could do it all, the Silverado. Whoever took it home was likely to be the most popular guy on the block-at least when someone needed to use a pickup. Shortly after winning our '99 Truck of the Year title, we put a half-ton, 2wd LS to work-and it worked long hours.
Chevy faced a huge task when redesigning the Silverado: how to make it new/different/better without insulting an amazingly loyal customer base that loved the '88-'98 version just the way it was. But GM pulled it off: A structurally stiff frame with hydro-formed steel rails, standard four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS, the largest extended-rear cab area available, and a new line of powerful Vortec V-8s were just a few of the reasons the new-for-'99 Silverado captured our Truck of the Year award.
Our Extended Cab Silverado LS, equipped with the 5.3L/270-hp V-8 and 2WD, proved just enough truck for the jobs our staff had in mind. Popular options included leather interior trim, a sound system with both cassette and CD players, cruise control, and the usual raft of power accessories. When it wasn't being driven as a commuter, weekly chores for the Silverado at MT headquarters in Los Angeles included carrying a storage room full of testing equipment to and from our test facility some 50 miles away. Where we'd been making do by filling every cubic inch of available space in a sedan or sport/utility, this easy-to-load, full-size pickup made what's typically a giant puzzle into the proverbial no-brainer.
Everyone who drove it remarked on how fast it was, with 0-60-mph times in the low 8-sec range. But one car-biased editor quickly learned how an unloaded cargo bed doesn't exactly nail down the rear tires under a heavy right foot: "Lots of power and no rear weight with a touchy throttle means I spin the tires leaving stoplights." No surprise there, and, of course, driving it in the rain only underscores this tendency. Note: Chevrolet began offering traction control on V-8 2WD trucks in '01.
Also relating to an unloaded condition, editors found many colorful ways to describe the too-trucklike highway ride of the Silverado on anything but the smoothest surfaces. From "It ain't great" to "martini shaker," we think Chevy has the ability and an obligation to look into smoothing out the ride with, say, dual stage rear springs or more engineered shackles.