Two years ago, the only non-GM truck eligible for our annual Truck of the Year event was the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. That year, the Chevrolet Silverado walked away with the coveted golden calipers, but since then, competition from cross-town rivals Ford and Dodge has heated up. Chevy hasn't been resting on its laurels, though. The company has rolled out more and more options for Silverado buyers, doing everything it can to stay one step ahead of the pack.
Though the Silverado wasn't updated significantly enough to qualify for the 2009 Truck of the Year event, we were still able to pit it against the latest offerings from Ford and Dodge, as well as those from GMC, Nissan and Toyota. Once again, the Silverado prevailed, but only by a hair. Close on its heels was the Ford F-150, which follows a similar mantra of a truck for every driver.
Chevrolet has updated the 2009 Silverado with a six-speed transmission with manual shifting capabilities and rolled out the Silverado Hybrid. With Chevy's newfound affinity for efficiency, a road trip was in order to find out just how much of a difference the improvements have made.
After a call to Chevrolet, an Imperial Blue Metallic 2009 Silverado LT Crew Cab arrived in our parking garage replete with the Z71 off-road package, 18-in. wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires, 5.3L E85-capable V-8 with 315 hp and 338 lb-ft of torque and Active Fuel Management and the optional six-speed automatic transmission. Our trip would take us on a nearly 1400-mile journey from Los Angeles up into Northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains and back. After escaping Los Angeles, the trip would consist of mostly freeway driving, with some in-city travel, snow driving and a windy canyon road thrown in for good measure.
Though the current-generation Silverado's styling debuted several years ago, the truck still feels larger than you would expect in a half-ton. The brawny, squared-off sheetmetal and wide stance can be unnerving at first in city traffic, but the Silverado's excellent sightlines make its size easy to adapt to. Quick, accurate steering inspire confidence and a smooth ride makes the Silverado a pleasant commuter -- until you have to park it. Still, seasoned truck drivers won't have any trouble with it.
Inside, our LT came with a nicely appointed interior, albeit not the top-of-the-line package found in the LTZ. Still, the seats remained comfortable despite the distance and the XM Satellite Radio and auxiliary input jack on the face of the radio kept us entertained for the duration of the trip. That said, the center stack, like many of those found in GM vehicles, is still a boring slab of gray plastic when the Navigation box hasn't been checked on the order sheet. The stereo and small upper glove box, which requires two hands to open, were the only detractors from an otherwise nicely finished dash.