Test Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The timing couldn’t have been better. My riding buddies and I had been invited to attend an equitation clinic about an hour away, and as luck would have it, my test drive of the Chevrolet Silverado had been rescheduled for that very week. Hauling 3,000 lb of restless, shuffling horseflesh would be as thorough an evaluation of the truck’s towing prowess any reviewer could hope for – while offering me the humbling character-growth opportunity of being evaluated against riders younger than my horse.

While handsome enough, the current Silverado is getting a little long in the tooth, compared to its fresh and loaded competitors.

Alas, it was not to be. Mother Nature unleashed yet another torrent of blistering cold fury upon us, wreaking havoc on the roadways and effectively cancelling our plans.

What to do? Well, considering this particular Silverado came equipped with the Z71 off-road package, it was the perfect opportunity to explore an unmaintained forest road buried knee-deep in snow. I was also able to move some large and dirty car parts, take a long overdue dump run, and pick up some household reno materials – all of which a truck is far more capable of doing than even the handiest SUV.

But most of the week, the Silverado played the role of daily driver.

When you’re this far north of the big city, trucks are commonplace. Aside from making no logistical sense in Toronto or Vancouver’s urban congestion, you’d also risk being a social pariah for your truck’s wanton fuel consumption and space-hogging road presence. But here, where vast distances separate small towns, and snowmobiles are considered a viable form of winter transport – the pickup truck rules the roadways. Young guys in flat-billed ball caps are far more likely to be wheeling a jacked-up Ram or Silverado than a JDM sports car, and fully loaded pickup trucks are weightier status symbols than any German performance sedan.

Thanks to the explosive encroachment of crossovers and SUVs on the utility vehicle market, trucks have really ramped up their comfort and convenience quotient. We’re now seeing features that were once limited to the luxury segments – and with Ford’s near-six-figure F-150, and the impending arrival of GM’s Sierra Denali – a new premium truck segment has been established.

General Motors revealed the next-generation Silverado at the Detroit Auto Show in January, but it won’t arrive in dealerships until late fall. Meanwhile, Ram’s latest 1500, which dropped mid-March, has already established a new benchmark for pickup truck interiors. And Ford has just launched a new diesel version of their light-duty F-150. Pickup trucks are red-hot right now. 2017 was the best year ever for Canadian auto sales – topping two million vehicles – and more than 20 percent of those sold were pickup trucks. Ford’s F-Series was the clear winner, selling more than the Silverado and Sierra combined at 155,290, and Ram a distant second with 98,465. Silverado’s 59,066 Canadian units seems paltry by comparison – but it’s Chevrolet’s top-selling model and a vitally important nameplate for General Motors.

While handsome enough, the current Silverado is getting a little long in the tooth, compared to its fresh and loaded competitors.

My Z71 tester had the LTZ luxury trim package which includes leather upholstery, remote start, power sliding rear window, memory driver setting, 8-inch colour touchscreen with rear-view camera. On top of that, the Redline Edition package added 20-inch black alloys with red accents; side steps; black bowtie emblems; red tow hooks; black grille, mirrors, door handles, and headlight trim; and a power sunroof. Additional options included wireless charging, heated and ventilated seats, leather-wrapped wheel, and MyLink connectivity with Navigation.

We weren’t exactly slumming: Aside from a little awkwardness in tight parking spaces and a more substantial monetary hit while fuelling, the Silverado was almost as pleasant a daily driver as my partner’s BMW – and a hell of a lot more useful. Compared to previous generations, it’s rather civilized on the road with the steering and handling of a crossover. I was particularly impressed with how well the suspension soaked up rough pavement, without the typical rear-end skittishness inherent in unladen pickup trucks.

Cabin noise is minimal, and overall the ride is comfortable and solid. It’s a fairly refined environment, with nicely finished dash and instrumentation, although the leather seating surfaces were rather sub-par compared to Ram and Ford’s – and the lack of a push-button start on a top-trim model was rather surprising. Controls are large, easy to use, and straightforward. The flat and boxy centre console has plenty of cubby space, and a gigantic storage area beneath the armrest for iPads, computers, or briefcases.

This particular truck is powered by the 5.3-litre V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque – but there’s also a 420 hp/460 lb-ft 6.2-litre V8 for those craving more grunt. The 5.3L is a smooth operator but a little heavy on fuel. The big V8 features active cylinder management, which shuts down four cylinders during light load for better fuel efficiency. It’s smooth and seamless, with only the TFT display informing you that the truck is operating as a four-cylinder. Overall, I averaged about 15.6 L/100 km, which is considerably more than the official Energuide rating of 13.8 L combined.

The Silverado Z71 is a formidable off-roader, with Rancho shocks, transfer case, locking differential, and underbody shields. Equipped with the Max Tow Package, it’s capable of hauling up to 11,100 lb (12,500 lb with the 6.2L engine) – compared to the new Ram’s max rating of 12,750, and an astonishing 13,200 by the Ford F-150.

While the max tow rating has yet to be announced for the upcoming 2019 model, it’s estimated to be around 12,950 lb. It will also come with a new diesel, to make it more competitive against the Ford F-150 and Ram, both of which now offer diesel engines in their light-duty trucks. It may be trailing the competition now, but with new engine choices, the segment’s largest bed, lightweight materials, and a raft of new technology to come, the Silverado might just shake up the segment by year’s end.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab
Engine Displacement: 5.3L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Peak Torque: 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Fuel Economy: 15.6/11.6/13.8 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,761 mm (69.3 in) bed
2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab
Base Price $57,575
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $66,395
Optional Equipment $6,925 – Redline Edition (20-inch black painted wheels with red accents, sport assist steps, black bowtie emblems, black emblems with red outlines on doors and tailgate, red front tow hooks, black grille, mirror caps, power sliding tilt glass sunroof) $2,845; Iridescent Pearl Tricoat $1,195; Front bucket seats with wireless charging $845; MyLink audio, navigation $795; Heated and vented front seats $745; Trailer brake controller $350; LED cargo box lighting $150
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.9
8 Styling
9 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
9 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value