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LeMons Tow Rig Review: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Tim Odell January 19, 2016 Chevrolet Reviews, Featured, Reviews 18 Comments

2015 chevrolet silverado review

Before returning the our 2015 Chevrolet Silverado, I had to do my best to get the get the oil, beer, and food spills out of the bed and the wiff-of-homeless-guy out of the interior. Three days of LeMons Support duty will do that to a truck. The Car Blog Commenting Guild™ endlessly laments the increasing niceness of pickup trucks. Trucks like the high-end F150 Kamil reviewed cause wailing and gnashing of teeth. “Whatever happened to cloth interiors? I don’t want a Cadillac, I just want a truck!”.

This is a Truck.

2015 chevrolet silverado review

Chevy redid the Silverado for 2014, most importantly adopting the EcoTec series of direct-injected, aluminum-blocked motors, backed up by the six-speed 6L80E automatic and 9.5 inch rear axle (on our 5.3L model, 9.75” on 6.2Ls). The 5.3L unit in our truck makes 355 HP and 383 lb-ft of torque.

It’s important to pause and highlight those drivetrain details. For decades, “½-ton” or 1500 GM trucks always came with TH350, then 700R4 then 4L60E transmissions and 8-point-something-inch “ten bolt” rear axles. Neither was expected to last much past 80,000 miles if subjected to regular towing over 5000lbs or serious offroading with larger tires. This generation of Silverado’s hardware is inch-for-inch on par with “¾-ton” or 2500-spec trucks of not too long ago.

The Silverado sports double-wishbones with coilovers up front and leaf springs out back. Unsurprisingly, this truck rides like a truck. It’s a modern truck, meaning the steering’s precise and appropriately weighted and the front end doesn’t wander all over on bumpy roads, but unladen there are a few extra high-frequency jiggles to accompany any disruption in the road. You can feel a hint of axle-wrap on hard acceleration. Drop a few hundred pounds of gear in the bed and hook a trailer on the tail and everything smooths right out. We can probably thank the 7200lb GVWR max-tow package for some of that behavior; perhaps lesser trim levels are a bit squishier.

Speaking of max tow, apologies for taking five paragraphs to get to the whole point of borrowing the Silverado in the first place: towing our heap of a Ranchero to Sonoma Raceway. Our car weighs between 2000 and 2500 lbs, and sat atop a U-Haul trailer that’s a notch over a ton, so we had right under 5k on the ball. I can’t say the Silverado “didn’t even feel it back there”, but will say I could get going as fast as I wanted as quickly as I wanted, regardless of incline. Such behavior netted me about 14 MPG in highway towing. The motor’s great and the transmission works to complement the experience. In tow-haul mode it holds gears just long enough and readily downshifts while braking exactly as I would if I were rowing-my-own.
Speaking of braking, they work just fine, with one tangential flaw: this “Max Tow” package doesn’t include an electric brake controller. Aftermarket brake controllers are a pain to install and ugly-up your interior. Chevy offers a built-in unit as an option, but failing to include a key component used for towing larger loads (the kind you’d buy the, you know, max trailering package to tow) is just dumb.

2015 chevrolet silverado interior2015 chevrolet silverado interior

The “yes, this is a truck” experience continues from the driver’s seat. The seat adjacent to the driver’s seat proves the point even better. Gardening crews will be elated to know that even in 2015 (ok, it’s 2016 now), you can get a three-across front bench seat in an extended-cab pickup. Between the front and rear benches, I can personally verify that the rear is better for sleeping. The grey fabric and black plastic of the interior won’t impress anyone, but feel appropriately nicer than the fleet-grade stuff you might find in a company shop truck or tow truck interior. You’d try not to stain or spill on them, but wouldn’t stress too much if you did.

So far on LeMons duty: Long-haul Towing? Check. Sleeping? Check. Command center? …partial Check. A typical race (or camping or whatever recreation you’re into) requires countless devices be kept charged or powered: cell phones, laptops, radios, air compressors, etc. Unfortunately, the Silverado (at least this Silverado) lacks a 115V inverter or always-hot 12V or USB supply. To keep things charged, you have to leave the key “on”, which drains the battery more and activates the door-ajar chimes. A 115V plug is an option, but that doesn’t fix the key-on requirement to get power.

To the surprise of no one, this Chevy truck keeps up everything we associate with Chevy trucks: well, but not perfectly built, handsome and plenty powerful. It’s tempting to attempt to conclude with tortured metaphors about horses, blue-jeans or dogs, but I’ll spare you. This is a truck that can probably do everything you need a truck to do. It’s built from parts that are up-to-snuff for Real Truck Duty, but isn’t so over-spec’ed as to be be a rolling reminder that you blew your kids’ college fund on some BroDozer.

