New Engine gives Chevy Silverados more oomph

November 18, 2005|by TIM SPELL / Motor Matters

In this last year of a generation of Silverado pickups launched in the 1999 model year, Chevy gives its popular pickup a boost in styling and power. Perhaps this is to prepare consumers for the bolder, more powerful next-gen models.

The 2006 1500 LT Crew Cab 4x4 short-box test truck rolls in with a more aggressive look and the added muscle of a VortecMAX Performance Package. The base price tag for this substantial truck is $34,770, plus $2,155 for the VortecMAX package.

This package is available on all 1500, 1500HD and 2500HD models with mid- and up-level trim. The engineering focus, however, is to enhance towing capability of 4WD 1500 Crew Cabs and extended cabs with regular-length boxes.

VortecMAX power, signified by badging on the front fenders, comes in the form of a high-output Vortec 6000 V-8 engine. This 6.0-liter V-8 delivers workhorse grunt with 345 horsepower and 380 lbs.-ft. of torque.


The VortecMAX engine burns 87-octane gasoline, and estimated fuel economy for the 4WD Crew Cab is 14 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg highway.

The engine pairs with a heavy-duty trailering package, locking rear differential, beefier new 9.5-inch rear axle and, with 4WD models, a 4.10 axle ratio.

Unloaded, the test truck has a quick off-the-line launch and ample passing power at highway speeds. Buyers of this truck also will like its performance with a load in tow.

Towing capacity for the 4WD Crew Cab with the VortecMAX is 9,900 pounds. Payload capacity is 1,716 pounds. If style counts, the engine has a special-design cover emblazoned with "VORTEC MAX" in white and red.

It sits beneath a bulging new-design power-dome hood, borrowed from the 3500 big guys, which gives the monster V-8 extra breathing room. This new hood teams with an updated grille, which features upper and lower chrome surrounds separated by a gap bridged with a gold Chevy bow tie.

More macho can be injected with the optional $455 Z71 off-road suspension package - popular even among those who rarely have a need for 4WD traction. While the "Z71" big decals on the cargo box sides offer a nice image boost, this off-road enhancement package provides real benefits for those needing a vehicle capable of handling rugged trails or providing extra traction at boat ramps.

Looking much like its 2500 and 3500 siblings, Chevy's 1500 crew cab has four full-size, forward-hinged doors, but still is "garageable." It sits on a modified 1500 extended-cab standard-box platform and shares its 143.5-inch wheelbase with extended-cab siblings. Spanning the tape at 227.5 inches long, it's also close to the extended-cab's 227.4-inch length.

The Crew Cab rides a bit better than an extended cab. A GM spokesman said it's a result of the different weight balance resulting from the slightly bigger body on the same basic overall wheelbase length.

Of course, fitting a stretched cab on an extended-cab frame means something has to give. As with other half-tons on the market, the cargo box is shortened. Instead of the traditional 6-foot-6-incher, the Crew Cab sports a 5-foot-9-inch-long cargo box.

Along with modifying the cargo box, engineers altered the frame structure to accommodate the cab and shortened cargo box, and to allow the pickup to maintain the same 26-gallon fuel tank capacity as extended-cab standard-box models.

Importantly, this re-engineering of the Silverado results in a roomier cab with a rear compartment allowing leg-stretching room for three adults. Rear compartment legroom is 39.1 inches vs. the extended-cab's 33.7 inches.

With the exception of light modifications, the cab design basically is the same as those of Chevy's larger 2500- and 3500-Series pickups. As with the other crew cabs, a flat cargo floor is created in a two-step process in which the rear seat cushion is tipped forward and the seatback folded.

The standard front seat is a 40/20/40-split bench and reclining buckets are an option. Crew Cabs also are offered with convenient features, such as 10-way power adjustments, two-position driver-side memory, and heated seats for the driver and front passenger.

Standard luxury comes in the form of a dual-zone manual control (automatic control is optional) AC/heat system. This system offers the advantage of allowing driver and front passenger to adjust temperature settings to their own comfort levels. Chevy reports this system provides as much as a 30-degree Fahrenheit difference between the two zones.

Bottom line, this Silverado Crew Cab is a cool pickup, offering a high level of comfort and VortecMAX muscle.

(Tim Spell is the automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle's Cars & Trucks section.)

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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