2002 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
2002 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Car-like drivability with traditional truck styling.Truckloads of payload and pulling power.
The Chevrolet Silverado is the second-best-selling pickup in America, but that still adds up to a lot of trucks. By consciously avoiding the more radical concept styling of its competitors, the bluff-nosed, square-shouldered Silverado seems to have found its own secure niche in the hearts of many American truck buyers.
But don't let Silverado's conservative demeanor fool you. This truck is every bit as technically advanced, every bit as car-like and user-friendly as its aero-look competitors. It rides, handles, and stops as well as, maybe better than, the best of them. It's quick and it's comfortable.
The base price is higher for 2002, but it now buys more standard equipment, including the chrome bumper and grille that Chevrolet claims most buyers want. Silverado prices still start about $700 below Ford's F-150. Option packages have been streamlined for value and convenience.
Introduced last year, this is the first full production year for the new 1500 HD model, which combines light-duty 1500-series styling in a heavy-duty six-passenger crew cab with a 300-horsepower Vortec V8.
Also available for 2002 is Quadrasteer, an electronically controlled four-wheel-steering system that makes parking much easier and pulling a trailer a breeze. Heavy-duty pickup trucks don't get any better than the heavy-duty Silverado line. General Motors completely re-engineered its heavy-duty pickups last year. Based on our driving experience, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra appear to be the best heavy-duty pickups on the market.
That's a strong statement, but they boast the most power, the heftiest gross vehicle weight rating and the highest gross combined vehicle weight rating available. More noticeable on a daily basis is their superior refinement. They offer excellent handling, the smoothest ride and the most up-to-date interiors.
Two monster engines are available in addition to the standard 6.0-liter V8: an 8.1-liter Vortec V8 that develops 455 foot-pounds of torque, and the mighty new Duramax 6600 diesel V8 that generates 520 foot-pounds of torque. Each is available with the truly impressive Allison five-speed automatic transmission.
Like all full-size pickups, Silverado is available in a vast array of versions: two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive; standard-length regular cabs, extended cabs, and crew cabs; short (6-1/2-foot) and long (8-foot) bed lengths. Three trim levels are available: base, LS, and LT. Full-width Fleetside beds are standard on all models, but LS and LT short-bed buyers can choose a stylishly retro Sportside ($795).
Various payload capacities are offered as well. The so-called half-ton range includes both the 1500 series, with actual payloads ranging from 1593 to 2334 pounds (depending on bed, cab, and drive configuration), and the heavier-duty 2500 series with payloads in the 2600-3200-pound range.
Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, or 5.3-liter V8. The 1500 HD Crew Cab and 2500 are powered exclusively by a 6.0-liter V8.
(Three-quarter-ton Silverados are badged 2500HD and 3500, and offer payloads up to 6089 pounds. Look for those in a separate nctd.com review.). A dizzying number of configurations is available, ensuring that nearly everyone can find exactly the right truck to suit their needs.
Heavy-duty Silverado pickups are broadly divided into the 2500 HD series and the 3500 series. 'Half-ton,' '3/4-ton' and 'one-ton' are outdated terms because modern trucks haul far more than 1000-2000 pounds. Many of us, however, still tend to refer to the Silverado 1500 and 2500 series as the half-ton trucks (see separate nctd.com review of the Silverado 1500 and 2500 light-duty trucks).
2500 HD pickups are what we generically call 3/4-ton trucks. All Chevy 2500 HD trucks come with single rear wheels.
3500-series trucks all come with dual rear wheels; these so-called one-ton trucks are often called 'duallies.'
Regular Cab, Extended Cab and Crew Cab bodies are available with 6.5-foot short beds or 8-foot long beds. Wheelbases run 133, 143.5, 153.0, 157.5, and 167 inches long on 2500 HD pickups; wheelbases are available in 133, 157.5, 161.5, and 167.5 inches on 3500 duallies. All use the standard Fleetside-style body.
Three trim levels are offered: base, LS and LT.
Engine choices: 6.0-liter Vortec V8, 8.1-liter Vortec V8, and 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel.
