2004 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

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1999 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

This 1999 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2005.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8
Pros:
  • Roomy cab
  • Vortec V8s with more horsepower and flatter torque curve
  • In extended cab models, a rear bench seat that reclines
Cons:
  • Outer styling that's reminiscent of previous model
  • Ride is improved but still can be bouncy
  • Maximum passenger doors: three

Chevrolet worked hard to update its 10-year-old full-size pickups for the 1999 model year. Now called Silverado instead of the previous C/K pickups, this is a no-nonsense truck line with improved ergonomics, new features and more efficient, more responsive Vortec V8s. Too bad Chevy didn't also provide four passenger doors, more than just warmed-over styling and a bit better ride.

A bestseller for years
You don't have to look too far down the road before you spot the best-selling Chevrolet in the United States. Just look for a full-size Chevy pickup. You're bound to find one. In calendar 1998, as in dozens of years before it, Americans selected the big trucks with the Chevy bow tie on the grille as their favorite Chevrolet to buy.

Now there are good reasons for more Americans to make the move to Chevy trucks. For the first time in a decade, the automaker has redesigned and re-engineered its venerable C/K truck line and renamed it Silverado. This new line makes Chevy the last of the former big domestic automakers to update its full-size trucks.

Don't worry. The bow tie is still there—in a grille that looks a lot like those on the previous trucks. Indeed, many auto critics wondered why Chevy didn't do more of an aggressive restyling a la the Ford F-Series and Dodge Ram pickups. Chevy officials responded that they know their customers, and their customers like the look of the Chevy trucks.

But the semi-truck-styled Dodge Ram showed customers like change, too. So I'm not so sure that something a bit more provocative wouldn't have been embraced, given today's competitive truck environment.

Lots of new engineering
Styling aside, Chevy did a lot under the sheet metal. The Silverado has a sophisticated new frame that's stiffer, yet lighter, than the one on the Silverado's predecessors. And a strengthened frame allowed engineers to improve components that are attached to it, such as the suspension and powertrain.

Moreover, the body is the most rigid in Chevy truck history, and Chevy officials are the first to make four-wheel disc brakes standard on half-ton pickups. They're teamed with a standard anti-lock system.

Still, I was a bit disappointed in the Silverado ride, which remains bouncy at times. In back-to-back comparisons with Dodge Ram, I continued to feel the Ram had a slight edge.

Steering is power rack-and-pinion on 2-wheel-drive models below 6,400 pounds gross vehicle weight rating. It's power recirculating ball in all other Silverados.

Commendably, many changes were made for durability. Chevy puts platinum-tipped spark plugs in the Silverado so, officials claim, it can go up to 100,000 miles before a change. Engine coolant is listed at five years/50,000 miles, and Chevy estimates the new brakes can last four times as long as those on the old C/K trucks.

To help with that durability, the Silverado instrument panel has a compact message center where warnings appear to tell drivers if fluids are low, for example, and reminds them when it's time to change the oil.

An interior that's big and comfortable
The Silverado line has a variety of configurations, although a 4-door model is not among them. Dodge already has a Quad Cab Ram and Ford said it plans an F-Series Crew Cab with four full-size doors early in calendar 2000, but the most you can get on a 1999 Silverado is an extended cab with three doors standard.

The third door is on the passenger side and requires the passenger door to be opened first. Then, you can reach the latch, tucked in between the two doors, that opens the entryway to the backseat. Once the two side doors are open, passengers have a roomy entryway to get inside. In fact, Chevy said it has the widest door opening in its class.

It certainly offered good access to the test 1999 LS 1500 extended cab short box model, though it was a considerable step up to get inside. No, I didn't have a running board and yes, Chevy lowered the step-in height an inch compared with the previous model. But for someone 5-foot-4, like me, it's still quite a climb to get inside.

But what a view once you get in there. The Silverado's front seat is so spacious that it seems like the front passenger is in another room. The rear seat is nicely cushioned—not some thin, bench-like thing. In fact, Chevy says the Silverado has the biggest interior of any half-ton, full-size pickup.

I believed it, especially as I watched friends climb in and settle against the rear seatback. This seatback actually reclines some—from the former 14 degrees to a full 18 degrees—and it comes with adjustable head restraints for the two outboard riders. No more resting your head against the rear glass of a truck cab—unless you're the unlucky soul who has to sit in the middle of the backseat.

If you need the back area for storage, instead of passenger space, the seat cushion easily folds upward against the back wall, leaving the "largest usable rear cargo area in the segment," according to Chevy.

And no more fussing with tangled or awkwardly placed seatbelts. In the Silverado, seatbelts for front-seat riders are integrated into the front seats, so they move with them as they adjust your seat for comfort.

Engine power and choices
There are three gasoline Vortec V8s and a turbodiesel V8 available for the Silverado. All have more horsepower than their predecessors. Torque also rose in the turbodiesel; in the gas engines, torque curves were flattened to provide better performance across the power band.

I had the mid-range gas V8 and felt like I could drive through—or over—anything. This 5.3.-liter Vortec V8 started up with a good, throaty bellow that was perfectly in character. The engine puts out 270 horsepower at 5000 revolutions per minute and 315 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.

It would have been enough to tow 8,000 pounds behind us—8,200 pounds in a 2-wheel-drive model. I used it to squeal the wheels, pass on the highway with ease, power through muddy ruts and grasslands and tour a construction site. None of which seemed to pose even a slight challenge for the Silverado, which, by the way, has 8.5 inches of ground clearance underneath, despite the work done to reduce step-in height.

Chevy's trucks use an AutoTrac 4-wheel-drive system that automatically switches power between the front and rear axles when rear wheels start to slip. Otherwise, you ride along in rear-wheel drive.

There's also a tow/haul mode on the Silverado that helps manage transmission shifting when the truck is pulling heavy trailers or has a heavy load in the bed. Activated via a button at the end of the gearshifter, tow/haul mode lengthens the time between gearshifts and makes upshifts firmer, providing less stressful operation on the transmission and a more pleasant ride for you. It's a standard feature on all automatic transmissions.

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BB06 - 7/28/2014 8:43:12 PM