Since the current generation of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 debuted four years ago, competing trucks have outpaced the Chevy with recent redesigns. But don't assume the Silverado (or its GMC Sierra twin) is ready to be put out to pasture just yet. Over its production run, this full-size truck has seen its share of improvements on top of the solid foundation with which it started. Despite the mounting pressure from rival manufacturers, the 2011 Silverado 1500 remains one of the best trucks in this category.
In terms of capabilities, the Silverado 1500 ranks right up there with its competition in terms of towing capacities, body style choices and option choices -- the differences are very slight. The Chevy is notable, however, for its smooth ride and low wind and road noise levels. Factor in comfortable seats -- at least in the upper trim levels -- and the Silverado earns our endorsement as a long-distance road-tripper.
The 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500 is not without a few faults, though. In the Work base model trim, the interior is aesthetically dull compared to competitors from Dodge and Toyota. The base V6 engine is a hindrance, as it struggles to adequately motivate this large truck. And maneuverability is hampered by a large turning radius that leads to more frequent multiple-point turns.
Despite such faults, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 still represents a worthy choice in the very competitive full-size truck segment. In a recent Edmunds comparison test, the Chevy finished a close 3rd place, bested by the Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra, and narrowly edged out the Ford F-150. The Ford pickup has more powerful engine choices this year, but the close results from our comparison remind us that all of these trucks are up to the task. As such, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 remains a solid choice in our book.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that is offered in standard cab, extended cab and crew cab body styles. Standard and extended cabs are available with either a standard 6.5-foot bed or an 8-foot long bed. Crew cabs only come with a short bed that measures 5-foot-8.
Regular cabs can be had in base Work or midlevel LT trims, while the extended and crew cabs are also available in LS and the range-topping LTZ trim. The Work trim comes with the bare necessities, which include air-conditioning (extended- and crew-cab versions), a trip computer, a tilt steering wheel, OnStar telematics, vinyl seating, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat and a CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The LS adds full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, satellite radio and adjustable lumbar support for the driver.
The LT trim adds upgraded audio speakers and a USB jack, premium cloth seating, a lockable compartment with a power outlet built into the center cushion of the split front seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The LTZ piles on alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control (in extended and crew cabs), an exclusive dash design with wood and metallic accents, leather upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable heated front bucket seats, driver-seat memory settings, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, remote engine start and a Bose audio system with a six-disc CD changer and rear audio controls.
Options include several towing packages, the Z71 Off-Road package (skid plates, off-road suspension), special regional packages, 18- and 20-inch wheels, upgraded audio systems, a navigation system with real-time traffic updates and a rearview camera, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, heated power-folding outside mirrors, a sunroof, a power-sliding rear window, a cargo management system and rear park assist.
There is also the XFE (extra fuel economy) trim variant for the two-wheel-drive 5.3-liter V8 crew cab that features aerodynamic enhancements and lightweight aluminum components that improve fuel economy. An EZ Lift tailgate is also offered, and requires only about half the effort to open and close, compared to the standard tailgate.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500 is available with four different engine choices. Work trucks are powered by a standard 4.3-liter V6 that produces 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Buyers may upgrade to a 4.8-liter V8 that makes 302 hp and 305 lb-ft, or a 5.3-liter V8 that's good for 315 hp and 335 lb-ft. The LS is only offered with the 4.8-liter V8. The LT trim, depending on body style, will have one of these two V8s as standard, while the LTZ has the 5.3-liter engine as standard. A 6.2-liter V8 is available as an option on select models and makes 403 hp and 417 lb-ft.
A four-speed automatic transmission with a tow and haul mode is standard on Silverado pickups with the base V6 and 4.8-liter V8. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s utilize a six-speed automatic. In a recent Edmunds test, a Silverado with a 6.2-liter V8 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is quick for a full-size pickup. Properly equipped, a Silverado 1500 can tow up to 10,700 pounds.
Buyers have a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Work and LS trims with 4WD have a traditional floor-mounted selector for the transfer case. All other 4WD trims have Autotrac, which features an automatic setting that shifts into 4WD when wheel slippage is detected.
Fuel economy estimates range from 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for a crew cab XFE down to 12/19/14 mpg for a 4WD Silverado 1500 fitted with the 6.2-liter V8.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum) and stability control. Front side and side curtain airbags are also standard. Four-wheel disc brakes are available as part of the Max Trailering package.
In government crash tests, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 earned the top rating of five stars in frontal collisions. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, a Silverado crew cab earned a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection and a second-best score of "Acceptable" for side-impact testing. In our testing, a Silverado crew cab with four-wheel disc brakes stopped from 60 mph in a short 120 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features:
On the whole, the Silverado's interior fit and finish ranks highly, though base models tend to look rather dull compared to their rivals. The pricey LTZ trim dresses up the cabin significantly, with a unique upscale dash and door panel treatment, a full center console and attractive wood grain and metallic accents. Crew-cab models feature comfortable rear seats with flip-up seat cushions that provide a nearly flat load floor. Interior storage is merely adequate, with small cupholders and haphazard center console organization.
Unlike previous generations of pickups, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is actually pleasant to drive. The steering is light but reasonably precise, and the truck's comfortable seats and smooth, quiet ride make road trips enjoyable. The Silverado's turning circle is a bit larger than those of most other trucks, however.
Acceleration is sluggish with the base V6, while the 4.8-liter V8 provides adequate power. The 5.3-liter V8 feels brawny and the 6.2-liter V8 turns the Silverado into a veritable muscle truck. The six-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with the two bigger V8s does an admirable job of keeping power on tap, while the four-speed feels outdated by comparison.