Driver's Seat: Silverado a reliable choice, but fuel economy suffers


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2013 Chevy Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab LTZ Z71: Quick and commodious.

Price: $48,514 as tested ($42,440 base price; more on options later)

Marketer's pitch: "The workhorse that's also up for the getaway."

Conventional wisdom: It's not an F150.

Reality: Nice all-around truck, but with a thirsty downside.

A loyal bunch: Pickup truck owners tend to be a loyal bunch. The Ford F150 has won a huge following over the years and always leaves the Chevy Silverado -- and every other truck -- as an also-ran. Ford has never provided me with an F150 to test, but if it's better than this, it must be one heck of a truck. The Silverado does almost everything fairly well.

But Chevrolet has to keep on trying. It'll get a redesign for 2014, its first since 2007. So here's a last look at the old style, as a comparison and perhaps to inspire readers who shop for good deals on a leftover.

Surprisingly peppy: The 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 really motivates this truck. I assumed it had a much bigger engine because it was so powerful and the revs stayed amazingly low. The six-speed automatic transmission worked smoothly and seamlessly.

The Z71 Appearance Package added $545 to the price. Frankly, I'd be happier with the power and no decals.

Good handling: The handling is not bad for a large truck. It does curves well and winding roads not too badly. But perhaps its best skill is smoothing out seriously bumpy city streets.

By comparison, I recall the Toyota Tundra as "floppy" and Dodge Ram 1500 Sport as equally user-friendly as the Silverado.

Long climb?: Getting into the Silverado didn't seem as challenging as climbing Mount Tundra. Perhaps the $689 chrome steps helped, but I doubt it.

Nice tune: The exhaust note is a real hot-rod sound, making fast getaways even more fun.

Down side: The heater controls and tiny display made Mr. Driver's Seat squint like an old man, which is probably not a selling point in this bracket. And the buttons for temperature, fan and mode are much harder to read than knobs would be.

Simple screen: The touch screen with navigation is pretty nice, as well it should be, for $2,250. And changing stations on Sirius is not quite as complicated as last week's Buick Encore. Having the map in full-screen mode requires a click of the "source" button before changing your tunes. If you have presets, the steering wheel buttons work, but many vehicles allow tuning while still looking at the map.

Clear buttons: The steering wheel buttons all seemed easy to handle and find, and I especially liked the triggers for volume.

Other options: In addition to the options already mentioned, a power sunroof added $995 to the price tag, and a rear-view camera, $450.

"Hello, OnStar?": The location of the automatic door lock button makes it really easy to hit when you're pulling the handle to open the door. More than a few times I inadvertently locked the doors, but fortunately I had the keys with me.

Comfort: Front seat passengers get big seats and plenty of room to spread out.

Friends and stuff: The giant cargo box in between the front seats appears almost big enough to hold a small child. A giant-sized phone tray with grippy rubber surface holds phones for all five seats.

The back seat has a fair amount of legroom for passengers for a second row in a pickup. Three will fit across the cab with no trouble but the seatbacks seem a little short.

And more stuff: The Silverado I tested came with a typical extended-cab bed. Mr. Driver's Seat was fortunate enough to take delivery on a love seat for the lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat, so we got to test out the most important part. The cargo area was easy to get to and lots of hooks and slots hold bungees to help secure stuff.

Fuel economy: This is the other reason I thought it had a much bigger engine. This little piggy came in at just under 16 mpg, the worst I'd observed in any vehicle I've ever tested -- including a Boss Mustang, Lexus LX570 and Chevy Camaro 2SS.

Where it's built: Silao, Mexico.

How it's built: Consumer Reports expects the Silverado to run about average in reliability.

In the end: That 16 mpg is nothing to sneeze at. I have an aged 2002 Silverado with a six-cylinder that has never broken 17 mpg, and for that reason I'm selling it and buying a trailer. I'm sure other engine choices improve on this number a bit, but I think the first truckmaker to improve real-life fuel economy will win big.

autonews

Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com.


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