Are you a chronic home improver? Do you need to haul hay along with a trailer containing its equine primary consumers? Or perhaps you're somebody like newly retired George W. Bush, who needs a luxurious yet capable vehicle to go with your Texas ranch.
Well, if you answered yes to any of those questions then you're a pickup truck person. And even if you said "No Siree," you still might be one, if the vast number of pickups sporting one person in the crew cab and an empty bed are any indication. However, if you actually need the capabilities of a multitasking pickup and want lots of luxury, too, then consider the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ crew cab.
With the Chevy Silverado's long-standing "tradition" of cheap cabin materials and shoddy construction now in its rearview mirrors, the latest version has a lot going for it. Take, for example, the available burly 6.2-liter V8 that gives this truck the pin-you-to-the-seat performance of a muscle car, complete with a matching exhaust rumble. But more practical characteristics are here as well, such as the way the Silverado handles a load of heavy building materials or an active family of five with a couple of quarter horses or a 24-foot Bayliner.
In the past, Chevy's pickup just had its Ford and Dodge countrymen rivals to worry about if those window-mounted stickers of Calvin denigrating the latter's emblems are any indicator. Now, there are a few other worthy competitors, in the form of the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra that are the first serious full-size pickup entries from Japan.
But junior-high expressions of "my truck is better than yours" aside, how does the 2009 Chevy Silverado LTZ rate? Pretty highly by our reckoning. We'd recommend the Silverado to anyone looking for plentiful and refined performance, a comfortable cabin and an ideal ride and handling balance in their next pickup. However, we'd also be quick to recommend the Dodge and Toyota trucks, so multiple test-drives should be in order to determine which will best suit your truckin' lifestyle.
Under its massive prow, our Silverado had the optional 6.2-liter V8 that pumps out 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Matched to a six-speed automatic, the six-two catapults the heavy Chevy to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, with the quarter-mile flashing by in 14.9 seconds. Given that this is a fully loaded, 4WD crew-cab truck, this is truly remarkable acceleration. Obviously, this big brute can haul more than sheetrock and 2x4s. Braking was likewise strong — of four panic stops from 60 mph, we recorded a best stop of 124 feet with the other three all being around 130-131 feet.
The workhorse powertrain also makes a good showing during more practical applications — we towed a 6,500-pound trailer with the Silverado, and the truck did a respectable job maintaining speed up hill and dale. We tip our Stetsons to the smart transmission which, when in "tow-haul" mode, was never caught flat-footed, as it was always in the right gear at the right time.
On the open road, the 2009 Chevy Silverado holds its line well, tracking like a freight train when running down interstates and moving through turns without wallowing around. However, some staffers felt that the steering was too vague and devoid of road feel — a few rivals feel sharper and more confident in this respect. Still, the Silverado can actually be pleasant to drive, provided you're moving forward on spacious country roads or highways.
Piloting this bruiser (or any full-size crew-cab pickup, for that matter) around crowded city streets and parking lots, however, can create sweaty palms. You feel as if you're taking up the whole road...probably because you are. Executing a U-turn is a many-point affair, as even among crew-cab pickups, the Silverado's 47.2-foot turning circle is big (the Tundra CrewMax is 3 feet less).
Worse yet is parallel parking, which can be downright scary without a rear park sensor or back-up camera. This being the top-dog LTZ trim, you'd think at least a park sensor would be standard, but it's not. Though both parking aids are optional, our otherwise loaded-up rig had neither.
Against EPA estimates of 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined, we averaged 14.2 mpg in a mix of city and freeway driving.
Big, wide and plush seats provide long-haul comfort. Power lumbar support and standard seat heaters further endeared the front chairs to our staff. But there were still a few things lacking, specifically a telescoping steering wheel and cooled seats (don't laugh — a few rivals offer the latter as well). We'd also like to see a grab handle for the driver side, as shorter folks had to hoist themselves into the cabin via the steering wheel. Power pedals are available via a Safety package that also includes rear park assist and curtain airbags. However, some found the brake and accelerator to be placed too far apart for comfort.
Rear-seat passengers have it nearly as good as those in front, as the 60/40-split seat is amply padded and unlike crew cabs of old, the seatback is at a relaxed angle instead of being as bolt upright as a church pew. However, a few staffers commented that the back benches in the Dodge Ram and especially the Tundra CrewMax are even more comfortable.
For such an aerodynamic brick, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado offers a respectably quiet cabin at freeway speeds, with wind rush around the mirrors being the only noticeable intrusion. Logging many miles on the interstate is a serene experience for the most part, though grooved and segmented concrete freeways can add a little wiggle to the ride. Here, the Ram with its coil-sprung rear suspension has an edge, as it is more supple over small, sharp impacts.
Most of the Silverado's controls are easy to work, though we'd wished for larger climate control and audio system buttons given the available real estate on the wide center stack. We imagine it's a production efficiency decision — those controls are the same as those used in many GM cars, which don't have as big a dash as the full-size trucks. At least they are also closer at hand than those found in the Toyota Tundra.
We dinged the Silverado for having no auto-up feature on the driver's window (it's auto-down only) and the nav system is prone to irritating noises even while idle. The DVD player that powers the system (located behind the LCD control screen) whirs and grinds even when the car is off. One wag dubbed it R2D2, though it wasn't quite that vocal. The system's traffic reporting feature helped us out a few times — automatically rerouting us around various looming messes in Los Angeles.
The rear seats have a flip-up mode that creates a tall cargo space, which is ideal during Ikea shopping sprees. Our usability tests were passed with flying colors — forget about belting in a baby seat, you could probably strap dad's La-Z-Boy recliner back there along with a couple of Tiger Woods' golf bags.
Design/Fit and Finish
Strong, chiseled features highlight the handsome looks of the 2009 Chevy Silverado. There's a traditional, square-jawed look to this truck that was missing in some recent generations. There's also chrome galore — on the wide grille, the bumpers and, on our tester, the 20-inch wheels that add to the uptown truck look.
The cabin is likewise straightforward and attractive, with good build and materials quality. Compared to the lower Silverado trims' dull but more practical design, the LTZ gains the more upscale dash found in its Suburban and Tahoe stablemates, with faux wood and metallic accents. There's a large center console box with a padded top and plenty of storage within. Still, it's not quite up to the new standard established by the Ram, and some soft-touch material on the dash top (rather than the hard plastic there) would go a long way toward providing a top-shelf feel.
Who should consider this vehicle
Owners of the next Secretariat, Home Depot addicts. In other words, only those who truly need the 2009 Chevy Silverado's massive capabilities, which are overkill for most consumers.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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