With its flaws now fixed, the Chevrolet Silverado is back on top
Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor
Plastered on the side of our redesigned 2007 Chevrolet Silverado test truck is a bright red badge that reads "Vortec Max." It's the best name Chevrolet could come up with for the top-of-the-line 6.0-liter V8 under the hood, but we're not digging it.
If it had been up to us, the badge would say "364 Max Power" or "Tow Master 364" or some other cubic-inch-derived exaggeration. Anything to make the big V8 sound less like a Star Trek character and more like an American V8 designed for serious towing and hauling.
Then again, whining about the badges is about as petty as pointing out our all-American Chevrolet was built in Canada, but after driving this Silverado for two weeks there isn't much else to complain about.
Our truck, our test We did more than just test-drive a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado; we bought one. Called dealers and talked to salesmen just like everybody else. Of course, before we got that far we had to decide which version to get. It's not an easy task as the 2007 Silverado serves up a redneck Christmas list of options. There are three cab styles, three bed lengths, three trim levels, five suspensions and seven engines to choose from.
We eventually decided on a midgrade LT crew cab with four-wheel drive and the 364 sorry, 6.0-liter V8. We also went with the heavy-duty trailer package which bumps its maximum tow rating to a class-leading 10,500 pounds. Along with 4.10 rear-end gears, a 9.5-inch rear axle and all the usual trailer hookups, the package includes a locking rear differential, heavy-duty oil and transmission coolers, a thicker front sway bar, four-wheel disc brakes and a revised steering ratio.
All Silverado 1500s now use a four-speed automatic and any truck with the 6.0-liter motor gets a heavy-duty version with hardened gearsets. Although GM builds a six-speed automatic for its full-size SUVs, there aren't enough of the new transmissions to go around so the Silverado won't get it for another two years.
Testing the Vortec Max Rated at 367 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, the Silverado's 6.0-liter offers the most horsepower in the class while torque is up to 375 pound-feet at 4,300 rpm. Only the Nissan Titan's 5.6-liter V8 offers more with its 385 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm.
With those kinds of numbers and an as-tested weight of 5,466 pounds, the Silverado's acceleration is predictably swift. Our test truck ran from zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds and crossed the quarter-mile in 16 seconds at 86.4 mph. That's a couple ticks slower than the last Nissan Titan we tested to 60 mph, but the Silverado catches up by the end of the quarter-mile.
Braking performance wasn't as impressive as the Silverado took 150 feet to stop from 60 mph. That's about 10 feet longer than the last half-ton Silverado we tested and 8 feet longer than the Silverado 3500 dually that won our recent heavy-duty diesel truck comparison test. Although our new test truck had over 1,000 miles on it at the time of the test, we suspect the brakes still weren't fully broken in.
Slalom runs are never a strong point for any full-size truck, but the Silverado made a commendable 57.3-mph run. Our test driver noted that although the big crew cab was hard to place through the cones, it never felt tippy and even slid progressively at the limit once we turned off the standard stability control system.
Piling on the miles Since trucks aren't built for the test track, we've done plenty of real-world driving, too, including a 600-mile round-trip from L.A. to Vegas. In those conditions, the Silverado impressed us with its supple ride quality and quiet cabin. We expected some level of harshness with the high-capacity suspension, yet it rides soft enough to live with on a daily basis. Wind and road noise at highway speeds is minimal and at 70 mph we recorded an interior sound level of just 65.2 decibels, which makes it quieter than the last Audi A6 we tested.
Steering feel is much improved over previous Silverados thanks to a new rack-and-pinion design. There's no longer a massive dead spot on-center and the power assist feels about right for a truck. We have noticed its wide turning circle and a check of the numbers confirms a 2-foot-longer radius than either the Ford F-150 or Nissan Titan crew cabs.
Passing power on the highway isn't an issue as 2nd gear will get you to over 70 mph. Our short 4.10 final drive ratio keeps the engine spinning a little faster than usual, which is good given the peculiar power band we've noticed from the V8. Instead of stump-pulling low-end power, the 6.0-liter hits its stride between 4,000 and 5,500 rpm. It's rarely a problem in normal driving, but once in awhile the transmission will refuse to downshift leaving you lagging along until the engine wakes up at higher rpm.
