What's New for 1997
Chevy strengthens the 2WD S-10 frame by using tougher components. Refinements to the automatic transmission result in improved efficiency and smoother shifts. Four-wheel-drive models have lighter-weight plug-in half shafts. Two new colors are available.
Like most of today's compact trucks, Chevrolet's S-Series grew more car-like when it was redesigned for 1994. That's the trend, and Chevy has done a good job of transforming its small-scale pickups--without blurring their identity as practical machines. Riding smoother and handling better, they gained plenty in performance potential and overall refinement, ranking closer to their main competition, Ford's similar-size Ranger. Grasp that long manual-transmission gearshift lever and it's easy to imagine you're wielding a big rig, while enjoying the blissful comforts of a compact.
Four-cylinder models need that manual shift to derive top performance, but the two V-6 engine options are strong with either manual or automatic transmissions. For maximum output, the optional 180-horsepower L35 Vortec 4300 V-6 is the engine to select (190 horsepower in 4WD models). The slightly less energetic LF6 Vortec 4300 V-6 is no slouch, nearly matching the L35 in power and torque
Extended cab models can be equipped with a handy access panel that opens wide to allow for easier access to the rear of the cab. Located on the driver's side, the optional third door deletes one of the extended cab's jump seats, but makes it much easier to load cargo, a friend, or your pal Spot into the S-10. Be warned, the third door makes for aggravating rattles on broken pavement.
Two- and four-wheel-drive trucks come in seven models each, with a short or long bed, fleetside box or sportside box, and short or extended wheelbase. Ride comfort varies from car-smooth to strictly firm, depending on the choice of suspensions and tires.
Headroom is ample and seats are supportive, but the driver sits low, facing a tall steering wheel and cowl. In theory, three people fit across an S-Series bench seat, but it's hard to conceive of an adult human being slim enough to squeeze into the space allotted. Surprisingly, the extended cab's rear jump seats are comfortable for short trips, as long as only one adult occupies the space behind the front seats.
Full gauges are excellent and easy to read, but the upright dashboard is constructed of cheap and brittle looking plastic. Despite a low-height windshield--not unlike the Ranger's--visibility is super, helped by huge mirrors. A driver's airbag and daytime running lamps are standard. All models have four-wheel anti-lock braking. Off-roaders will want the burly ZR2 package that makes the truck's body wider and taller, featuring special wheel flares, tough suspension components, and aggressive rubber.
For 1997, Chevrolet has strengthened the frame of the 2WD model by using tougher components. Refinements to the automatic transmission result in improved efficiency and smoother shifts. Four-wheel drive models have lighter-weight plug-in half shafts that are easier to service. Two new colors are available; Fairway Green Metallic and Medium Beige Mystique Metallic.
Like many Chevrolets, the S-10 is loaded with value. However, we must take issue with the poor crash test scores of this little pickup, especially in contrast to the good crashworthiness demonstrated by the Ford Ranger. Furthermore, the Ranger can be equipped with dual front airbags, and the new -for-1997 Dodge Dakota offers dual airbags as standard equipment. Chevy doesn't make a passenger airbag available. We genuinely like the S-10, but feel that for safety-minded shoppers, Ford's Ranger and Dodge's Dakota are the better buys in this class.