In its ongoing quest to advance truck sales, Chevrolet returns the SS badge to pickups for the first time in a decade with the 2003 Silverado SS.
The Silverado SS is built on the popular extended-cab short-bed layout, in near-monochromatic paint schemes, with one big exhaust outlet, and LT-grade leather buckets with "SS" embroidery in the headrests. Like 2003 Silverados, the SS gets a revised front-end derived from the Avalanche, but the SS has a unique cross-hatch grille and recessed foglamps.
The SS comes with the 6.0L high-output V-8 from the Escalade, rated at 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a 4L65E four-speed automatic. Standard also is all-wheel drive, making the SS the only sport-pickup so equipped; it won't outrun a Lightning, but it will keep up in the rain, and it offers more seating than any sport pickup.
To ensure the SS doesn't polish the pavement like the old SS454, it's fitted with a Z60 suspension that drops it 2.0 in., adds almost 0.75-in. to track width, and employs monotube gas shocks. Aluminum wheels, a locking rear differential, and 275/55-20 Goodyear Eagle LSs round out the package.
The SS also benefits from generic improvements to all Silverados and Sierras, including a revised electrical system, smarter airbags, multizone climate control, and heated power folding signal mirrors. Entertainment options have been advanced with video, XM Satellite radios, and audiophile Bose sound systems tuned for various interior configurations.
Other GM Truck News
→ Also expanding is StabiliTrak, now offered on many full-size GM utilities. New choices include second-row bucket seats and electrically adjustable pedals.
→ A few new offerings are scheduled for showrooms, not the least of which is the Cadillac Escalade ESV, the biggest Caddy since the long-departed factory limousine. Based on the Suburban shell, the ESV comes with seven- or eight-passenger seating, sunroof or DVD entertainment, XM radio, OnStar, and the 6.0L/AWD drivetrain.
→ Buick is slated to get the Rainier next fall, probably around the time the last Bravada is built. It's typically Buick in appearance and features and will be the only standard-wheelbase GM midsize SUV to have an optional 5.3L V-8. That engine will be offered on all the long-wheelbase variants.
→ Other news due next fall is the GMC Envoy XUV: GMC's answer to the Explorer SportTrac. The Envoy XUV rides on the XL chassis, but has no third-row seating. Instead, the roof slides forward to make a 32-in. square opening for awkward loads. A standard Midgate with a power window and a hose-out cargo area will help keep things separated, and the tailgate drops down or swings sideways (opening away from the curb). This vehicle brings back memories of GM's '70s wagons where the rear window rolled into the roof, and GMC expects the XUV to account for a third of Envoy sales.
→ Quadrasteer is now available on the Suburban and Yukon XL 2500 models with the 6.0L engine. This system puts rear steering on a Dana 60 axle, and adds about 200 lb and 5 in. of width, but a tow vehicle with 16,000-lb GCWR that can make a U-turn in 37.4 ft. If towing scares you, and your single-axle trailer is prone to wandering, or if you need a big vehicle in a compact neighborhood, this will be worth a look.
→ Although they're listed as commercial vehicles, the new Kodiak line of C4500/5500 trucks should prove interesting to the recreational markets. Perfect for towing large fifth-wheels or pencil-thin all-engine sport boats, these carry GVW ratings of 16,000-19,500 lb and GCW ratings of 24,000-26,000 lb; figure average towing capacity in the 7-9-ton range.
→ All-new, both regular and crew cabs are available and 50 percent quieter than before. Although the Kodiaks are 13 in. higher than the C3500HD, the sloping hood allows the driver to see an object on the road less than 14 ft ahead of the bumper, far better than the competition and some pickups. The mirrors fold inside the fender line, the windshield is 25 percent larger, and two 17-in. steps ease the climb.
→ The C4500/5500 are powered by various ratings of 8.1L gas V-8 or Duramax 6.6L turbodiesel engines, either with a six-speed manual or Allison five-speed automatic with optional PTO. Dual alternators and up to three batteries are available, as are a variety of fuel-tank capacities and locations. A 54 wheel cut means even a big crew cab can U-turn in 60 ft, and short models do it in 35. All-disc 15-in. brakes and 19.5-in. load range F tires handle the baggage, and traction control is available.
→ Finally, the low-volume SSR is slated to start production soon.
2003 Engines and Beyond
Beyond 2003, in the 2004-model year, GM will bring out the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. These will be powered by two new inline engines, both derived from the 4.2L inline-six in the Chevy TrailBlazer et al.
A 2.8L I-4 and 3.5L I-5 (shown) - the first five-cylinder from a domestic manufacturer and largest gasoline five we're familiar with--will be offered, with a choice of the 4L60E automatic or a new five-speed manual. Both share most individual cylinder parts with the 4.2: pistons, rods, front cover/oil pump, valves and valvetrain, etc., but cranks and cams obviously vary by length, as do the oil pans, which don't have an axle shaft passing through them. Construction is the same lost-foam aluminum block and head as the I-6.
Since these engines have fairly large-displacement cylinders, each has a balance-shaft system. These counter-rotating shafts are chain-driven at the rear of the engine and spin at twice engine speed (up to 12,600 rpm) to cancel the unique motions of each engine. Balance shafts were initially developed by Lanchester almost 100 years ago and have seen service more recently in Mitsubishi and Porsche products.
Early engines exhibit the torque you'd expect from a 93mm bore and 102mm stroke at or near peak grunt around 1300-5000 rpm. Peak horsepower is up at 5600, with max revs 6300 for both.