One-Year Test Verdict: 1999 Chevy Silverado
An Able Workhorse And A Neighborhood's Best Friend
It goes without saying that bidding a valued co-worker farewell can be difficult at best. So it was with our Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LS. By the end of its year-long test, it too seemed like a member of the staff. When we needed to haul sod from the nursery, tow a racecar trailer, move stuff people don't let the movers touch, or even include the family dog on daily maneuvers, there was one long-term vehicle that could do it all, the Silverado. Whoever took it home was likely to be the most popular guy on the block-at least when someone needed to use a pickup. Shortly after winning our '99 Truck of the Year title, we put a half-ton, 2wd LS to work-and it worked long hours.
Chevy faced a huge task when redesigning the Silverado: how to make it new/different/better without insulting an amazingly loyal customer base that loved the '88-'98 version just the way it was. But GM pulled it off: A structurally stiff frame with hydro-formed steel rails, standard four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS, the largest extended-rear cab area available, and a new line of powerful Vortec V-8s were just a few of the reasons the new-for-'99 Silverado captured our Truck of the Year award.
Our Extended Cab Silverado LS, equipped with the 5.3L/270-hp V-8 and 2WD, proved just enough truck for the jobs our staff had in mind. Popular options included leather interior trim, a sound system with both cassette and CD players, cruise control, and the usual raft of power accessories. When it wasn't being driven as a commuter, weekly chores for the Silverado at MT headquarters in Los Angeles included carrying a storage room full of testing equipment to and from our test facility some 50 miles away. Where we'd been making do by filling every cubic inch of available space in a sedan or sport/utility, this easy-to-load, full-size pickup made what's typically a giant puzzle into the proverbial no-brainer.
Everyone who drove it remarked on how fast it was, with 0-60-mph times in the low 8-sec range. But one car-biased editor quickly learned how an unloaded cargo bed doesn't exactly nail down the rear tires under a heavy right foot: "Lots of power and no rear weight with a touchy throttle means I spin the tires leaving stoplights." No surprise there, and, of course, driving it in the rain only underscores this tendency. Note: Chevrolet began offering traction control on V-8 2WD trucks in '01.
Also relating to an unloaded condition, editors found many colorful ways to describe the too-trucklike highway ride of the Silverado on anything but the smoothest surfaces. From "It ain't great" to "martini shaker," we think Chevy has the ability and an obligation to look into smoothing out the ride with, say, dual stage rear springs or more engineered shackles.
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."
|1999 Chevrolet Silverado|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, RWD|
|Engine type||90 degree V-8, OHV, cast-iron block/alum heads|
|HP @ rpm||270 @ 5000|
|Torque @ rpm||315 @ 4000|
|Suspension, f/r||Upper/lower control arm, coil springs, anti-rollbar/live axle, leaf springs|
|Brakes, f/r||12.0-in vented disc/12.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels||16 x 7.0, cast alum|
|Tires||255/70SR16 General Ameri 660 AS|
|Curb weight, lb||4235|
|Tow capacity, lb||8200|
|Fuel capacity, gal||26.0|
|0-60 mph, sec||8.2|
|Braking, 60-0 mph, ft||137|
|600-ft slalom, mph||59.2|
|Avg. test mpg||17.4|
|Price as tested||$27,721|
|Current value, wholesale/retail*||$21,715/$26,605 *According to Kelley Blue Book|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy||15/20|
|Range, city/hwy, miles||390.0/520.0|
|Basic warranty||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||3 yrs/36,000 miles|