Just as important are the transmission choices: five-speed manual, six-speed manual, four-speed automatic ($1095 on base and LS, standard on LT), and an exciting new Allison five-speed automatic ($1200 on LT, $2295 on base or LS models). And, of course, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
Retail prices range from less than $23,000 for a 2500HD 2WD Regular Cab to more than $43,000 for a fully loaded 4WD Crew Cab with the Duramax diesel and Allison automatic.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering - which improves low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability - will be extended to several more GM full-size trucks during 2002. The system, first introduced exclusively on the GMC Sierra Denali, will be offered this calendar year as a regular production option on properly equipped 2002 GMC Sierra Wideside and Chevrolet Silverado Fleetside 2WD and 4WD extended cab short-box pickups.
Silverado's frame is the stiffest and lightest truck frame General Motors has ever built. The front frame rails are hydroformed, a process that uses high-pressure hydraulics to shape large and complex components that used to be fabricated from smaller stampings. Tubular crossmembers and roll-formed mid-rails increase rigidity even more. This stiff structure enhances handling and ride quality immensely, while improving crashworthiness.
The front suspension comprises aluminum upper and lower control arms, with coil springs on two-wheel-drive 1500s. Torsion bars are used on all 4x4 models and 2500 models.
Brakes are large, heavy-duty discs on all four corners. ABS is standard on all models.
The V8 engines are based on the new GM SB-2 small-block architecture that was introduced on the Corvette four years ago and extended to the Camaro and Firebird in 1999.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard in the base truck, but most buyers will opt for the 4L60E and 4L80E four-speed automatics. These feature a delayed-upshift mode for towing. They are excellent transmissions. GM's new pickups are not standouts in the styling department, and a Chevrolet Silverado 3500 looks conservative when parked alongside a Dodge Ram 3500 or a Ford Super Duty. Though all the body work was all-new for 2001, the Silverado styling is clearly evolutionary, not revolutionary. In other words, the new heavy-duty Silverado looks a lot like the previous heavy-duty C/K trucks, until you park them alongside one another, that is. Then the differences are quite striking.
Compared with the previous-generation, the current Silverados look like they were driven through a giant sander. The body work is smoother and more fluid. Sharp creases have been rounded off and smoothed over. Silverado 2500 HDs look similar to the light-duty Silverado 1500 and 2500 models, but the heavy-duty Silverado comes with a bulging hood designed to provide space for the giant engines that are available. Even the fender flares around the dual rear wheels on the 3500 Series models are smoother and more elegantly designed.
Styling distinctions differentiate the Chevy Silverado from the GMC Sierra, unlike in the past. The Silverado is called 'The Truck' at Chevrolet. It looks bold, with its power dome hood and a big Chevy bow tie on the grille. That grille is accented by a heavy center bar with a bow tie in the middle.
Coming soon is a redesigned 2003 Silverado with much bolder styling.
Like its exterior design, Silverado's interior reflects traditional Chevrolet thinking. The doors and door openings are the largest in the industry, and the cab is the roomiest.
The instrument package looks like a cross between a Corvette's and a traditional pickup's. It includes a large speedometer and tachometer flanked by four smaller gauges. All use pleasant, highly legible white-on-black graphics.
The sound-system control panel is located above the climate controls. The climate control system uses a rotary-dial layout that works perfectly. There are three 12-volt outlets at the bottom center of the dashboard for radar detectors, cellular telephones, laptop computers, and other accessories.
An LT Extended Cab we drove awhile back came with six-way power front bucket seats with seat heaters and memory. The doors lock automatically as soon as you pull away, a security feature that can be de-programmed at the dealership. The LT also comes with a lockable floor console large enough to hold a picnic lunch for a family of four; it comes with a reversible, removable cup holder tray and a storage nook in front of the lid. Air conditioning outlets and a set of drop-down cup holders are built in for rear-seat passengers. A compass is incorporated into the LT's overhead console, along with three storage areas for sunglasses, garage door opener, and small items. The door trim is a nice combination of vinyl panels and dotted velour that is soft and warm to the touch.
The back seat in the extended cab offers more room and comfort than we expected. When cargo capacity is more important than hauling passengers, the entire rear seat assembly can be removed with a wrench and lifted out through the door.
A more recent drive in a 1500 HD crew cab revealed a really comfortable truck. The back seats are roomy and comfortable, very similar to those in an uplevel Suburban. The seats were trimmed in handsome leather and they could be flipped down to provide a big, secure cargo area. This is a great truck for someone who wants a roomy rear seat with interior cargo space and big trailer-towing capability.
About the only thing we don't like about the Silverado interior is the design of the interior door handles, which swivel through an up-and-in arc, and felt loose whenever we used them. We'd prefer more resistance and a more positive feel.
