After a two-month tour of duty in L.A., the Silverado found its way across the well-worn path to our Florida office at the hands of navigationally challenged Motor Trend Online Director of Content Jeff Bartlett (and, we're thankful, back again). These cross-country treks offered Bartlett the chance to answer an oft-asked question: "What's the best mileage possible, and can the position of the tailgate really affect mileage?"

Legalities aside, Bartlett's real-world test demonstrated there's no added mileage to be gained driving with the tailgate up or down. Emptying seven entire tanks full of gasoline, back to back, across five states produced little conclusive evidence or advantage for the tailgate-down movement. With the gate up, mileage varied from 18.02 mpg to the best the truck ever produced at 23.34 mpg. Tailgate lowered produced 18.03-18.75 mpg. If there are non-scientific conclusions here, we might say mileage was better with the gate up, and it must be mighty boring to drive 3000 miles by yourself.

Editor Bartlett, like everyone else, was generally pleased with the interior accommodations: "Love these seats, with solid armrests and integrated seat belts" was one logbook note. "Why did they go to all this work, and then only offer one rear door?" was another, although that's been addressed as of the 2000 model.

Problems? What problems? Scheduled maintenance wasn't included in non-warranty costs, so the $265.26 reflects two oil changes, one tire rotation, two additional quarts of oil, and the 15K required service. Period. There were a few quality rough edges-a rattle when the tailgate was closed, some poorly finished plastic around the console area, and plasticky switchgear that's still not as well done and crisp to operate as an F-150's-but nothing that ever kept the Silverado from doing its job, and nothing that took away from its work-a-day goodness.

As Bartlett said: "Sure going to miss the Silverado." It proved mostly comfortable, popular with the neighbors, and amazingly useful. The half-ton pickup has been called America's Favorite Tool. And the Chevy Silverado is a damn good one.

What's New, Changed, Different

In model-year 2000, Chevrolet added an optional driver-side rear fourth door to its Extended Cab lineup and upped the 5.3L V-8's horsepower by 15 for a total of 285 hp--the torque went up to 325 lb-ft. In '01, a new composite bed box becomes available for 1500 Extended Cab Fleetside short box 4x4 Z71 models, and electronic traction control becomes an option on V-8 4x2 models equipped with an automatic and locking rear differential. The Silverado lineup also expands for '01, including heavier-duty 3500 series models, crew cabs, and the long-awaited "dualie" versions. An excellent, Isuzu-sourced 6.6L turbodiesel, an updated 8.1L gas V-8, and several new transmissions join the option list.

From the Logbook

"The standard stereo has all the sound reproduction quality of my bedside clock/radio."

"I love all the storage cubbies. I used all of them for the cross-country drive."

"With the factory-installed bed liner in place, the tie-down hooks are inaccessible-duh."

"Sure appreciate the fact that the rear cab area has some room, and a bit of seat rake. Not like the penalty box area in some pickups."

"The trick rear bench seat folds up and out of the way, allowing quick and easy cargo storage without worrying about the upholstery-and the dog likes it, too."