NUMBERS GAME

WANT TO MAKE A BIG STATEMENT? THEN LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE CHEVROLET SILVERADO.

WORDS & PHOTOS FRASER STRONACH

WHOEVER first said, “I haven’t met a Newton metre I don’t like” probably just jumped out of a Chevrolet Silverado. When driving the big Chev you get to meet lots of Newton metres, some 1234 of them, in fact! That’s right, the Silverado claims 1234Nm (at just 1600rpm) turbo-diesel V8. It also makes a and only needs 2800rpm to do so. Did someone also say, “there’s no substitute for cubic capacity?”

These big numbers are tempered by the fact the Silverado is big everywhere – and heavy. It’s more than six metres long, nearly two metres tall and weighs in excess of 3500kg, which brings its power-to-weight and power-to-drag ratios some of the way back to the field.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

FIRE UP the Silverado’s big diesel V8 and, sure, it sounds like a diesel and it sure sounds big, but otherwise it’s remarkably quiet and refined. Much quieter than the 4.5-litre V8 diesel in an LC79, even if the Toyota is more a familiar yardstick rather than a direct competitor.

Once underway, the big V8 continues to impress with its refinement and general civility, but even more so with the supremely effortless manner in which it dismisses every driving duty. Steep hills? In the Silverado’s playbook, they don’t even remotely exist.

Pedal to the medal the Silverado will sprint to 100km/h in less than seven seconds, despite its considerable weight, while overtaking from highway speeds is also effortless. The six-speed Allison automatic is surprisingly smooth shifting, but the right-side column shifter takes a little getting used to.

Our test fuel consumption averaged out at 17.7 litres/100km, which doesn’t seem bad given the weight, size and performance of the Silverado. A 136-litre fuel tank also means a decent range.

Model Range and Equipment

THE RANGE starts with the 2500HD WT (or ‘Work Truck’), which has seating for six and gets leather, carpet, eight airbags, a seven-inch touchscreen, a rear-view camera, and a six-speaker audio system. It rides on 18-inch steelies wearing LT ATs. Next up is the 2500HD LTZ, which seats five with the electric-adjust front seats. The LTZ adds power adjustable pedals, steering-wheel reach, two-position memory for the driver, push-button start, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a BOSE audio system. Forward collision and lane-departure warnings join 35mm twin-tube gas-charged suspension dampers, a thicker front stabiliser bar, transfer-case protection and 18-inch alloys. The ‘Midnight Edition’ is effectively a ‘black-look’ LTZ, while the ‘Custom Sport Edition’ is a white-themed LTZ riding on 20s. The top-of-the-range 3500HD has dual rear wheels and a longer tub.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

THE SILVERADO has very light steering for a vehicle of its size – perhaps a little too light – but is nevertheless confident and stable on the road. However, there is some bump steer at the rear on badly potholed roads when there’s no weight on the tray. Otherwise, the unladen ride is more than acceptable. There’s not much road noise either, which also contributes to the generally polished and refined feel.

OFF-ROAD

THANKS to an Eaton self-locking (mechanical) rear diff and electronic traction control that stays active on the front wheels when the rear locker engages, the Silverado has good tractive ability. However, it’s sheer size, shallow approach angle and modest wheel travel at the front limit its off-road performance, even if it has plenty of clearance. To be fair to the big Chev it’s not designed as an off-road vehicle as such; its 4x4 system is more there to help on low-traction, snow and ice-covered roads, a common US driving environment.

CABIN AND SAFETY

THE TALL step-up to the Silverado’s cabin is made easy by the sidesteps and well-placed assist handle, and once onboard you’ll find a familiar Silverado theme – everything is plus-sized. This entry-level WT model seats six courtesy of a fixed seat (with a lap-only belt) above the transmission tunnel between the driver and front passenger seats. When not in use the backrest of this centre seat folds down to provide a console with three drinkholders and storage. The driver gets a big and extra comfortable seat, but at this spec level there’s no steering-wheel-reach or seat-height adjustment. For that you need to move up to an LTZ (see Model Range and Equipment).

There’s plenty of room in the back seat, too, for six-foot-plus adults – even when the front seats are pushed right back to accommodate an equally tall driver or front-seat passenger. Yet, there’s no centre headrest in the rear. The Silverado hasn’t undergone local ANCAP safety testing, but is rated as a five-star truck by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the USA.

PRACTICALITIES

IN MANY ways the Silverado’s raison d’etre is towing and with a heavy-duty hitch complete with pintle coupling it can tow up to 5890kg. As standard, the Silverado is fitted with a 70mm hitch receiver that is good for a towing capacity of 4500kg provided you use a 70mm ball.

Special towing features include a transmission tow mode, exhaust brake, trailer wiring pre-installed and a built-in trailer-brakebias adjuster.

The Silverado’s payload is, ultimately, less impressive at 975kg. However, the huge tray is perfect for bulky items, while the corner steps and grab assists make it dead easy to climb up into the tray.

The Silverado is imported and converted to right-hand drive by HSV and will be sold through HSV/Chevrolet dealers and 54 (growing to 61) authorised Holden dealers.

Made in Oz

HSV ISN’ the only company to import, convert and market American pick-up trucks in Australia, but with a long established connection with General Motors through its 30-year relationship with Holden, it’ probably a step ahead of any of the independent importers. HSV prefers to call its work on the trucks re-engineering’ rather than converting them from left- to right-hand drive, and we took a tour of the Melbourne facility to see where it all happens.

The Chevrolet Silverados are re-engineered’ on one of three production lines alongside the Chevrolet Camaro, which is also sold by HSV and the RAM trucks that Walkinshaw re-engineers’ for Ram Trucks Australia. The HSV SportsCat Colorado is built in another building on the same premises.

Around 100 man-hours goes into the process for the Silverado and it takes two days for the LHD truck to be converted. Along the way the cabin, including front fenders and radiator support, is lifted off the chassis and is moved along its own line alongside the rolling chassis.

The cab has its interior removed and replacement panels welded into the firewall to accommodate the left-to-right conversion, and then the interior is refitted using a new dash pad, re-engineered heater box and the original centre stack and gauge cluster.

The OE steering column, box and links are removed from the front of the chassis, bracing is welded to the right-hand side of the chassis where a new steering box is fitted, and the crossmember is notched’ to provide clearance for the new drag link. The steering box is a new casting that mirrors the OE LHD one and it is fitted with the internals from the OE box by an outside steering specialist.

It’ the closest you can get to a genuine factory conversion.

SUM UP

THE SILVERADO may look like a big and beefy truck, but it doesn’t drive like one. What’s more, you get a truckload worth of truck for what seems like a very reasonable asking price – even if the WT as tested here feels a bit skinny on kit. And if towing is your go, then the Silverado is the go.