2008 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
2008 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Expert Review:Autoblog
Click on the photo above to view high-res shots of the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado
Last year, we had the opportunity to spend some time in the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and were rather pleased with that vehicle's vastly improved interior and driving dynamics. With the Silverado now riding on a similar-yet-different version of the GMT900 platform, will the same traits win us over, or has the General's mainstream pickup truck gone too soft? To find out, we recently spent some time in the decked-out LTZ trim level of Chevy's half-ton hauler.
The 2007 Silverado represents the first major update to GM's trucks since 1999, and one could argue that it's the most thorough revamp since the 1988 introduction of the GMT400 architecture. Fully-boxed frame rails are fabricated through a hydroforming process and joined together with more crossmembers (two of them being of the tubular variety) than the outgoing version to provide a platform that is significantly stiffer in torsion and bending. Up front, the coil-over springs and forged lower aluminum control arms are shared with the Silverado's SUV brethren, as is the rack-and pinion steering configuration, but in the rear a properly truck-like leaf spring configuration is utilized to locate the solid rear axle.
As major as the structural changes may be, most eyes will be drawn first to the exterior styling. Here, the laid-back windshield of the Tahoe is carried over, but little else. Breaking with a long-held GM tradition, the Silverado now carries sheetmetal that is almost totally unique, with vertically-stacked headlamp elements, heavily flared front fenders, and the largest Bowtie badge that we've ever seen on a Chevrolet. We were a bit slow to warm up to the new styling at first (as is the case with just about any truck redesign), but it's starting to grow on us. We'll reserve final judgment on the shape of the new sheetmetal, but what isn't subject to debate is the fit and finish. The stiffer chassis means less relative movement between body panels during extreme use, and GM has seized the opportunity to tighten up the panel gaps. Nearly every exterior component shows remarkable attention to detail, and the result is a truck that's assembled like a fine piece of furniture.
The new box is deeper than that of its predecessor, but not so much that reaching into it from alongside the truck is problematic. We also appreciated the load-assist torsion bars in the tailgate, which make closure a one-handed operation. The large exterior mirrors are welcome in a pickup truck, but unfortunately, the generally rectangular shape is broken up by a cut-off lower inside corner. That's the portion of the mirror that provides the best view into a truck's blind spot, and in its absence, it's much too easy to lose sight of a car that's hanging back a half car length in the next lane. The front bumper didn't hang as perilously low as that on the Tahoe, but prospective Rod Hall wannabes should still take a cautious approach to venturing from the pavement. This mattered little, given that our test vehicle wore Goodyear Eagle LS all-season tires on 20" aluminum wheels and therefore was ill-suited for any dirty entertainment.
Inside the Silverado, the theme of quality materials and tight assembly tolerances is cranked up another notch or two. Our decked-out sample carried the "luxury-inspired" interior treatment, with two bucket seats separated by a large console and wide center stack. Thankfully, the gears are selected via a column-mounted lever and not a silly (for a truck) floor shifter. The XM-equipped nav/radio combo features a simple, intuitive interface that can be controlled via the touchscreen, well-placed steering wheel buttons, or voice. In our opinion, it's one of the industry's best. Six large and easily readable gauges are backed up by the informative Driver Information Center. Rear-seat passengers get their own entertainment system (replete with wireless headphones) and a set of HVAC controls. The second row offers plenty of room for adults, and wouldn't be a terrible place to sit during a cross-country trip.
The low beltline and dashboard give a sedan-like feel to the driving position, and we suspect that's exactly what many prospective buyers want from a half-ton pickup truck. We'd personally prefer a set of bucket seats that provide more support than the average Lazy Boy, but the Silverado's units felt more like an overstuffed arm chair than a proper automotive seating surface. Larger drivers might feel a bit cramped by the driver's compartment, which dimensionally doesn't seem to be small but is given a bit of a tight feel by the design of the console and lower dash. The switchgear, however, feels wonderful, the leather feels like quality stuff, and even the hard plastic surfaces make a favorable impression with their matte finish and finely-textured grain. Overall, it's easily the best interior available in a full-size truck. If there is a fault to be found, it's that many of the controls are totally unsuited to manipulation while wearing work gloves or the like; if that is an issue, GM offers up the "pure pickup" interior in lower trim levels.
Under the hood lies a E85-burning Displacement-on-Demand version of GM's GenIV pushrod V8 architecture that displaces 5.3L and produces a healthy 315 HP. The DoD functionality makes itself known on occasion, as the exhaust here is a bit throatier than that of the Tahoe and thus produces a slightly odd note during V4 operation. Otherwise, the engine produces smooth power without annoyance, and an objective observer shouldn't be concerned in the least by the placement of the camshaft or the number of valves per cylinder.