  • smalleyxb122

    You were pleased towing with the 5.3? I rented a Sierra from Uhaul for a race, and was quite underwhelmed. I was convinced it was a V6 until I popped the hood. At the time of rental it had six hundred something miles on it, so I can’t blame much on having beaten on as a rental.

    At the time, I was in the market to replace my ’88 Silverado which I no longer trust towing long distance. Relative to my Silverado, the shorter wheelbase (standard cab, long bed) of the ’15 Sierra was far more skittish with the trailer in tow. Unladen acceleration was markedly better with the newer, lighter truck, but encumbered by 5,500 lb of trailer that advantage shrunk considerably. It was still quicker than the ’88, but not by as much as expected from the 100+hp advantage.

    • Some of us are happy towing to races with a 1.5 liter V4. Some of us are, of course, idiots.

      • smalleyxb122

        In fairness to the Sierra, it was competent. It just didn’t meet my expectations. I expected it to compare more favorably to a very tired 200k mile, 27 year old Chevy.

        In other fairness, I think we’re all idiots.

        • That’s where I have the advantage, then. My 48 year old Taunus engine meets or exceeds all of my expectations, such as they are.

    • Which year 5.3? Are we talking previous-gen LS architecture or the new LT direct-injected ones?

      A couple other thoughts:
      This truck has a 3.42:1 rearend. I’d bet a rental-spec has the 3.08:1 diff, which would definitely hurt off the line.
      Older motors tend to do just fine in off-the-line torque, but would ultimately lose a 0-60 against a unit with more HP.

      Also, my reference points are older 90s Chevies pulling ski boats, my ’69 Wagoneer towing the Ranchero and Cummins-powered Dodge HDs towing enclosed trailers. None of those are particularly speedy.

      • smalleyxb122

        My rental was a 2015 (rented in July), so I assume it had the same 5.3 as the truck you have here. I didn’t investigate what the axle ratio was. It felt reasonably quick without the trailer. Much quicker than my old K1500. That just made it that much more disappointing with the trailer.

        The Ram 3500 Cummins that I rented for the October race was quite the counterpoint. That truck felt rather sluggish unladen, but hooked to a trailer it was clear that towing was it’s raison d’etre. Couldn’t feel the trailer at all. Highway speeds were effortless and passing (passing!) wasn’t out of the question.

        It’ll be interesting to see how my Trollblazer with a weight distributing hitch handles the trailer. (It shouldn’t have any trouble getting up to speed with an LS2 and 4.10 gears, but the short wheelbase gives me pause).

  • dukeisduke

    I still think they should run square wheels, to match the square wheelwells.


    I also think that Adam and Jamie should have used a Silverado.

  • Missed opportunity to say something about a Chevy towing a Ford.

  • 0A5599

    For what it’s worth, with older trucks (before about 1998), adding a brake controller took a couple hours. Now, you can get a model-specific pigtail that goes straight into the fuse box, and after you attach a bracket to the underside of the dash, you’re done in less than 10 minutes total time.

    Kind of hard to believe the key had to be on to get 12 volts. Sometimes they are modifiable at the fuse panel to get either always-hot or switched.

  • Good points about the lack of electric trailer brake setup. If the 1/2 tons are encroaching on the 3/4 ton trucks, and the Max Trailer option box is ticked, there’s on reason it shouldn’t come with the hardware for an electric trailer brake. Especially considering getting such a high towing capacity on lower-level trucks means it’s easier for just about anybody to tow huge, heavy loads…electric brakes are very good in these situations. As for the rest of the truck, glad to see Chevy’s workhorses are still solid options. Too bad they don’t offer the 5.3 (or 6.0/6.2) in the Colorado…

  • Maymar

    Even alloy wheels are too indulgent, you Bourgeoisie Scum! Steelies or die!

  • Batshitbox

    I need it to hold a stack of 4′ x 8′ sheets. Plywood, wallboard… also some buckets of grout.

    Oh, wait, that’s what the tow package is for; the garden trailer full of stuff that used to fit in the bed.

    • What prevents you from loading 4x8s in the bed leaning on the tailgate or with the gate down? I’ve used plenty of short bed trucks for lumber runs without issues.

      I feel like this is “waaah, short beds!” thing is a problem that only exists on the internet.

      • Batshitbox

        It’s sub-optimal. Not everybody needs to carry 4X8s and motorcycles, but for those of us that do, the longbed is the reason to buy the truck. I was reacting to the last paragraph, “Does everything you might need it to do”, which it don’t. It do things other people need it do.
        Then again, my truck has no trailer hitch or light socket, so it don’t do everything well, either!
        (I actually carry 4×8 sheets of metal, which really doesn’t like the tailgate lean, but that’s a limited market.)

  • outback_ute

    I’m a little surprised to see front-hinged doors for the rear seat (not being familiar with Chevys), the gap between the B-pillar and seat looks pretty small.