2003 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Review
Pros & Cons
- Roomy extended-cab models, strong V8 engines, innovative features.
- Cheap interior materials, questionable build quality.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Powerful drivetrains, a revamped new look and unique options make the Silverado a pickup worth considering, but Fords new F-150 has it beat when it comes to interior design and overall refinement.
Introduction: Chevrolet's modern fullsize 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 fullsize offerings from Ford and Dodge, Chevrolet typically finishes a close second in sales, mostly due to the fact that it shares customers with the almost identically equipped GMC Sierra. Last year, however, combined sales of the two trucks outdid the F Series.
Often first to market with unique innovations, the 2003 Silverado continues that tradition with the expanded availability of the Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system and XM satellite radio capability. Chevy trucks also offer the OnStar communications system that provides the convenience of 24-hour on-call assistance for everything from tow truck calls to dinner reservations. The Vortec V8 engines are known for their neck-snapping power and surprisingly good mileage when driven with a soft foot. Combine this with new styling on the outside and additional features on the inside, and the Silverado presents a compelling package for anyone in the market for a well-rounded fullsize pickup.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: Two cab styles are available in three different trim levels. Regular cabs can be outfitted with Base or LS trim, while extended cabs come in Base, LS or LT. Base Silverados are configured as to be used as work trucks, while the mid-grade LS trim is the most popular. It includes upgrades like cloth upholstery, power windows and locks, cruise control, a CD player, remote keyless entry and chrome exterior trim. LT trucks add aluminum wheels, leather upholstery, the OnStar communications system and premium audio. Unique to the Silverado in the big pickup market is the availability of a lightweight composite "Protec" cargo box on extended-cab 4X4s with the Z71 option. Also available is the Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system, which gives the Silverado unmatched stability while towing, as well as a significantly reduced turning circle.
Powertrains and Performance: Several engine choices are available for the Silverado, ranging from a 200-hp 4.3-liter V6 to a 285-hp 5.3-liter V8. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on regular cabs. Optional on that model (standard on extended cabs) is a four-speed automatic, which features a tow-haul mode that improves shifting performance under heavy loads. The maximum towing capacity with the 5.3-liter V8 is 8,400 pounds (8,600 pounds on Quadrasteer-equipped models). Four-wheel drive is available on all models, although only LS and LT trim levels can be ordered with the optional Autotrac push-button transfer case. Safety: For 2003, the GMC has added dual-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger along with a passenger-seat sensor system. The dual-stage airbags deploy with varying levels of force depending on the crash severity, while the passenger sensor will deactivate the passenger-side airbag if it detects the presence of a child. All Silverados include four-wheel ABS brakes as standard equipment. The Silverado received a rating of "Marginal" (third lowest out of four possible rankings) in the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety offset crash test. Interior Design and Special Features: Inside, Silverado buyers will find a logically laid-out interior, with an easy-to-use dual-zone climate control system and clear, uncluttered gauges. Material quality is unimpressive, and the build quality even less so. The cabin is roomy, particularly on extended cab models. Standard rear doors on the extended cab make entry and exit to the rear bench seat easy, and if front passengers are willing to sacrifice a bit of legroom, the back of the extended cab is quite comfortable. The Silverado is also the first fullsize pickup to offer an optional Bose audio system and XM Satellite Radio.
Driving Impressions: The Silverado is comfortable enough to be a daily driver, yet it's still powerful enough to use as a dedicated work truck. Acceleration is swift, especially with either of the Vortec V8s, and the automatic transmission shifts with authority. The steering feels vague on center, but it's light and precise enough for easy maneuvering. Four-wheel disc brakes deliver plenty of power, but can be skittish on loose surfaces. A combination of torsion bars up front and leaf springs in the rear give the Silverado a comfortable, if not refined ride in most situations.