We wish that we could say the same about the Hydra-Matic transmission, but frankly, a mere four forward gear ratios means that the rev-happy engine is frequently left hanging somewhere away from the meat of the powerband. It's not that the transmission is unwilling to shift - it does what it can with its limited resources - but the net effect is that the engine sometimes seems a bit overwhelmed by this vehicle's 5,400 lbs of curb weight. For now, buyers must opt for the GMC Sierra Denali or step up to GM's HD line to get a six speed, and that just doesn't seem right. Drawing far fewer complaints was the Autotrac 4WD system, which offers up 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD HI, and 4WD LO modes, and worked superbly in every condition that we encountered during our test.
The ride and handling of the Silverado frankly defies comparison to other half-ton pickups, and is perhaps best compared to that of a large performance sedan. Large bumps result in a single well-damped thud, and smaller road irregularities are filtered out well before reaching the cabin. The steering and brake feel are stunningly good; a comparison to GM's prior efforts defies this author's vocabulary. We hope that GM finds a way to blend this voodoo into every product it builds. With pitch and roll kept under control, spirited driving is neither encouraged nor discouraged by this truck; it won't inspire backroad antics, but it also doesn't object to dispatching a curvy entrance ramp or engaging in emergency maneuvers. There is a quiet, understated confidence to the Silverado's dynamic behavior that should be very pleasing to those who find themselves intimidated by older pickup trucks. Those that accidentally exceed the limits will encounter the StabiliTrak system, which intervenes to bring the vehicle back under control with minimal drama.
The tow rating of our particular tester isn't class-leading, but the 7,500 lb limit is reasonable for most occasional towing tasks (select the 4.10 rear gears if you want to put another thousand pounds out back, and check the box for the 6.0L VortecMAX for up to 10,500 lbs of towing capacity). A payload of 2,010 is also nothing to be ashamed of, and most hauling jobs will be constrained by the 5'9" bed. Rest assured that the capabilities of this truck have not be compromised by its comfort.
Observed fuel economy over the time we spent with the vehicle was 15.4 MPG, with a 50/50 blend of suburban and expressway driving. That's about 2 MPG less than we pulled down during our test of the Tahoe with similar driving conditions, and we lack a readily-available explanation for this discrepancy.
With all of that being said, we still need to answer a simple question - is this the best half-ton pickup truck available on the market? Considering the needs of most buyers, we think that the answer to that is "yes". The exceptional drivetrain of the Toyota Tundra makes this conclusion a bit more difficult to reach than it would have been a few short months ago, but our take on this is that the less intimidating size and feel of the Silverado, paired up with the superior payload rating, is more important to the average truck buyer than superior dragstrip performance.
New Car Test Drive
One of the best full-size pickups available today.
The Chevy Silverado was lavished with product awards when it was totally redesigned for 2007. For 2008, Silverado gets some detail improvements and minor pricing adjustments.
The styling is bold yet still conservative when compared with the latest pickups from Dodge, Nissan, Toyota, and Ford. While the sheet metal was all-new for 2007, the main reason the new Silverado looks bolder is that it's three inches wider in front and an inch wider in the rear than the previous generation, a big difference.
The Silverado is, of course, available in a range of cab styles and bed lengths with a wide variety of engines, drivetrains and suspensions designed to meet every need.
Upgrades for 2008 include revisions to instruments, seats, radio, a new integrated brake controller option, and more reds in the color palette.
We found the LTZ crew cab with the Z85 suspension offers a nice ride, soaking up vibration on gravel desert roads and offer sure-footed handling on winding paved mountain roads. The popular 5.3-liter V8 delivers good power when needed and quiet cruising when not.
The 2008 Chevy Silverado is available in several trim levels: WT, LT1, LT2, and LTZ. Regular cab WT models may be upgraded with an LS package (about $500) and some larger cab models have an LS version about $1,000 above a WT.
The WT ($17,070) is a basic work truck that comes with a driver information center, AM/FM/XM stereo, 40/20/40 split-bench, vinyl-covered front seat, dual glove boxes, two auxiliary power outlets, tire pressure monitoring system, OnStar and a four-speed automatic transmission.
The LT models start with LT1 ($24,150) which adds a cloth-covered front seat with lockable storage under the seat, a CD player and MP3 compatibility, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature displays, 17-inch chrome-styled steel wheels and power folding and heated exterior mirrors. The more upscale LT2 ($28,065) comes with premium cloth front bucket seats with six-way power adjustment, dual-zone automatic temperature controls, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, fog lamps, aluminum wheels, chromed bumper, and a spare tire lock.
