More commotion surrounds the introduction of the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and Toyota Tundra than a tour by the Rolling Stones. Everyone wants to know if these trucks have what it takes to dominate the half-ton class. Since it's been three years since our last pickup comparison, we fired up our testing gear for some serious truck driving.
Once we rounded up a 2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4x4 Limited to face off against the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab LT2 that we purchased for long-term testing, we decided to add another truck as a benchmark for the market segment. The natural choice is the Nissan Titan, the winner of our last full-size pickup truck test, and we chose a 2007 Titan 4x4 SE.
All three of these pickups are 4x4 full-size half-ton trucks equipped with a heavy-duty engine. While the Nissan and Chevrolet feature full-size crew cabs, the Tundra CrewMax isn't yet available, so we settled for a double cab. In addition, all three pickups are equipped with optional trailer-towing packages, and the Tundra and Titan are equipped with off-road packages.
Prices of the pickups in our test range from a low of $37,155 for the Titan to a high of $41,494 for the Silverado. The Titan is equipped with the SE Popular Package with Rockford Fosgate, Off-Road Package, Tow Package, SE Utility Bed Package, XM Satellite Radio and floor mats.
Our Silverado ticks boxes for the Max Trailering Package, Rear Seat Entertainment System, Safety Package, LT2 Convenience Package, power-sliding rear window, XM Satellite Radio, skid plates and P265/70/R17 tires.
Optioned with DVD navigation with backup monitor, Off-Road Package, Cold Kit and daytime running lights, our Tundra tester rings in at $41,055. All prices include destination.
We compiled test scores based on the capability, performance, price and feature content of each truck. Utility is a top priority for us, and powertrain flexibility is a must. Off-road capability is important, too. On-road comfort and drivability also count for a lot, especially since all the truckmakers have invested significant resources in improving this aspect of pickup performance.
Fortunately, these are trucks. And trucks offer a tremendous variety of options and configurations, meaning there's a useful combination of utility and performance for a wide range of buying power.
For almost two weeks, we drove all three trucks in a variety of terrain including urban crush, freeways and gravel roads. We loaded and unloaded them, poked and prodded them, and even dyno-tested them. And then there were the discussions among our staff. We analyzed, argued, got mad, made up, then argued some more.
Overall, we came away impressed. There isn't a stinker in the lot, nor did any one truck give an across-the-board beating to the other two. On the contrary, this is one of the closest comparison tests we've done, with only the thinnest of margins separating 1st from last place.
Chevy's Silverado is the highly anticipated all-new version of one of the most popular vehicles on the road. Riding on a completely new chassis for 2007 and sporting your choice of two redesigned interiors, the range of bed, powertrain and cab configurations for the Silverado will make you dizzy. For this test, we used the Silverado we bought a few months ago as part of our long-term test fleet.
In our last full-size truck comparison test, a 2004 Nissan Titan took top honors. The 2007 Titan is much the same truck as it was three years ago, as horsepower increased for 2007 from 305 to 317 hp, and torque climbed from 379 pound-feet to 385 lb-ft. There are only a small number of different configurations, however, as there's one powertrain, two cab choices and two bed-length choices.
The all-new Tundra is Toyota's first serious attempt at competing head-on with domestic nameplates, and it's no casual affair. Unlike the earlier Tundra generations, this is one serious truck. It's no wet tissue, either, weighing in at nearly 200 pounds more massive than our Silverado. The Tundra's specifications sheet also reads like a truck guy's fantasy wish list, as it's available in a total of 31 different combinations of powertrain, wheelbase, cab type, bed length and trim level.
Inside and out
Of the three pickups, the Titan wears its rugged trucklike honesty on its sleeve. The Titan's cloth seat upholstery and rubberized interior trim make the interior look robust and rugged, as if you could hose it out. The big-truck interior door pulls, window controls atop the door panel and booming exhaust note complete the impression.
On the other hand, it's impossible to see the Nissan's HVAC lights that indicate air-conditioning operation, and the liner for the cupholder yanks out of place every time you reach for your drink. Also, the monster-size headlights are curiously dim, while the thick A-pillar and outside rearview mirror compromise visibility.
