It happens every year: Once our Truck of the Year winner joins the Motor Trend long-term fleet, it becomes the hardest-working vehicle we have. Knowing it would be the same story for our 2007 Silverado, it was outfitted for labor and versatility-and power and comfort. Aha, you say-another topline long-termer with every option box checked, eh? Well, not quite. We needed a crew cab, but, unfortunately, that meant we couldn't get the maximum trailering package, which would've given the half-ton 4:10 gears, 4L70 four-speed automatic, 9.5-inch rearend, and heavy-duty cooling system. The 3:73s, 4L60, and 8.75-inch rear would suffice. Plus, we knew the Z71 package came with a locking rear diff. We also opted for the LT1 group instead of the best-of-the-best LTZ. Without any options above and beyond the basic LT1 trim, the four-wheel-drive crew cab's MSRP would've been $32,515. We requested the LT1 convenience, safety, E-Z Lift tailgate, and Z71 off-road suspension packages; the 367-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 with Active Fuel Management; sunroof; and a few other goodies, bringing the bottom line to $38,802. That's a bit steep, but our truck was now fully prepared for the off-road and street duties it would inevitably face.
"Inevitably" came within less than a month, when one staffer comfortably fit five people in the "pure pickup" work truck six-person cabin. Later, he used the Silverado to haul an eight-foot couch, overstuffed chair, and dining-room table in one trip-because of the short bed, he had to use tie-downs and the tailgate had to be left open. Another staffer lugged 1200 pounds of payload from Los Angeles to Phoenix and observed an 18-mpg fuel-economy average and 440-mile range, with the V-8 often staying in four-cylinder mode. He was impressed with the transmission's Tow/Haul feature: Once it recalibrated for the added payload, shifts were smooth and gears held longer.
The same hardy staffer who used the Silverado to move, used it again a few months later for a three-day camping trip. He'd opined that a camper shell would be a useful addition to the half-ton. After the editor of Truck Trend preran some trails near Big Bear in Southern California, he agreed, and off the Chevy went for its upgrade. American Camper Shell in Stanton, California, installed Leer's 100XQ shell (about $1800), finished in Graystone Metallic to match the truck's exterior. ACS also fitted the Chevy with a weatherproof, carpeted BedRug bedliner (about $400), making the bed even more civilized and camping-ready. Adding both items to the truck took less than two hours. Fresh from its back-half upgrade, the Chevy was again on the road, this time to the Mojave Desert and then to Hungry Valley for photo-vehicle duty. Out in the ruts and rocks of Hungry Valley, one of the shell's struts came loose. Another trip to Stanton, and ACS fixed it within 15 minutes.
The Silverado's first scheduled trip to the dealer was unremarkable. It received an oil change at 9200 miles (a little late). It went back to the dealer at 11,861 miles, when we showed the technicians the rattling/loose passenger-side mirror and they ordered a replacement. One editor noticed that on bumpy roads, the check-airbag light turned on intermittently-the dealer couldn't duplicate it, but after cleaning dust off the sensor connections, the problem eventually stopped. The techs also completed a throttle-body service and lube/oil/filter change ($381) and fixed a battery recall. Once the mirror arrived, it was installed under warranty on a third trip.