Can't say I was expecting it. Launching the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 down a short access ramp onto the highway had me anticipating a sluggish, if powerful lift into the traffic lane. Instead, the Silverado's 420 horses were absolutely snarling, making the truck rip down the pavement like some turbo-powered SUV. My apologies, and I should have known better given the 6.2-liter, V8 Ecotech engine's specs. But really, we're not paying the Silverado to play hot rod despite the zippy acceleration. It's a pickup, and we expect it do some work.
And certainly the Silverado can. Inc. tested the pumped-up Z71 LTZ Redline 4-wheel-drive version, with a crew cab and off-road capability. In other words, all the bells and whistles. You can take your team with you in the back seat or haul a team of horses behind you in a trailer, given the towing capacity of about 12,500 lbs. in 2 WD (11,700 in 4 WD).
The Silverado, and its GMC-branded Sierra twin, isn't one truck but a bunch of them. As in all of the Detroit 3s work wagons, business owners can plug and play from a menu of configurations, engines, and options to match their needs and pocketbooks. In Silverado's case there are eight separate trims (LS, LT, LT Z71, LTZ, LTZ Z71, Custom, and High Country) and three engine choices (4.3 L, 5.3 L, and 6.2 L) for starters, reflecting in part the cab and truck bed combos. You can get into a Silverado for around $28,000 if you want your basic truck with a 6 ft. 6 in. bed.
But why would you? Detroit has spent the last decade mightily protecting its most profitable segment by adding power, accessories, technology, and above all comfort to the point where high-end pickups feel more like a high-end SUVs that just happen to have a box attached. The Silverado LTZ Z71 crew cab version Inc. drove comes at a base price of about $49,000. The Redline package, which adds $2,265 to the price, includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, sport assist step, and all-terrain tires for off-road. Other options include a sunroof and an upgraded audio system. Throw in the 6.2-liter engine ($2,495), and it pushed the price of our Silverado to $59,610. So much for the days of a three-speed manual and a bench seat.
Yet you'd think that we were still living in the bench seat era the way the companies advertise these things. Nuclear-grade metal! More durable than an M1A2 Abrams! A jillion-pound payload! That's very nice--and certainly necessary for a work vehicle. They are, in some ways, advertising the past. People who drive pickup trucks for a living, particularly in dense urban environments, pride themselves on their ability to maneuver them in tight spaces. Others, who drive on ranches, farms and in, say, the oil industry, brag on their ability to handle rough terrain.
But people who don't drive trucks for a living, like me, are on to you. Pickups have gone soft; driving a pickup today is a breeze. Buy the enhanced driver alert option ($945) and you get front- and rear-park assist, lane keeper, and low-speed forward automatic braking. Inc.'s tester also included downhill descent control, trailer sway control, and hill-start assist, as well as trailer backup help. If you insist on working, there are a series of power ports--AC, DC, and USB-;--so you can plug in anything from a phone to a belt sander.
On the inside, the LTZ Silverado is as lavish as anything Chevy makes. Power seats with heating and cooling. And a ride that is notably quiet; in fact, tooling down the highway, the only thing that distinguishes the Silverado from, say, Chevy's Tahoe SUV, is the higher driver's profile. Although I didn't try to test it off road, some of Manhattan's under-construction thoroughfares are a more-than-ample proxy--and this thing just crushed road noise and vibration. It's just not what you expect in a pickup, but then again at nearly 60 grand you should expect a lot. One thing not to expect is any kind of stylized exterior. Despite some of the wheel treatments and paint finishes, it's hard to escape the pickup's basic boxy shape.
Which is to say that Chevy's Silverado is a bit like a good pizza. Enjoyable, if familiar, in the plainest version; but it's the additional toppings, selected to your own taste, that can really make it delicious.