OnStar, which is now standard on LT models, is a communications and location system that allows customers to call for 24-hour assistance. The system calls for assistance automatically if the truck's airbags have deployed. Standard seating is much better than basic. In fact, these trucks are downright comfortable. They are quite roomy, among the roomiest available. Four cab styles are available: Regular Cab, Extended Cab, Crew Cab, and Chassis Cab. All offer identical front-seat space. The extended-cab's rear-door openings are the largest in the industry, according to Chevrolet
The Crew Cab offers roomy rear seats, comfortable for two adults, capable of three. In addition to their people-carrying capability, the Crew Cab models come in handy in many sometimes unforeseen ways. We like changing into our driving suits in the back seats at races or putting on a pair of waders when fishing in cold weather. The rear seats fold down, a huge benefit for carrying cargo inside.
OnStar, the telematics system, comes standard on Silverado LT extended cab and Crew Cab models. OnStar when send someone to the rescue if your airbag deploys and you don't respond to their calls. All models come standard with dual front air bags with a passenger-side deactivation switch on regular and extended cab models to protect small occupants.
Silverado LT drives like a luxury car and is supremely smooth and quiet. That smooth, quiet, unified feel is largely due to the stiff frame, which isolates the running gear for reduced noise and vibration. A cast magnesium beam behind the instrument panel and a lateral steel beam between the magnesium beam and the right side of the dash further reinforce the stiff body. Squeaks and rattles simply don't happen. This is one strong truck, and its chassis rigidity allows the suspension to soak up and manage bumps and ruts and tar strips so well that its overall ride behavior is near the luxury class. A long, 143-inch wheelbase improves the ride further and enhances high-speed stability.
The 1500HD crew cab model does not ride quite as smoothly. When the bed is empty there is some road vibration, but drivers used to driving pickups should find it well within acceptable bounds and throwing some weight in the bed or adding a canopy should smooth it out some.
A big four-spoke steering wheel connects to a rack-and-pinion steering gear on 1500 4x2s; other models have recirculating-ball steering. Even the rack-and-pinion system has a fairly wide dead spot in the center when cruising, which Chevrolet says is designed to minimize steering corrections on the highway. The steering feels a bit too light, but Silverado still tracks beautifully and handles well on pavement, loose dirt, deep dirt, and off road.
Although the 4.8-liter small-block V8 is more popular in base models, the up-market LT Extended Cab comes standard with the optional 5.3-liter (327 cubic-inch) engine, rated 285 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque. That's enough grunt to smoke the rear tires at will. The fat torque curve is useful for light towing and hauling, but it's also a lot of fun for commuting and touring. We recommend the 5.3 over the smaller 4.8. The big 6.0-liter V8 that comes on the 1500HD delivers a ton of torque for pulling big, heavy trailers.
Braking hasn't been a traditional strong point for U.S.-built pickups, but here again the Silverado breaks from tradition. Its four-wheel disc brakes are huge and powerful and come standard with ABS. Braking force begins only an inch into the pedal travel. A new feature called Dynamic Rear Proportioning improves stability under heavy braking, whether the truck is loaded or empty. Chevrolet promises excellent fade resistance, with long pad life and good heat dissipation; we worked the brakes hard on our truck and experienced no fade. Anyone used to the brakes in the previous-generation Chevy pickups and full-size SUVs should be very pleased with the brake-pedal response and stopping performance. Chevy's heavy-duty Silverados offer excellent ride quality and lots of power with the capability of carrying big loads and pulling heavy trailers.
Whether 2WD or 4WD, the ride quality is nice. These trucks ride much smoother than GM's pre-2001 heavy-duty trucks and better than Ford's Super Duty trucks. Handling is surprisingly good for such a big truck. They can cover ground quickly, even on winding rural roads. A hydroformed front frame let GM's engineers to tune the suspension more precisely for a better ride and handling. Front suspensions use torsion bars for durability. The front axles are designed to take up to 4800 pounds, while the rear axles can handle up to 8600 pounds.
Four-wheel disc brakes have reduced stopping distances and give the driver a solid pedal feel, a huge improvement over GM's previous-generation trucks. Bigger front rotors, larger brake pads, improved linings offer better stopping power and longer pad life. Dynamic rear proportioning shortens stopping distances by transferring front and rear brake bias to the tires with the best grip.