When you clamber into the Tundra's driver seat, you're immediately struck by the sheer size of the thing. First, it's a big step up into the cabin. Once inside, the interior feels expansive. The center console imparts a vast, Hummer-like separation between the two front-seat occupants, and the multifunction display for the audio and navigation controls is waaay over there. Pull up next to a high-riding 3/4-ton truck and you'll be eye to eye with the driver.
Functionally, the Tundra's cabin is outstanding, with plenty of handy bins and that versatile center console, but the design of the instrumentation display wasn't universally loved. Nor was the Tundra interior's combination of silver, gray and black plastics that looked soft but felt hard. When we drove off-road, however, the Tundra's interior didn't attract nearly as much dust as the Silverado's nicer-looking cabin.
After piloting the Tundra, the Silverado gives the impression of tidier dimensions. It's a bit easier to step up into the Chevy's cab, so the lack of a grab handle on the driver side isn't an issue (although a curious omission nonetheless). The interior shares some of the basic style of the previous-generation GMT800 GM trucks, but almost none of that truck's cheap detailing. Overall, it feels like a right-size truck, perfect for all-around use.
Next to the buff-looking Titan and Tundra, the all-new Silverado's styling seems dated to some of us, and yet attractively traditional to others. The Chevy's interior is a big step forward for GM trucks, and it drew praise for its legible instrumentation, excellent materials and general quietness.
Even so, we'd like to see some changes to the Silverado's interior, including armrests for the seats that don't feel granite-hard. We also disliked the HVAC controls. As our logbook noted, "Hate having to repeatedly press HVAC buttons to set temperature and fan speed. Give me knobs, dammit."
Pavement and dirt
Of the three trucks, the Silverado is tops in on-road ride quality. It negotiates the choppy surface of L.A. freeways with a compliant ride and little pitching back and forth. Meanwhile, the Titan and Tundra have stiff-legged, off-road suspensions, so they ride like trucks in comparison. We'll see if the Silverado's comfortable ride affects its towing behavior in the future.
Off-road, the Chevrolet is unflappable over gravel-strewn washboard surfaces. With stout new chassis designs, both the Silverado and the Toyota Tundra are tight and solid while blasting through the dirt.
In contrast, the Nissan is on tiptoes, dancing around on the loose surface and dispersing the contents of its interior bins throughout the cabin. The Titan's precise, linear steering and nicely weighted effort make it fun to drive, but the skittish chassis means it can't maintain the pace of its rivals over the loose stuff. Our logbook says, "Feels the tidiest of the three, and really shrinks around you. Stiffer ride means more skating about. It's easily controlled, but the shakiest of the three."
Both the Chevy and the Nissan are equipped with a rear differential that can be locked for better traction, while every Tundra has a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. No matter what the differences in ultimate performance might be, we found that all three trucks are unstoppable in loose dirt.
Likewise, all three trucks sail through our frame-twisting obstacle course without scraping the underside of the chassis. This test forces the wheels to the limits of articulation, and it produces very little chassis windup in any of our three trucks. Watch our video to see how little the truck beds and cabs move relative to one another through the frame-twisting course.
In truth, it takes some pretty extreme off-roading to test the limits of these beasts, and our time in the dirt with them served as a first-blush character assessment rather than a test of ultimate capability.
Turning and stopping
Opinions about the Tundra's steering were mixed, but all agreed that it's precise. Beyond this, the Tundra has a turning circle of 44 feet, the tightest among our test group. This is a surprise considering that the Tundra has a 145.7-inch wheelbase, the longest in this test.
Since the Silverado shares its rack-and-pinion steering gear with the Chevy Tahoe, we expected the pickup to have the imprecision of that SUV's steering, but we are pleased to report otherwise. Well-weighted and fairly precise, it's a long way from the rubbery helm of older GM trucks.
