by Jeff Johnston - Thursday, February 18, 2010
My first automobile was a Chevy Stepside 4x4. Some juvenile part of me lusted for a Camaro, but when the truck was muddied and bloodied the first day of hunting season, I knew I’d made a rare rational decision. I drove “Old Brown” for a decade, and there was normally a dead animal in the back. No doubt that truck helped verify my identity. I am an outdoorsman. … A Camaro? What was I thinking?
Nearly 20 years later I’ve found no reason to own anything but Chevy 4x4s. They’re comfortable, dependable, safe, attractive and tough.
Obviously I’m biased, and I relish a rusty Ford joke. So it was interesting to visit Michigan’s Timber Ridge Ranch—located just north of the parturition place of many a Chevy—to try to distract outdoor TV star Michael Waddell as he taped a five-part series of Silverado commercials. Along with info on the 2010 Z71 featuring a slick new appearance package, each three-minute video contains Waddell’s famous brand of redneck humor and, more seriously, hardcore whitetail hunting tips. (Check it out at www.accesstheoutdoors.com.) The trip would’ve been better had I loaded a big northern buck in the tester Chevy, but I did get to drive it between sets and talk to Waddell about hunting, trucks and guns.
Chevy’s Silverado 1500 Z71 4x4 Crew Cab is like a four-door sedan you can drive anywhere. The mid-level LT model I tested held an optional 5.3-liter V8 Vortec engine—a proven powerplant turning out 315 horses that’s harnessed to Chevy’s Hydra-Matic auto transmission. The Z71 moniker means it’s equipped with an upgraded suspension package that includes skid plates, a front stablizer bar and offroad jounce bumpers, and its Power Pack Plus option included a locking rear differential and heavy-duty trailering package rated to 8,400 pounds. In addition, an upgraded LT trim package carried a leather interior that could make a city girl think she’s in a Cadillac, and the new appearance package's 18-inch aluminum wheels, chrome mesh grill and tow hooks, fog lamps and Rancho shocks made me ride taller than I actually am.
Unfortunately, my goal of hunting more than working has not yet been realized, so I spend more time driving to the office than to the woods. Therefore, I appreciate Silverado’s cabin luxuries. Posh captain’s chairs, steering-wheel-located controls, a premium Bose stereo with USB ports and XM radio, OnStar, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a remote tire pressure gauge and copious cup holders could preserve anyone’s sanity when the highway commute looks like a scene from “War of the Worlds.”
When I hunt I use the back seat as a stage for my gear, so the fact that one or both portions of the Crew Cab’s split rear bench can be easily folded out of the way to reveal nearly 3 feet of floorboard for guns, gear and spoiled dogs didn’t go unnoticed.
Another thing that didn’t go unnoticed is the Silverado’s five-star crash safety rating. Room for cargo space and towing capacity aside, another reason I drive a full-size truck despite my current suburban habitation is safety. I like sitting high over the road. Frankly, I’d rather hit a wayward deer—or God forbid a truck—at 70 mph with a beefy steel bumper, and front and head-curtain side impact bags than with the windshield of a compact-anything.
Want more peace of mind? Silverado’s warranty covers everything bumper-to-bumper for three years or 36,000 miles; the drivetrain is covered for five years/100,000 miles. What’s more, this new truck is not like Waddell’s ’63 fixer-upper: The 5.3-liter in the 1500 gets 18 mpg on the highway. (The Hybrid gets 20 mpg highway, and may be worth the extra thousands just to get in carpool lanes.)
I think I’ll always drive Silverado 4x4s because I don’t like getting stuck, I have a ton of gear, I wish to stay safe and sane on the highway, and and I’m not immune to creature comforts. Besides, I imagine it’s much better to load a dead deer in the bed of a pickup than in the passenger seat of a Camaro. But honestly I wouldn’t know. I’ve always been a pickup man.
Drivetrain: Vortec 5.3-L gas engine (315 hp @ 5,200 rpm; 338 lb.-ft. torque @ 4,400 rpm); 6-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission
Suspension: front—independent; rear—2-stage multi-leaf
Brakes: 4-wheel ABS; front disc, rear drum
Dimensions and Capacities: wheelbase—
143.5"; overall length—230.2"; width—80"; height—73.7"; ground clearance, front—9", rear—12.1"; curb weight—5,348 lbs.; GVWR—7,000 lbs.; payload—1,567 lbs.; trailer capacity—8,371 lbs. (w/optional towing package); fuel capacity—26 gals.
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg hwy
Price as Tested: $40,110
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