The base engine is the Vortec 6000, a 6.0-liter V8 (366 cubic inches) that generates 300 horsepower and 360 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. Introduced for 1999, it's designed for a 200,000-mile operating life with 10,000-mile oil change intervals. Its aluminum cylinder head is similar to that of the L56 Corvette. It comes with a choice of a heavy-duty five-speed manual and GM's optional 4L80-E four-speed electronically controlled automatic, which features the Tow/Haul mode.
Want more power? The big Vortec 8100 V8 delivers 455 pounds-feet of peak torque at 3200 rpm. Torque is that force that propels the truck off the line and this 8.1-liter, 496 cubic-inch V8 has gobs of it. It generates 400 lbs.-ft. at just 1600 rpm. Don't expect neck-snapping acceleration, however. Quicker acceleration performance when towing is the objective. And it does this very well. Introduced last year, this 8.1-liter V8 replaces GM's 7.4-liter V8. It has advanced features such as an engine oil life monitor and a limp-home mode.
The new Duramax 6600 diesel is smooth, quiet, and powerful. It punches out an amazing 520 lbs.-ft. of torque at just 1800 rpm. GM's Duramax diesel engine is built in Moraine, Ohio, but was developed with Isuzu, one of the world's largest manufacturers of diesel engines. The new 6.6-liter Duramax offers improved fuel economy over the old 6.5-liter GM diesel it replaced. The Duramax was designed for a 200,000-mile operating life, according to GM engineers, and for easy serviceability. Half of heavy-duty truck pickups are sold with diesel engines.
The Duramax and Vortec 8100 offer a choice of a ZF six-speed manual or optional Allison 1000 five-speed automatic. Both have close-ratio gearing, which provides exceptional launch, hill climbing, and towing capability and economy. Their heavy-duty components are stronger than those typically found in one-ton truck transmissions, providing exceptional durability.
The ZF six-speed manual is easy to shift and is fully synchronized in all gears with dual-cone synchronizers in second and third. A convenient shift pattern allows the shift lever to be moved forward for reverse and straight back for first, making it easier to maneuver quickly in tight spaces. Second gear works well for taking off with a light load; first is a creeper gear.
As good as the six-speed manual is, the optional Allison five-speed automatic is one of the most impressive features of these trucks. We highly recommend it for its responsive performance. Available for the Vortec 8100 and Duramax engines, the Allison is designed to last 200,000 miles; GM engineers said it's 'over-designed,' meaning it's heavier duty than it needs to be. But it's also sophisticated and keeps in close contact with the driver and the engine with full electronic control. It adjusts shifting according to driving style. The Tow/Haul mode keeps the transmission in ge.
Chevrolet Silverado is overall the best among full-size pickups. Many buyers will prefer its more conservative design. Chevy's full-size Silverado pickups are among the smoothest, quietest, most civilized, best equipped, and most enjoyable trucks we've driven. Heavy-duty trucks have never been better than the Chevy Silverado. About one-third of all full-size pickup buyers opt for heavy-duty models, and they couldn't go wrong with the Silverado 2500 HD or 3500. These are great trucks.
1500 2WD: Short Box Regular Cab ($17,518); Short Box Extended Cab ($22,537); LS Short Box Extended Cab ($24,484); LT Long Box Extended Cab ($29,658);
R1500 4WD: LS Short Box Regular Cab ($23,724); LT Long Box Extended Cab ($32,778);
2500 2WD: LS Long Box Regular Cab ($24,314);
R2500 4WD: LT Short Box Extended Cab ($34,123). 2500HD: 2WD Regular Cab 8-ft box 133-inch wheelbase ($22,982); LS ($24,784); Extended Cab SWB ($25,362); LS LWB ($27,564); LT ($31,648); Crew Cab LS ($29,279); 4WD Extended Cab LS LWB ($30,409)
3500: Extended Cab 8-ft. box 157.5-in. wheelbase ($26,919); Crew Cab 8-ft. box 167.5-in. wheelbase ($28,569), LS ($30,241), 4WD LT ($37,732).
Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
Duramax diesel 6600 V8 engine ($4810); Allison 5-speed automatic transmission ($1200); locking rear differential ($295); tonneau cover ($240); trailer hitch platform ($215); skid plate package ($95).
LT Short Box Extended Cab ($29,358). Silverado 2500HD 4WD Crew Cab LWB long box LT ($36,845).
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