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Chevrolet's full-size pickups get an edgy new look this year. Silverado's aggressive stance is jolting for drivers used to conservative-looking Chevy pickups, but it's an evolutionary change and one that was needed. We'll get used to it.
Hidden beneath are considerable changes. Chevrolet Silverado boasts more than 40 major changes for 2003. Some you'll notice, such as the interior refinements. New audio and climate controls are easier to use and more sophisticated, the latter available with well-designed digital controls. Other changes are harder to discern, but are important from reliability and engineering standpoints, such as the all-new electrical system that eliminates thick bundles of wires and hundreds of connections. V8 engines offer improved throttle response and reliability and reduced emissions, while V6 engines deliver better performance and reduced emissions. (Some of these changes were actually made mid-cycle to the 2002 models.)
Chevy Silverado continues to be one of the best full-size trucks available. It shares that crown with the similar GMC Sierra. Boxed and hydroformed frame rails give the GM trucks a strong, rigid platform. Silverado is a highly capable truck. It rides, handles, and stops as well as, maybe better than, the best of them. It's quick and it's comfortable. These are still full-size work trucks, however, so don't expect a Cadillac ride.
Technology is really improving life with full-size pickups. Quadrasteer, GM's heavy-duty four-wheel-steering system, eases parking and maneuvering in tight places. StabiliTrak, an anti-skid system, improves driver control in avoidance maneuvers and on slick surfaces. Heated seats, a Bose stereo, XM Satellite Radio and other options make long days spent in a Silverado a little more comfortable.
Payload capacities vary. The 1500 series offers payloads ranging from 1593 to 2334 pounds (depending on bed, cab, and drive configuration). The 2500-series models offer payloads in the 2600- to 3200-pound range.
Silverado 1500 models are available with a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, or 5.3-liter V8. 2500 models and the 1500 HD Crew Cab are powered exclusively by the 6.0-liter V8. The 1500 HD model combines light-duty 1500-series styling in a heavy-duty six-passenger crew cab with a 300-horsepower Vortec V8. (2500HD and 3500 models are covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
Silverado SS is a special high-performance model equipped with a high-output Vortec 6000 designed for exhilarating off-line acceleration. SS gets a unique high-performance Z60 chassis package, 20-inch wheels and tires, full-time all-wheel drive, a lower, wider stance, and special exterior and interior trim.
Options include XM Satellite Radio, which provides CD-quality broadcast of 100 digital channels coast to coast, a Bose sound system. Crew Cab models offer a Panasonic DVD Passenger Entertainment System and rear-seat audio controls. OnStar is also available, which puts a human being at your assistance at the press of a button any time of day. OnStar operators can unlock your doors remotely and the system automatically calls for assistance if the airbags deploy.
Passive safety features: A passenger-sensing system automatically deactivates the passenger-side frontal air bag under certain conditions to protect children. Dual-level frontal air bags are designed to provide an appropriate amount of inflation based on the severity of the crash. Active safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) on all models. Auto4WD improves traction and stability of four-wheel-drive models on slippery roads.
Revised for 2003, the Chevrolet Silverado is among the best of the full-size pickups.
Silverado feels tight and quiet. There's little road noise and wind noise. Those are benefits of the stiff frame, which minimizes noise and vibration from the running gear. The cab is stiffened by a magnesium beam behind the instrument panel and a lateral steel beam between the magnesium beam and the right side of the dash. This additional stiffening is designed to eliminate squeaks and rattles, and we haven't heard any. The chassis rigidity allows the suspension to soak up and manage bumps and ruts and tar strips. A long, 143-inch wheelbase improves the ride further and enhances high-speed stability.
Like most pickups, the Silverado rides more smoothly with weight in the back. At low speeds, our empty 2003 Silverado 1500 LT with Quadrasteer tended to bounce annoyingly when going over a succession of dips. Could it be that the stouter rear end that comes with Quadrasteer rides rougher? If so, we would still opt for Quadrasteer for the maneuverability it offers. The 4-Wheel Steering Package includes a manually selectable ride control system designed to enhance control when pulling a trailer. Press the Ride Control button when the truck is empty and the system seems to firm up the shock damping, which reduces the bouncing somewhat, but the ride becomes harsher. Ride control is probably best used for towing to reduce the tendency of the truck to pogo as the trailer goes over bumps, but it can also be used off road for better suspension control.
Quadrasteer is no gimmick. Four-wheel steering is a great feature on any Silverado for low-speed maneuverability and a must-have for owners who tow. Let's face it. Silverado is a full-size truck in a world of compact parking spaces. Four-wheel steering really helps when maneuvering in crowded parking lots and public garages. With Quadrasteer, an extended cab short box Silverado can turn around in a 37.4-foot circle (curb to curb). Without Quadrasteer, the same model takes 47.3 feet. That's 10 feet, a huge difference. You can make a U-turn in places that previously required backing up. Where turning around on a narrow street is a five-step process in a standard pickup, it's just a three-step process with Quadrasteer. Quadrasteer helps enormously around town, but we think it is truly a must-have feature for towing trailers. When towing a trailer, Quadrasteer will make you look like a star. First, it greatly improves control, eliminating much of that trial and error that occurs when you're not messing with trailers on a regular basis. Second, Quadrasteer allows you to back a trailer into spots where you could not physically do so without it. Chevrolet's ad showing the cowboy backing a horse trailer through a chute demonstrates the benefits well. Quadrasteer increases the 8400-pound towing capacity of Silverado 1500 models with the Vortec 5300 to 8600 lbs.
1500HD crew cab models do not seem to ride as smoothly as the other models. This is most likely due to the 1500HD heavy-duty suspension. When the bed is empty there is some road vibration, but drivers used to driving pickups should find it within acceptable bounds. Throwing some weight in the bed or adding a canopy should smooth it out some. The benefit is towing capacity: 10,200 pounds with a weight-distributing hitch and sway control. The 2500 models also ride rougher than standard 1500 models, but offer a 10,700-pound towing capacity.
Silverado's steering is responsive and offers the right amount of feedback. Silverado tracks straight and handles well on dry pavement, loose dirt, deep dirt, and off road. It's stable on wet pavement and stays true when the rear wheels spin when accelerating hard in a low-speed turn. Rack-and-pinion steering is used on Silverado 1500 4x2s. Four-wheel-drive and heavy-duty models use recirculating-ball steering. Even the rack-and-pinion system has a fairly wide dead spot in the center when cruising, which Ch
Chevrolet Silverado is among the best of the full-size pickups. Changes for 2003 make it more reliable and more enjoyable to drive every day. Roomy, comfortable seats, a stiff frame, a choice of powerful engines make the Silverado a great work truck. A myriad of choices lets buyers choose the right truck for the lifestyle.