The LTZ ($31,260) adds heavy-duty trailering equipment, an automatic locking rear differential, body-colored bumpers, reclining and heated leather front seats with 12-way power, an in-dash six-CD changer with Bose speakers, turn signal indicators in the exterior rearview mirrors and heated windshield washers.
Engines include a 195-hp 4.3-liter V6 engine; a 295-hp 4.8-liter V8; a 315-hp 5.3-liter V8 in gasoline or flexfuel (gasoline and E85 ethanol, about $600 extra and deduct 4-5 mpg) versions; and a 367-hp 6.0-liter V8. Naturally, not all engines are available in all models (for example, and LS crew cab is 4.8-liter only) but they all come with a four-speed automatic.
Extended cab and crew cab models have back seats and windows in the side doors that power down. The crew cab has four front-hinged doors, much like a sport utility vehicle. The extended cab has rear access doors that are hinged at the rear but that open to 170 degrees to provide full access to the rear seating area.
The standard cab can be outfitted with a standard (6-foot, 6-inch) or long (8-foot) beds. The extended cab also offers a short (5-foot, 8-inch) bed, which is the only bed available on the crew cab.
Cab configuration and drive have significant influence on pricing. Larger cabs typically include more standard equipment, and 4WD adds $2,000-$3,000.
Five suspension setups are available: Z83 is the standard suspension and is designed for a smooth ride; Z85 is a little firmer for enhanced handling and towing; Z71 is for off-road driving and includes 18-inch wheels; Z60 is for maximum street performance and includes 20-inch wheels; NHT is for maximum towing capacity and includes high-capacity rear springs as well as all-terrain tires.
Safety features on all Silverado models dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system. Options include side-curtain airbags (LT, LTZ only), StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology (extended cab only, standard crew), Autotrac active transfer case, Ultrasonic rear parking assist, OnStar.
Option prices vary by trim level and body style. Among them (LTZ prices shown): a cargo management system for the truck bed ($95), a power sliding sunroof ($795), 20-inch wheels/suspension ($995), a power sliding rear window ($200), rear-seat entertainment system ($1,295), and navigation system ($2,250). On lesser models: locking differential ($395), StabiliTrak electronic stability control ($425), tow packages (about $300-$750).
The 2008 Chevy Silverado may not have the aggressive styling of the Dodge Ram or Nissan Titan or even the Toyota Tundra or Ford F-150, but its upright design may be considered both bold and appealing to its faithful customers, and they buy hundreds of thousands of Silverados each year.
A raked windshield (raked at 57 degrees) and careful aerodynamic and body-building engineering make the truck both quieter on the inside and more fuel efficient. GM boasts that the Silverado and GMC Sierra are the first full-size trucks to offer both 300 horsepower and EPA highway ratings of 20 miles per gallon (2WD 4.3 and 5.3 on gasoline).
The large, gold Chevy bowtie badge is set against a wide, three-bar chrome grille. The grille is flanked by stacked headlamps sporting the latest reflector-optics. The front bumper incorporates rectangular fog lamps.
The hood has a wide power dome. Bulging front fenders wrap over the front wheels and incorporate the headlamps within their forward sweep. Likewise, the rear quarter panels are punctuated by large faired wheel wells.
The rear view of the truck features stacked tail lamps on either side of a tall tailgate that has a sculpted center section that mimics and inverts the shape of the fender flares.
Built on what General Motors calls its GMT900 platform, the Silverado shares much of its underpinnings with the Tahoe SUV, though the pickup truck gets a unique rear suspension and a frame section that is 245 percent stiffer. Compared to the former generation Silverado, the frame is 234 percent stiffer torsionally, 62 percent more resistant to bending and 136 percent stiffer laterally. All of this allows such things as reducing the gap between the truck bed and passenger compartment and between fenders and bumpers. It also enhances aerodynamics and fuel efficiency and allows suspension components to provide improved ride and handling characteristics.
The front suspension uses coil-over shock absorbers (rather than torsion bars) and the rack-and-pinion steering gear is mounted to the engine cross member frame to provide enhanced control and feedback. The Silverado benefits from a rear axle design featuring shocks absorbers mounted outboard and more upright for better dynamic control than that of the previous-generation models.
The Silverado WT and LT come with what Chevy calls the pure pickup truck interior while the LTZ features a more luxurious interior.
The pure pickup interior is more driver and work oriented, includes two glove boxes in the dashboard, one of them just about the right size to hold a pair of work gloves and a few small items, and a 40/20/40-split front bench seat with the center section of the seat back folding down to form a wide arm rest with lots of storage capacity. This interior features large switchgear controls and interior door handles designed to be easily manipulated even while wearing bulky gloves.
