What's New for 2006
For 2006, the Duramax diesel engine receives a host of power and refinement upgrades, as well as reduced emissions. The Allison automatic transmission is now a six-speed, and features a tap-shift range selection mode. The optional camper-style mirrors have been replaced by a folding and extending design with a built-in convex spotter glass. Trim levels and packaging have also been juggled.
Chevrolet's modern full-size pickup has been around in one form or another since the early '60s. Now into its sixth generation, the Silverado, as it's now called, boasts classic styling and some of the most powerful drivetrains available anywhere. A perennial competitor to the full-size offerings from Ford and Dodge, Chevrolet typically finishes a close second to Ford in sales, mostly due to the fact that it shares customers with the almost identically equipped GMC Sierra.
Often first to market with exclusive features, the Silverado 3500 continues that tradition by offering XM Satellite Radio, a worthwhile upgrade if you use your truck for long-distance trips. Chevy trucks also offer the OnStar communications system that provides the convenience of 24-hour on-call assistance for everything from tow truck requests to dinner reservations. Between its potent Duramax diesel and strong gas V8s, the 3500 can tackle just about any hard-core towing and hauling duties you could throw at it. Combine this with modern styling on the outside and plenty of available features on the inside, and this Silverado presents a compelling package for anyone in the market for a no-holds-barred work truck.
As capable as it is, however, the Silverado is starting to show its age while its competition has been slowly upgrading its offerings. Both Dodge and Ford offer powerful engine options, larger towing capacities, and interiors that are more refined. Needless to say, it's worth shopping around before settling on the one-ton Silverado.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 3500 is available in regular, extended- and crew-cab body styles with 8-foot boxes and either single or dual rear-wheel configurations. Single rear-wheel models come in 4WD only, while dual rear-wheel versions offer two-wheel drive on extended- and crew-cab models. Available trim levels include Work Truck, LS and LT1, LT2 and LT3. Work Trucks offer basics like 16-inch steel wheels, a vinyl 40/20/40 bench seat, dual-zone manual air conditioning and an AM/FM radio. LS models add chrome-finish wheels, grille and bumpers, cloth upholstery, cruise control and a CD player. The LT1 adds power windows and locks, and keyless entry. The LT2 includes a power driver seat and Bose audio. The LT3 includes leather seats and a CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The 3500's base engine is a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 300 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. If that's not enough grunt under the hood for you, Chevrolet offers two more powerful options: an 8.1-liter V8 and a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8. The 8.l-liter engine boasts an impressive 330 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, while the updated-for-'06 diesel makes 360 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission for the 6.0-liter V8 is a five-speed manual with a heavy-duty four-speed automatic optional. The 8.1-liter V8 and Duramax diesel can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a heavy-duty Allison six-speed automatic. Properly equipped, a dual-wheel 3500 can pull a 12,000-pound load.
All Silverados feature standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes. In government crash tests, the Silverado earned a three-star rating (out of five) for driver protection and four stars for the front passenger. In frontal offset crash testing, the Silverado was given an overall rating of "Marginal" (second lowest).
Interior Design and Special Features
Silverado buyers will find a logically laid-out interior, with an easy-to-use dual-zone climate control system and clear, uncluttered gauges. Materials quality is unimpressive, but build quality, though improved over the last few years, is still behind the competition. However, the cabins are roomy, and the front seats are comfortable on long trips. Standard rear doors on the extended cab make entry and exit to the rear bench seat easy.
The 3500HD is a dedicated work truck, so don't expect the plush ride of its lighter-duty siblings. Any of the three available engines provide swift acceleration and ample towing power, but the diesel is probably the best choice for those who tow heavy loads.