The Silverado's brake pedal is mounted too high but is mush-free and has excellent modulation in routine stops. A firm brake pedal in a GM truck? Indeed, and it's about time. In harder stops, some drivers observed that the pedal stroke is inconsistent. As one said, "It feels like it has two stages." Stopping from 60 mph in a drama-free 139 feet, the Silverado's performance is decent nonetheless, but it still trailed the braking performance of the Tundra by 8 feet and the Titan by 12.
Out back and in bed
The Silverado is the benchmark in the war of flip-up rear seats, permitting lever-free action with one hand, plus a floor uncluttered by the protruding seat brackets of the Tundra's arrangement. At the other end of the spectrum, it takes two hands to operate the latch and fold or unfold the Titan's seat, a minor nuisance.
The Titan is a great cargo carrier thanks to the optional Utility Bed Package with its durable spray-in bedliner, movable tie-down cleats, handy tailgate illumination and a driver-side lockbox. In comparison, our Tundra was equipped with a conventional plastic bedliner and side rails, but the tie-down cleats were missing in action. Chevy offers a similar tie-down system, but our truck didn't have it (or a bedliner).
Under the hood
If there's a major area where one truck unquestionably trumped the rest, it's the powertrain.
The Tundra's optional 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed transmission are simply the most impressive powertrain combination available in any half-ton truck. It's spectacular, delivering its test-topping 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque in an effortless, silken flood, hurling the Tundra to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile in a remarkable 14.8 seconds at 93.7 mph.
The Toyota's new six-speed transmission is calibrated brilliantly, and always manages to be in the correct gear regardless of conditions. It executes gearchanges swiftly and smoothly. When you consider that the console-mounted gear selector has a responsive manual mode, the Tundra's powertrain climbs to the top of the heap.
The Nissan Titan's tractable 5.6-liter V8 delivers plenty of muscle, right from idle, and it sounds great. Despite this, the Titan still trails the muscle-bound Tundra by 0.4 second to 60 mph and a half-second through the quarter-mile. The Titan's five-speed automatic delivers firm, satisfying gearchanges. Although it's outshined by the Toyota V8 and transmission, the Titan's powertrain has few faults.
In everyday driving, the Titan's rapid, linear throttle response made the Silverado's seem stodgy in comparison. Throttle inputs in the Silverado are overly damped, and the general reluctance of its four-speed transmission to downshift is very noticeable.
This Chevy V8's fuel-sipping four-cylinder power mode makes the engine seem even sleepier, and it takes a half-beat for all eight cylinders to wake up when you stab the throttle. From our logbook: "The Chevy's soft throttle response is unfortunate. Also, I'm not sure what the numbers say but this one feels by far the slowest."
At the track, our Silverado brings up the rear, trailing the Tundra by nearly a second to 60 mph, although it closed the gap to 0.7 second by the end of the quarter-mile. If you want to learn more about why the Silverado was slower than expected, despite its power ratings of 367 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, check out our dyno-testing findings. Acceleration notwithstanding, the Chevy's 6.0-liter V8 and four-speed transmission placed last in the powertrain portion of our scoring.
The Titan averaged 13.7 mpg during its stay with us, with a best tank of 15.1 mpg. Despite its extra grunt and weight, the Tundra averaged 14.4 mpg, with a best tank of 16.9 mpg. EPA estimates are 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway for the Titan and 14 mpg city, 18 mpg highway for the Tundra.
Since our Silverado is a long-term test truck, we have a larger sample size from which to cull fuel economy data. The picture is not pretty. Over 5,436 miles, the Chevy has averaged 12.7 mpg with a best tank of 14.2 mpg. Of the three trucks, the Silverado's performance is the furthest from its EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway.
The 2007 Nissan Titan takes 3rd place in this group, though three years ago it placed 1st in its class with ease. With the introduction of the all-new Silverado and Tundra, the game has simply moved on, and the Titan's traditional character is cast in a harsher light. It has neither the capability of the Tundra nor the comfort of the Silverado, and the road manners of neither.
It's not that the Titan is bad — it's that the other two are so good. The fact that the Titan's range of configurations isn't up to par with the others did not play into our scoring, but is a reality it must contend with in the marketplace.