The more luxury-oriented interior includes bucket seats with a permanent center console with 20 liters of storage capacity. The center stack puts ventilation and audio controls within easy site and reach of the front seat passenger. This version has a single glove box in the dash.
For 2008, all Silverado models get brighter gauge needles for easier viewing in daylight, XM satellite radio with three months of complimentary service, and a power adjustable driver's seat is available for the 40/20/40 bench on regular cabs.
Extended cabs feature stadium-style seating with an elevated view for those sitting in the second row. Both the extended cab and crew cab versions offer plenty of rear legroom. The rear seat bottoms can be easily be folded up to provide more room on the floor for cargo. Rear seats are split 60/40 so one side can be folded up for cargo while the other is used for seating.
Chevrolet says the interior of the new Sierra is 20 percent quieter than its predecessor (pre-2007 and Silverado Classic models), thanks to enhanced insulation materials, much like those used in the company's sport utility vehicles, and to aerodynamic improvements that reduce wind noise.
Suspension choice is key to the driving characteristics of the Silverado, while the cabin configuration (pure pickup WT/LT or luxury LTZ) is key to how you expect to use the truck and what you expect from it.
An LTZ interior mirrors those of GM's full-size sport-utilities and is modeled more like a big touring sedan than a truck. It's a smooth, cohesive design with a central console that rises to a wall of smallish white-on-black buttons you can't operate with mittens like those on the 'pure pickup.' The optional navigation system is up high for good viewing, intuitive in operation, and offers many choices in radio station memory. The LTZ cabin is available in three interior colors and, though it will show dirt faster, the lightest color gives the most luxurious impression.
On the other hand, the WT/LT version is more conventional truck with a more open floor area, space for junk all over, and no concerns that something might get scratched, scuffed or dirty. Modern electronics suggest hosing them out isn't a good idea anymore, but a shovel and stiff bristle brush should get it done.
The basic Z83 suspension is best chosen for budget constraints or if you plan to make modifications and throw away the stock parts. The Z85 is similar except that it uses better shock absorbers and is calibrated for how today's light-duty pickups are often used as daily transportation. The Z71 package is designed for off-highway use and makes maximum use of suspension travel to keep the wheels on the ground when on the trail or dirt roads; this off-road package frequently provides the best ride quality on anything worse than glass-smooth interstates. The Z60 street package replete with 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires is best used for the city but can be used on a dirt road. The NHT package is designed for maximum loads; ride compliance is good based on how much weight it can carry and tow but driving it around empty may be firmer (harsher) than you want for every day use.
All Sierras benefit from brakes much improved over earlier (pre-2007) models, whether they have the rear discs or drum brakes.
For 2008, drivers who tow will appreciate the optional integrated brake controller like that used on the Sierra heavy-duty trucks. (However, be sure your trailer brakes are compatible with it before choosing the option, as some electro-hydraulic disc conversions do not work with the integrated controller.)
The Silverado can be equipped for a towing capacity of as much as 10,500 pounds (a 4WD longer cab NHT without a long bed); typical maximum tow ratings for other models without the 6-liter/NHT are in the 8000-8900 pound range. If you want a 10,000-plus tow rating in a regular cab you have to look to Ford or Toyota. Remember these trailer weights are usually quoted for an empty truck with a standard-size driver (154 pounds) on board.
Those with limited vertical clearance either at home or in commercial garages should note that the 4WD version of Silverado 1500 extended cab and crew cab is fractionally lower at the roof and loading level than the 2WD version. Some pickup trucks add two to three inches in height for 4WD, and those inches could be critical in tight fits.
The Chevy Silverado offers more choices in light-duty pickup variations than any manufacturer save the Ford F-150. It is among the smoothest riding and quietest of all full-size pickups, at any comparative price point. We think it's one of the best choices available for 2008.
G.R. Whale contributed to this report from Southern California; with NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall reporting from Phoenix.
Chevy Silverado 1500 WT regular cab, standard bed, 4WD ($20,260); 1500 LT1 extended cab, standard bed, 2WD ($26,305); LT2 extended cab, long bed, 4WD ($31,755); LTZ crew cab, short box, 2WD ($34,995).
Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oshawa, Ontario; and Silao, Mexico.
Options As Tested
Safety package ($715) includes side curtain airbags, rear parking sense, adjustable pedals; EZ-Lift tailgate ($95).
Chevy Silverado LTZ crew cab 4x4 ($38,095).
*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
More on the Silverado 1500
Whether you're a buyer or owner of the 2008 Chevy Silverado 1500 we've got you covered.
FIND A GREAT USED CAR
Great Auto Loan Rates
Low Rates on New and Used AutosPowered By Apply In One Easy Step »