Our test Silverado was a Z71, a long time GM code for added performance models, which in this instance particularly means enhanced suspension. However while it boasts sports car like acceleration don’t expect sports car handling. This is after all a big and heavy pick up and when pushed hard in corners you realise it takes a lot of physics to get it around the bend. Having said that it generally handles with a flat and controlled nature, but the damping is still a little on the soft side for Australian taste. A run across the Bell’s Line of Road and on to Bathurst and Oberon revealed it can easily cruise along at the speed limit, just don’t expect to have fun at a track day.
Part of the reason why the latest Silverado handles and performs so well for a big pick up truck, is that it boasts a new platform which is lighter and better designed that its predecessor. The latest Silverado 1500 rides on GM’s new T1XX platform which it shares with such things as Chev’s super SUVs the Suburban and the Tahoe as well as Cadillac’s Escalade. The Silverado is 200 or so kilos lighter than its previous model thanks to the new platform and better chassis engineering and design has made the big pick up much better dynamically than previous generations we have driven in the USA.
One design point we did note is just how far back the engine sits in the engine bay when you open the bonnet, it may not be a mod engine sports car but it certainly helps with the balance of the machine.
It is also aided in Australia by the fact that the Walkinshaw organisation uses its store of engineering smarts to apply its own suspension tune to the Silverado, drawing on the expertise it applied to generations of HSV improved Holdens.
On smooth tarmac the big beast handles particularly well, although on rougher broken bitumen and on gravel roads there can so signs of scuttle shake and excessive judder when unladen, however you can’t forget this is a pick up and its built for a load so when viewed through this frame, it performs pretty impressively.
Our test vehicle also boasted an optional Brembo brake package which significantly improved the brake performance with terrific feel through the pedal and consistent stopping power, a factor which is vital in a 2.5 tonne vehicle with this level of urge. The Silverado sits on big 20 inch alloy rims, which allow plenty of room for the massive Brembo discs and also gives the vehicle better handling and ride.
Let’s not forget this is a truck and out behind the big spacious cab is a big spacious load bed which can haul a genuine 712 kg payload while more important for some is the fact that it can tow up to 3500kg with the standard 50mm tow ball or up to 4500kg with a 70 mm ball. That alone makes the Silverado and other American pick-ups hugely attractive to caravan hauling grey nomads. This is further enhanced by an integrated adjuster knob for trailer braking positioned on the dash.
The rear ute tub is lined with a tough sprayed on black ripple coating that resists damage and protect the steel tub underneath. The rear tailgate also features an electric open and close function, so one touch on the tailgate button or on the remote key fob and it can be lowered and raised with ease, handy if you have an armful of heavy items to load into the tub.
The Silverado has selectable 4WD which GM calls Autotrac, with both the normal 2WD and a two speed electronic transfer case for 4WD. We didn’t test the off road capabilities save for poking down a wet gravel road but the sheer size of the Silverado could limit the places it can go in the Australian bush, but this is a surprising machine and it may well exceed expectations.
Interior space is abundant in the Silverado, in fact if there was any more space inside this machine NASA would be needed to manage it. But seriously the room available is tremendous with comfortable room for five large adults, masses of storage space and legroom that could easily cope with five NBA players.
At one stage on our run across the Bells Line of Road, the rear seat occupant joked with the front seat passenger asking him to move the seat forward because he “only had about a metre of legroom to play with”. That is not quite true but squashed is something you won’t feel in inside the Silverado cabin. My wife quipped that the Silverado was clearly “built for extra large Americans”, and she may very well be right.
A clever innovation in the rear is the fold up seat squab, which can free passenger area for luggage or cargo inside the cab rather than in the tray at the back.
There are also heaps of storage bins and holes around the cabin with a pile of USB charging points and a wireless charging pad in the centre console, however we had trouble making this work reliably during our time in the Chevy. The centre console between the two front seats has enough room in it to stage a Barnham and Baileys Circus performance, well maybe not quite that much but it can stow an awful lot of stuff.
The dash is alive with buttons and controls , as is the steering wheel but all is very well laid out and generally easy to use, although some of the buttons are a little small and at times difficult to hit accurately while travelling at speed.
The audio/ infotainment system revolve around an 8.0-inch LED touchscreen coupled to a superb Bose sound system which also boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are audio and mode control buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes allowing the driver to control things without taking hands off the wheel and also there are round dials below the unit itself on the dash that allow easy adjustment on the fly.
With the full suite of safety features the Silverado comes with adaptive cruise control, Automated Emergency Braking and lane-change alert as well as blind-sport monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Interestingly active lane keep is not offered just yet, however work to calibrate and adapt it for local conditions is underway the HSV engineering offices in Clayton.
Driving the Silverado for a week makes you realise just how far US automotive offerings have come, particularly in the decade since the GFC, when a near bankrupt GM had to re-focus and start delivering globally competitive machinery. About 30 years ago this writer tested the last of the F150 pickups sold locally by Ford. It was truly terrible, lacking refinement and manners in equal measure. Local vehicles were so much better in every way. The headline on that F150 test was ‘This Old Cowboy has had its Day’ Admittedly 30 years is a long time ago, but the Silverado and other US machines can now sit comfortably alongside products from any other country in the world without embarrassment or apology. This may not be Silverado’s first Rodeo but it also isn’t a broken down old bronco rider either.
Yes, sure the big Chevy is an acquired taste and won’t suit everyone. But if you are looking for more room, towing capacity as well as luxury from a ute and you’re not worried about a $110,000 plus price tag then the Silverado is a big, honest, and likeable option to the smaller Japanese dual cabs and if you are not worried about its large footprint on the planet then it ticks a lot of boxes.