In the end, it was the Tundra's powertrain, performance and feature content that gave it the edge over the 2nd-place 2007 Chevrolet Silverado. In fact, the Silverado squeaked a minuscule lead over the Tundra in the evaluation portion of our scoring, and was the unanimous choice as the truck we'd most recommend to others for casual use. It's one refined truck, and offers an impressive breadth of talents. But the chasm in performance capability between the Tundra and Silverado simply couldn't be bridged by the Chevy's friendly ride and interior.
It comes down to utility, though, and the 1st-place 2007 Toyota Tundra simply offers more of it. No matter what we threw at it, the Tundra never blinked. It's almost as though Toyota built a 3/4-ton truck and honed it for half-ton duty, such is its unburstable nature. You pay for the Toyota's proficiency with a stiffer ride than the Silverado, but the payoff is the most capable half-ton truck on the market.
The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.
Stoplight racing is not the top priority for most truck owners, but the acceleration ability of an empty truck correlates well to its towing and hauling ability. In this comparison of half-ton pickups, the acceleration results we logged begged the question: Did Chevy bring a knife to a gunfight?
Not on paper. Equipped with the optional pushrod 6.0-liter L76 V8 rated at 367 horsepower and 375 pound-feet, our Silverado is packing a full 50 hp more than the quicker Titan. Sure, the Chevy's automatic transmission has only four speeds to the Nissan's five, but 50 hp is 50 hp. Were the Silverado's ponies asleep, or were Nissan's horses on steroids, or both?
To shed some light on whether any of the claimed power ratings are sandbagged or inflated, we put all three trucks on MD Automotive's Dynojet chassis dyno in Westminster, California.
Full power in 4... 3... 2... 1...
Of the three trucks we tested on the dyno, only the Silverado produced inconsistent results that appeared curiously low across nearly the entire rev range. Most unexpected was a power spike just before redline.
Although the spike resulted in a peak of 297 hp at the wheels — about right for the rated 367 hp at the flywheel, once drivetrain loss is factored in — the Silverado's measured power appeared to be underachieving everywhere else in the rev range.
In fact, the Chevy produces significantly less power than the Titan for the duration of the dyno test until the Chevy finally surpasses the Titan's peak of 291 hp at the wheels.
As it turns out, the explanation boils down to an engine calibration strategy. GM calibrated the 367-hp 6.0-liter V8 to remain in stoichiometric "closed-loop" fuel delivery mode for 4 seconds after the throttle is floored. This fueling strategy helps keep emissions in check (and saves fuel) at the expense of reduced power — about 40 hp less at the peak. Once the driver lifts his right foot from the wide-open throttle position, the 4-second clock resets.
This explains why the Silverado's power is low everywhere on the graph right up to the jump in power right before redline. Corresponding to the expiration of the 4-second window, the jump in power is indicative of the engine switching to open-loop "power enrichment" mode. It is only when operating in this mode that the engine delivers its full rated power.
Release the hounds
On the road, the Silverado's full advertised power will be on tap during extended full-throttle conditions such as towing, or any other situation in which the throttle is floored for more than 4 seconds.
Be aware, however, that the Silverado's horsepower herd will be thinned out during all but the most prolonged wide-open throttle squirts around town. And with an empty bed and no trailer, 4 seconds is a fairly long time to have the throttle matted.
Now that the Silverado mystery is solved, is the Titan pumping out more power than Nissan claims? Probably a bit. With a factory rating of 317 hp, the Titan's dead-consistent 291 hp at the wheels is on the robust side. We're curious if all 2007 Titans are similarly stout.
Torque to me, baby
Peak torque isn't present on the dyno graphs you see here because the Titan and Tundra were eager to downshift during testing. As a result, we had to begin their dyno pulls at engine speeds above those corresponding to peak torque.
With its wide-ratio four-speed transmission and general reluctance to downshift, we were able to capture the Silverado's torque peak of 271 lb-ft at 4,430 rpm. This value, of course, is hamstrung by the 4-second calibration mode described above.