2003 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

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2003 Chevrolet Silverado

By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

For 2003, an unusually large number of changes are made to Chevrolet's top-selling Silverado pickup truck, which has been on the market just four years.
Pros:
  • No-nonsense pickup
  • Comfortable front seats
  • Quadrasteer, satellite radio available
Cons:
  • Ride can be bouncy
  • Reliability lags
  • Rear seat cushion

Make sure you look closely the next time you see a truck on the road with a "cat eye" front end.

It may not be a Chevrolet Avalanche. It could be the newly restyled Chevy Silverado.

For 2003, General Motors Corp.'s top-selling vehicle, the Silverado pickup, has a new grille, bumper, fascia, headlights and hood to make it look more like the Avalanche and another Chevy with a cat eye front, the TrailBlazer sport utility.

The new front end is just one of more than three dozen changes made to the Silverado for 2003 in what amounts to a major product update.

Silverado taillights are new, too, this year. So are wheels, airbag systems, ventilation, audio and electrical systems.

Even the Silverado's seats now are "Lazy-Boy style," according to Terry Woychowski, a chief engineer at GM.

Top seller
Did I mention buyers now can get XM satellite radio in these pickup trucks? It's a new option that means special tunes and talk shows can come in loud and clear nationwide.

All the changes are meant to help bolster the popularity of a truck that has ranked consistently among the top three vehicles in U.S. sales since shortly after its debut in the 1999 model year. Annual sales of the Silverado the past two years have averaged 681,000.

Silverados are big, full-size trucks, sold as light- and heavy-duty models offering two- and four-wheel drive, different size cabs, different bed lengths and V6 and V8 engines.

GM's innovative Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system, which helps maneuverability and trailer hauling, also is available.

4X2 rides high
The test vehicle, a light-duty, Extended Cab, two-wheel-drive model with seats for five, showed it's capable of handling both work tasks and family.

There's a big climb up to get inside—made more strenuous by the lack of running boards.

But once there, driver and riders have an excellent view out and over most other vehicles. This helped me manage my speeds and prepare for stops in city and highway traffic well ahead of other vehicles.

I noted, too, that many other drivers gave my Silverado space and didn't ride on my bumper since such a move would mean the driver behind would have no view at all except of my tailgate.

Lots of front-seat headroom
The interior of the Silverado Extended Cab is spacious feeling. The center console between the two front seats is very wide, and the back bench seat can hold three adults, widthwise, with ease.

Then there's the headroom. In the Silverado, it's immense. The 41 inches in the front seat top the 40.8 inches in the Ford F-150. It's more than in the Dodge Ram, too.

Back-seat headroom of 38.4 inches in the Silverado Extended Cab is less, though, than the 40 inches in the Ram Quad Cab. The F-150's SuperCab has 37.8 inches, in comparison.

Still, the Silverado Extended Cab leads the two major competitors in front-seat legroom. It also has more rear-seat legroom than the F-150 SuperCab. But the Ram's four-door Quad Cab has 2.7 inches more.

Notable front seats
Riders sink into the Silverado's new, cushioned seats. I marveled at how thick the cloth front seatbacks were in the test truck.

But the back-seat cushion provided support only to about mid-thigh on me, which isn't quite as much as I'd like.

I also noted that the middle rider in back does not get a head restraint, and while all five head restraints in the Silverado are adjustable, none locks into place.

Rides like a truck
I came to appreciate those "Lazy Boy" front seats while in the new Silverado.

The ride can be quite truckish, even at 25 miles an hour. With an empty pickup bed, there's a lot of bounciness that comes through to passengers when the pavement is irregular and when the truck passes over utility access covers.

Then, on a concrete highway with expansion cracks, I and the truck shook with such vigor that I wanted to move to another, smoother lane.

Sure enough, on smoother surfaces, the ride in the test Silverado—still with no load in the bed—was quite pleasant.

Strong V8 power
In curves, riders can feel the weight shift and body motions of the Silverado. Steering has a somewhat loose feel.

The up-level 5.3-liter V8 that was in the test truck is impressive. On acceleration, it sounded good—strong and powerful—and it felt it. I pressed down on the accelerator at highway speed to pass cars on a lengthy uphill part of the road and found plentiful power for this 4,500-pound truck.

Horsepower generated in this midrange Chevy truck V8 is 285 and torque is 325 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. This compares with a maximum 260 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm with Ford's 5.2-liter V8. Dodge's engines include a 345-horse V8 with 375 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm.

The test truck had a 4-speed automatic transmission. Other engine/transmission combinations for the Silverado include a base 200-horsepower 4.3-liter V6 with either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, a 270-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 with manual or automatic transmission, and a 300-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 with automatic.

Obviously, fuel economy is not a hallmark in this group of full-size pickups. The estimated rating in the '03 two-wheel-drive Silverado is 16 mpg in city driving and 21 on the highway.

This and that
The test truck included the Silverado's new outside mirrors that incorporate flashing red arrows activated by the blinkers. This feature can help other drivers know you're coming over into their lane. But it also took some getting used to. Catching the bright red color at a glance, I sometimes fretted that it was a reflection of a car over there next to me.

The audio was clear and not distorted, thanks to a new Bose audio system. But the satellite radio did necessitate installation of an odd-looking receiver "pod" outside at the front of the cab roof.

Interior fit and finish was noteworthy on the test truck. But there was an intermittent, annoying, high-pitch squeak from the passenger-side doors.

The doors open clamshell-like, with the front-hinged front doors needing to be opened first to allow the rear-hinged rear doors to open. This can create a complex loading process if you're next to another vehicle in a parking lot while trying to squeeze a grocery cart or large bag into the back seat.

I also noticed how variable the gaps between the sheet metal are on the Silverado.

Lastly, the Silverado has not distinguished itself in long-term reliability surveys conducted by independent consumer research companies.

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BB01 - 9/22/2014 3:18:41 AM