Chevy's Silverado SS has always tried to be a jack-of-all-trades performance truck. A renaissance bad-boy, if you like. When it arrived in 2003, it looked mean, and its 6.0-liter, 345-horsepower V-8 sounded swift and accelerated smartly, but the pickup also boasted six-passenger extended-cab seating, all-wheel drive, and a hefty towing capacity (it was 7600 pounds; now it's 8100). These virtues did much to offset the fact that the short-cab, rear-drive Ford SVT Lightning (380 horsepower) and Dodge Ram SRT-10 (500 horses) could run rings around it at the track.
To the surprise of many, the market responded favorably to the Silverado SS, snapping up over 14,000 in two years, with an average transaction price for most over $40,000. The competition hasn't been as lucky. Ford's Lightning struck out after 2003, and Dodge recently saw fit to introduce a more practical four-door SRT-10 with an automatic transmission and a 7500-pound towing capacity, presumably to intensify interest in the SRT-10.
Now Chevy is adding a rear-drive variant to the Silverado SS line. Ditching the transfer case, front driveshaft, and front differential lightens the truck by about 200 pounds and shaves $3150 off the bottom line, which starts at a more reasonable $36,440. Who knows, it might even shave off a few seconds at the dragstrip. Or maybe not--our 6.7-second 0-to-60-mph and 15.1-second, 90.5-mph quarter-mile times fall within the range of performance we've seen in AWD SSs. We experimented with a variety of launch techniques, from brake-torquing and holding wheelspin to about 3000 rpm until the tires hook up, to flat-footing the pedal and taking off with minimal wheelspin. The results of four runs were within 0.16 second of each other. Maybe the AWD SS launches quickly enough to make up for its added weight. Or maybe our totally green test truck (showing just 200 miles) needed to loosen up for another couple thousand miles.
One thing's for sure: This SS will feel slower than its AWD counterpart on public roads, where the traction control is hard at work whenever one cracks the throttle more than about half open. We'd be sorely tempted to fit some wider tires to the back. Lateral grip in the lighter, more tail-happy truck improved from the AWD's 0.77 g to 0.79.