What's New for 1999
Chevrolet has redesigned the decade-old C/K pickup and given the truck an actual name. Major structural, power, braking and interior enhancements characterize the new Silverado. Styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, inside and out.
Imagine the pressure engineers and designers were under when they undertook the task of completely revising the best-selling model General Motors produces. Success would insure that GM could continue to reap large benefits from a booming truck industry. Failure would reduce market share, profits and credibility. Making matters worse, the existing platform was already a hot seller. How to fix something that wasn't broken?
They started by asking Chevy truck customers what they wanted in a new full-size pickup. More power, better handling, more interior room, better fuel economy and a stronger chassis were the answers. What they most certainly did not want was cartoonish or sissified styling, like the Dodge and Ford stores were selling.
So Chevrolet gave the customer what they asked for. Looking at the new Silverado, some might be hard-pressed to discern differences between it and the old C/K model. Inside the trucks look even more identical in appearance, unfortunately. But under the skin, GM has served up a heaping pile of massive improvement.
A new three-section frame is stiffer, lighter and easier to assemble than that of the C/K. It contributes to better impact absorbing, a smoother ride and quieter interior noise volumes. Payload capacity is up as well. A new family of Vortec V8 engines makes more power and torque over a flatter curve, though the 4300 V6 and turbo-diesel 6.5-liter V8 carry over with minor enhancements. Transmission modifications mean the gearchangers should prove more durable, and a tow-haul mode improves performance under heavy loads.
Revised steering, suspension and braking systems make driving the Silverado a joy. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes are standard, steering feel has been tightened up thanks in part to the inclusion of power rack-and-pinion gear on models under 6,400 GVWR, the turning circle is smaller and a wider rear track contributes to greater stability. Optional is Adjustable Electronic Ride Control, the first selective damping system ever offered on a pickup.
Inside Silverado buyers will find logically laid out switchgear, though the plastics still have the same Fisher Price feel to them as the knobs and panels in the previous truck. The cabin is very roomy, particularly on extended cab models. A standard third door on the latter makes entry and exit to the rear bench seat easy, and if front passengers are willing to sacrifice a bit of leg room, the back of the extended cab is actually quite comfortable. Front seatbelts are mounted to the seats themselves so rear passengers don't need to chop through a web of fabric to get in and out. Oddly, a fourth door is unavailable on the Silverado, a major oversight now that Dodge, Ford and Toyota all offer this added convenience.
We've only been able to briefly skim over the major changes Chevrolet made to its full-sized truck in the space alloted here. Electrical system improvements, changes to the manufacturing process and myriad minor modifications all mean the new Silverado is among the most technologically-advanced pickups on the market. The bar has been raised with the introduction of the Chevy Silverado, and GM bean counters needn't worry about their bonuses at year's end. This truck will be a huge success.