What's New for 2012
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado sees only minor changes. Among them are restyled front grilles/bumper fascias for LS and LT models, an updated navigation system (now hard-drive-based) and the inclusion of trailer sway control as part of the stability control system.
The current Chevrolet Silverado platform is 6 years old, having debuted in the 2007 model year just like the Toyota Tundra. And yet even though Ford and Ram offer trucks that have been updated since then, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado remains a competitive choice in the full-size pickup segment. Regular upgrades, comprehensive utility packages, value-added special editions and respect for a strong heritage all keep the Silverado fresh.
The 2012 Silverado 1500 is on relatively equal footing with other full-size trucks when comparing towing capacities, body style choices and options. Kudos goes to the Silverado for its smooth ride and low wind and road noise levels. Factor in comfortable seats -- at least in the upper trim levels -- and the Silverado earns our endorsement as a long-distance road-tripper.
The Silverado 1500 is not without a few faults, though. We find the Work Truck interior aesthetically dull compared to base models from Ram and Toyota. The aging V6 engine struggles to motivate such a large truck. A large turning radius hampers maneuverability, leading to frequent multiple-point turns in tight parking lots.
Comparatively, the Ford F-150 has more innovative technology features available, the Ram 1500 has a smoother ride quality and the Toyota Tundra is roomier in crew cab trim. Yet the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 remains a solid choice in our book and deserves attention when cross-shopping in this very competitive segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a full-size pickup offered in a variety of cab/cargo-bed configurations in both two- and four-wheel drive. Body styles include regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. Regular and extended cabs are available with either a 6.5-foot standard bed or an 8-foot long bed. Crew cabs are mated to only a 5-foot-8 short bed. Regular cabs are limited to the base Work Truck and midlevel LT trims, while the extended and crew cabs come in LS, LT and the range-topping LTZ trim.
The Work trim (or WT) is limited to the bare necessities, which include air-conditioning (extended- and crew-cab versions), a trip computer, a tilt steering wheel, OnStar telematics, vinyl seating, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The LS adds full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, satellite radio and adjustable lumbar support for the driver.
The LT trim includes premium cloth seating, a lockable compartment with a power outlet built into the center cushion of the split front seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The LTZ piles on 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control (in extended and crew cabs), an exclusive dash design with wood and metallic accents, leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable heated front bucket seats, driver-seat memory settings, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, remote engine start and a Bose audio system with a six-disc CD changer, a USB/iPod interface and rear audio controls.
Many of the features on the upper trim levels are offered on the lower ones as options. Other popular options (depending on the trim level and configuration) include towing packages to meet different load requirements, the Z71 Off-Road package (skid plates, off-road suspension, 18-inch wheels and body-colored front end), 18- and 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, heated power-folding outside mirrors, an EZ Lift tailgate, a power-sliding rear window, a cargo management system, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, upgraded audio systems, a rear-seat entertainment system, a navigation system and ventilated front seats.
There is also the XFE (extra fuel economy) trim variant for the two-wheel-drive 5.3-liter V8 crew cab that features aerodynamic enhancements and lightweight aluminum components that improve fuel economy.
Powertrains and Performance
Chevy offers four engines in the 2012 Silverado, including three V8s.
The standard 4.3-liter V6 produces 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. LS trim buyers may upgrade to a 4.8-liter V8 rated at 302 hp and 305 lb-ft, or a 5.3-liter V8 that's good for 315 hp and 335 lb-ft. The biggest engine is a 6.2-liter V8 cranking out 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of peak torque. The LT trim, depending on body style, will have one of the two smaller V8s as standard, while the 5.3-liter is standard on the LTZ. The 6.2-liter is available as an option on select models.
A four-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode is standard on Silverado pickups with the base V6 and 4.8-liter V8. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s utilize a six-speed automatic. In a recent Edmunds test, a Silverado with a 6.2-liter V8 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is quick for a full-size pickup. Properly equipped, a Silverado 1500 can tow up to 10,700 pounds.
Buyers have a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Work and LS trims with 4WD have a traditional floor-mounted selector for the transfer case. All other 4WD trims have Autotrac, which features an automatic setting that shifts into 4WD when wheel slippage is detected.
EPA fuel economy estimates range from 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for a crew cab XFE down to 12/19/14 mpg for a 4WD Silverado 1500 fitted with the 6.2-liter V8.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, OnStar, electronic stability control and traction control. Front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags are also standard. Four-wheel disc brakes are available as part of the Max Trailering package. In Edmunds brake testing, a Silverado crew cab with four-wheel disc brakes stopped from 60 mph in a short 120 feet.
In government crash tests, the 2012 Chevy Silverado received an overall score of four stars (out of five). It earned four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, a Silverado crew cab earned a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection and a second-best score of "Acceptable" for side-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The base model won't excite the senses but it meets the needs of work-only owners who want durability and don't have to worry about hosing out the mud, if needed. Comfort features along with fit and finish improve greatly when moving up to the more popular and upscale trim levels. The new navigation system offers an enhanced display and quicker response times. The heated and ventilated bucket seats are offered only on the LTZ trim level, but otherwise it's easy to get in a comfortable driving position with the available power-adjustable pedals. Crew cab models feature comfortable rear 60/40-split-bench seats with flip-up seat cushions that provide a nearly flat load floor. Interior storage is merely adequate, with small cupholders and haphazard center console organization.
We haven't always admired the ride on previous generations of the GM full-size pickup, but the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is pleasant to drive. It features a light yet reasonably precise steering response. The suspension keeps the body under control without any drama and provides as comfortable a ride as can be expected from a full-size truck. One downside is the wide turning circle, which doesn't help the broad-shouldered truck maneuver in a downtown parking garage.
The base V6 doesn't provide the power needed for hauling a heavy load, although the 4.8-liter V8 picks up the pace a little. The 5.3-liter V8 feels brawny while the 6.2-liter V8 turns the Silverado into a veritable muscle truck. The smaller engines are still saddled with an outdated four-speed automatic that doesn't contribute much to either low-end grunt or fuel economy. But the six-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with the two bigger V8s does an admirable job of keeping power on tap and features a well-calibrated tow-haul mode and cruise-grade braking.