2002 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

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2003 Chevrolet Silverado

This 2003 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

New SS version spices up continually improved Silverado line.
Pros:
  • New SS high-performance model
  • Smooth
  • Rugged
Cons:
  • Tight rear legroom in extended cab versions
  • Low SS economy
  • Bouncy ride

Right behind the Ford F-Series, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck is the second best-selling vehicle in America and the top seller at General Motors. Without it, GM might not even be the world's No. 1 vehicle producer .

A new, high-performance SS version is offered to give the Silverado the high-performance status of the Ford SVT Lightning pickup and upcoming hot rod version of the Dodge Ram pickup.

Kept Competitive
The Silverado hasn't been revamped since 1999, and that was its first major redo since 1988. But Chevrolet continually has added features to keep the Silverado competitive.

That's been smart, considering that a new-generation archrival Ford F-Series pickup is just around the corner and that the formidable Ram competitor was redesigned for 2002. Not to mention the new full-size pickup coming from Nissan and an even more competitive upcoming full-size pickup from Toyota.

GM has brought back its venerable SS (Super Sport) designation, which was on Chevrolet's fastest 1960s Camaro, Chevelle and Impala autos. It's no wonder that the SS is the most expensive, sexiest Silverado.

Special SS
The SS has a $39,205 base price, while the base Silverado costs $18,950. Those two make for a good contrast. The base version has a 200-horsepower V6, manual gearbox, regular cab with two doors and rear-wheel drive. The Silverado SS has a 345-horsepower V8, automatic transmission with special gearing, extended cab with four doors and an all-wheel drive system that doesn't call for driver involvement.

The SS also has a unique Z06 chassis, with the Silverado's largest-ever 20-inch wheel-and-tire combination and two-inch-lower ride height. It comes in only black, blue or red paint with monochromatic trim that emphasizes an almost total lack of chrome. Specially styled aluminum wheels, "SS" emblems and embroidered headrests are part of the package.

New Features
Chevrolet says there are more than 40 new major features or improvements for the latest Silverado. Among them are fresh front styling, interior refinements, dual-level front air bags and a front passenger-sensing air bag system to protect children.

Other new features include the availability of XM Satellite Radio, dual-zone heating, ventilation and air conditioning and first-ever Bose audio system availability. A DVD video option is also offered for the first time is.

Staggering Array
There is a staggering array of Silverado versions situated between the base truck and the SS. They have a large variety of engines, transmissions, cab sizes, wheelbases, pickup packages and comfort, convenience and utility features.

An especially noteworthy new option is GM's Quadrasteer 4-wheel steering system, which cuts the turning diameter almost 25 percent and assists high-speed stability. It adds height, which is one reason you can't get it with the lowered Silverado SS.

Standard for all Silverados are air conditioning, anti-lock brakes and an AM/FM radio, with higher-line models receiving extra features.

Door Drawback
But a drawback is that extended-cab versions such as the SS have rear-hinged back doors with no outside handles that don't open independently of the front doors. That can lead to awkward operation of doors. However, Crew Cab models have four conventional doors-with outside handles for all of them.

The handsome Silverado is a big guy, so getting in or out calls for extra effort, and that also goes for the lowered SS version. The rear-seat area of extended cab models needs more leg room for tall occupants. On the other hand, there is good cargo space with the rear bench seat folded up.

Low Fuel Economy
Fuel economy? It isn't good. For example, the base V6 rear-drive version with a manual transmission provides the best economy, and it's only an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway. The SS provides 13 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway.

While plenty tough—and you wouldn't know it to look at this truck—the Silverado drives much like a large auto, with surprisingly good steering, handling and braking. (The SS especially shines in those areas.) However, the smooth ride gets bouncy on rough roads, especially with an empty cargo bed.

Of course, the SS is the most fun. It's fast off the line, but I expected a quicker 65-75 mph passing time. "Ford's supercharged, 380-horsepower SVT Lightning can easily outsprint it. That's not only because the Lightning has more power, but also because the Silverado has gearing for relaxed cruising and a heavy all-wheel-drive system.

Easy To Live With
The SS is easier to live with than the Lightning on a daily basis, and the Silverado's all-wheel drive gives it greater traction than the Lightning when the snow falls.

The Silverado dashboard has a refreshingly straightforward design. Special white gauges in the SS are easy to read—although overly stylish—and that version's front seats are especially supportive.

Climate and sound system controls are large, and the roomy front area has a big covered console storage bin and hefty dual front cupholders. Big front doors have oversize interior handles, although some may find they're placed too low.

The Silverado is a high-quality truck, with good fits and finishes and attention to detail. The SS is pricey for a pickup truck. But, as with all Silverados, it has a lot to offer.

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BB06 - 8/22/2014 2:39:19 PM