With official EPA mileage ratings of 15 city and 19 highway, the 6.0-liter V8 boasts better numbers than any of its competitors. Much of it has to do with GM's Active Fuel Management system which shuts down half the cylinders under light load. Apparently going 75 mph on the highway doesn't make much use of that feature as we only managed 14.1 mpg on our round-trip to Vegas.
The flaw is fixed Mileage aside, the Silverado was a great road-trip vehicle. Its new interior not only has a more modern design, it's comfortable and functional, too. The cloth bucket seats don't look like much, but we drove for nearly five straight hours without getting uncomfortable. There are luxury cars we can't say the same about.
All the basics are there, too, like well-placed cupholders, driver-accessible storage bins and easy-to-use cruise control buttons. We also liked the one-touch lane change feature and grippy leather wrap on the steering wheel. Nobody sat in back for any length of time but we did make use of the flat load floor which opens up when the seats are folded.
Materials quality was one of the previous Silverado's biggest flaws and Chevrolet has woken up on this front, too. We wouldn't call the dash plastics the best stuff we've ever seen, but they're as good, or better, than any other full-size truck. Even the feel of the various knobs is smoother and more refined.
The few annoying issues we've found are minor. Some drivers are bothered with the way the driver seat is offset from the gauges while others complained about the hard armrests on the doors. A new glovebox design splits the space into two separate bins, neither one of which holds much. And for a truck that costs over $41,000, we would expect at the very least a standard bedliner, if not the adjustable cargo management system that's a dealer option.
So far so good Chevrolet didn't miss much with the 2007 Silverado. There are few aspects of this full-size truck that aren't class-competitive, if not class-leading. It's as comfortable as any truck we've ever driven, and its engine is strong, quiet and as fuel-efficient as a 6.0-liter V8 is going to get. The nicely finished interior does away with the old truck's biggest drawback and it doesn't sacrifice functionality in the process. And most of us think it doesn't look half bad either.
Of course, a big test comes early next year with the release of the redesigned 2007 Toyota Tundra. We'll be adding one of those to our long-term test fleet, too, so be prepared for plenty of side-by-side comparisons. And we promise to talk about more than just the badges.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Schmidt says: Growing up under my dad's roof I could always count on him to offer a hand when it came time to work on my car — that is, as long as it was a "domestic." He's a GM guy, so along with the extra set of hands was always a mouth reminding that I should dump my F-150 and buy a Silverado instead. So, I drove the new Silverado.
The 6.0-liter V8 of our test vehicle delivered nice power. With the cruise control engaged on the 5 freeway through Tejon Pass, the transmission didn't hunt for gear either. Of course, its old-school four-speed doesn't allow many choices.
From the materials to the instrument cluster design, the interior changes are all improvements in my book. The driver seat offers a commanding view of the road and I found it quite comfortable over long distances.
The '07 Silverado is a solid truck and easily as good as its predecessor, but I want more than "as good." Maybe it's because I'm stubborn (and a Ford guy at heart) but it's going to take a bit more convincing for me to trade in my truck for this Chevy. Sorry, Dad, I'm not ready to change teams yet.
Overall Grade: B-
Upgraded Bose speakers are included with the rear-seat DVD package
Price if optional:
$1,955 for the DVD package
Single-disc with separate single DVD player
Bluetooth for phone:
No, a hands-free calling feature is offered through OnStar instead
Yes, in center console
How does it sound: B- Although the bass isn't as sharp as we'd expect from a system with Bose speakers and a subwoofer, the sound overall is very good. Front pillar-mounted tweeters bounce sound off the windshield and the highs add nice detail to the overall sound. Midrange and vocal effects like reverb also come through nicely thanks to those forward-mounted tweeters. Unfortunately, distortion creeps in fairly early as the volume climbs and the highs can get squeaky.
How does it work: A The interface for this new generation of GM radios is excellent. Most features have corresponding hard buttons that are easy to use and offer a wide range of options. Everything is logically laid out and very user-friendly.
Special features: Chevrolet was one of the first companies to put an auxiliary jack in its vehicles and the new Silverado is no exception. Further evidence that GM "gets it" is the fact that the stereo automatically switches to "AUX Mode" as soon as you plug a jack into the receptacle. The rubberized patch in the center console/armrest is also a thoughtful feature that's great for keeping MP3 players from sliding around.
Conclusion: With the Bose speakers the new Silverado's stereo almost sounds like a premium system. It is easily better than the best F-150 sound system but seems to lack the punch of the Dodge Ram/Infinity system. — Brian Moody
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