Road Test: 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 1500HD
Flexibility and utility. $116/hp; $5.33/lb
The Wrangler, X5, and R/T are all included here as purpose-built, the Ranger less so, but limited on size and sacrificing hauling in favor of economy. The Silverado 1500HD is here because it does, at minimum, a decent job of most things all in one package. It's not cheap, but no combination of others would be either, and at this price--only the Ranger and a mediocre steak cost less per pound.
Only the Ford SuperCrew and Dodge Quad Cab were mentioned with the 1500HD for this section. The Ram 4WD, at about $25,500, came with a SOHC V-8, five-speed manual, 17-in. wheels, and air-conditioning. The luxurious Ford, in the low-$32,000 range in 4WD, had a similar engine, automatic, leather, power driver seat, wide 275 tires, climate control, and with its short box could fit in a garage the 1500HD might not. However, luxury and value don't always go together, and the definition of luxury is debatable.
In the end, we went with the luxury of a 6.0L/300-hp V-8, automatic, full-floating rear axle, spacious room for five, full-size 6-plus-ft cargo box and a split-fold rear seat, CD player, cruise, A/C, 4WD, and power accessories for $32,043. To this, our example was not overly adorned, equipped with just $1925 in options: limited-slip, trailer hitch, deep-tint rear glass, cassette/CD combo, forged polished-aluminum wheels (unbeatable at only $150!), and six-way power seats in front. That payment provided a truck we could use to carry five real people in comfort most wouldn't complain about, if not in the hushed, fast security of the X5. It provides drive traction at both ends like the Wrangler, if not the nimble size. And it gives a payload rating higher than the tow rating on the Dakota or Wrangler, and a tow rating four times as high as anything but the X5.
The 1500HD's 6.0L V-8 needs revs to work best, with only 400 rpm between rated horsepower and torque peaks. It's not quite as smooth as the 4.8 or 5.3, but clearly has more grunt and gets this 3-ton truck moving with ease. We'd pay extra for the 4.10 gears--they give better performance while incurring little mileage penalty, and the tow rating rises to 10,000 lb. Big trucks rarely excel in minimum braking distances, and this Silverado was no different. But pedal feel, resistance to fade, and water-shedding ability are all quite acceptable. The steering is nicely weighted, and directional stability is good, indicative of the long wheelbase.
Occupants should find the front seats ideal, as many adjustments and fabric instead of slippery leather keep you from sliding sideways or submarining. Instrumentation is superb and includes transmission temperature as standard, and as an LS model, there's less automation than the LT, for those who prefer to make decisions themselves.
By design and size, the 1500HD suffers when it comes to tight places, its 50-ft turning circle and 2.0 in. shy of 20-ft length conspiring to keep you away from garages and small villages. It's not easy on gas, and the long wheelbase will end up pogo-sticking on frost heaves and expansion joints like a mechanical bull. But for something that does many things, this is hard to beat and an excellent illustration of why full-size pickups are still the best-selling-vehicle class.