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Chevy picks up the pace with new Silverado pickup

December 15, 2006|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

Whether it's toiling on the job site, towing a trailer or getting spiffed up for a night on the town, the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado plays the versatility card well.

This full-sized pickup, along with its GMC Sierra counterpart, are the recipients of stem-to-stern remakes this year and General Motors has gone to great lengths to leave no igneous outcrop undisturbed in its quest for light-duty-truck supremacy.

The pickup market is a tough one these days, made even tougher by increased competition from Toyota and Nissan. This is a category where brand loyalty runs deep, and it takes a strong product to persuade buyers to switch teams.

However, the Chevy folks believe they have the perfect recipe for increased Silverado sales and invited several automotive scribes to take their new truck for an extended jaunt over paved/unpaved roads, including several gosh-awful washboard cart paths in and around the Phoenix area.

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The latest Silverado is noticeably smoother and less angular than previous iterations, in stark contrast to the bull-nosed designs of its competitors. Body panel gaps have been significantly reduced and even the space between the cab and the box has been cut in half. As well, the windshield angle is steeper while grille and headlamps have been tidied up. Macho has been replaced by mellow.

But don't think that this Bowtie-branded pickup has lost any of its mettle because of its new sheet metal. Silverado's engineers proudly displayed an unadorned boxed ladder frame, explaining that it's 234 percent more resistant to twisting and 62 percent more resistant to bending. Also, the distance between the left and right wheels had been widened for greater stability, and a new front suspension and steering system improve ride and handling.

With the proper equipment, the Silverado's new chassis helps it tote a maximum payload of 2,160 pounds and tow up to an impressive 10,500 pounds.

A big part of that "proper equipment" includes what's under the freshly formed hood. The starting point is a 195-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6 that's standard on regular-cab models and 4x2 extended cabs.

The next step up is a 295-horsepower 4.8-liter V-8 that's basic on most four-wheel-drive models.

Then there's a quartet of optional 315-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8s, built using either iron or aluminum blocks and that burn only regular gas or run on ethanol-based E85. To help save fuel, all 5.3 engines, as well as the top-pick 367-horsepower 6.0-liter V-8, can shut down half the cylinders at idle or when cruising at a steady rate.

Regardless of powerplant, a four-speed automatic is your only transmission choice.

The Silverado's interior is a quiet, comfortable and exceedingly squeak-resistant environment, made even more hospitable by the redesigned dashboards. Yes, there are two of them this year, one built for more basic models and a premium version that must have been copied straight from Cadillac's Escalade sport-ute. Both have been given a lower profile to help improve forward visibility.

As for body styles, all of the usual suspects return this year and then some, including three trim levels, three cab configurations (regular, extended and crew cab), three bed lengths, two drive systems and five different suspension setups ranging from smooth ride to one specifically designed for trailering.

There's more - a lot more - to be said about the new Silverado, but spending time behind the wheel and studying the brochures and features list at your Chevy dealer is mandatory at this point. To see just how big an improvement the new truck is, you'll absolutely need to go for a drive.

After some time spent sampling the '07 Silverado's style and substance, the onus clearly rests on the rest of the pack to, ahem, "pick up" the pace.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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