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. 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.
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.