Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 pickups got a slight makeover for 2016, just a couple of years after a complete redesign, and for 2017, even more models are offered with the new eight-speed automatic transmission.
These trucks got new exterior accents and technology upgrades for 2016, along with some interior design changes – including a center console that’s more suited to supporting our favorite gadgets.
One of our favorites is the Z71 off-road model, which we tested this past week in the crew cab configuration and uplevel LTZ trim, with standard four-wheel drive, 5.3-liter V-8 engine, short cargo box, and the Silverado’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. Base price was $40,090 (plus $1,295 freight).
Our Z71 also came with the special midnight edition package ($1,050), which turned the Silverado into an aggressive-looking pickup, ready for any driving conditions, on or off the road.
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Besides the black exterior and cool-looking Duratrac blackwall off-road tires, we had a jet-black leather interior. Other midnight edition extras included black Chevy bowtie emblems; 18-inch, five-spoke black-painted alloy wheels; body-color door handles, mirror caps and side molding; Z71 grille insert; black front skid plate; black belt molding; and front and rear park assist.
Silverado, which is General Motors’ best-selling vehicle overall, got a more-muscular appearance last year, designed to help build on the momentum from the 2014 redesign.
Among the tweaks were new front-end designs with bold horizontal elements, sculpted hoods and dramatic lighting.
Also arriving last year were the updated Chevy MyLink connectivity system, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, and some new safety features.
For 2017, the Silverado is offered in regular, double and crew cab versions, with double and crew models featuring rear doors that swing out to the rear. All trim levels are offered with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive with two-speed transfer cases.
Three cargo-box lengths are available: 5-foot-8, 6-foot-6, and 8-foot. The longer 6-foot-6 box is offered on the crew cab as an option over that model’s usual 5-foot-8 short box, which came on our Z71. The 6-foot-6 box is standard on the double cab models, while the regular cab versions, with no back seat or rear doors, can be fitted with the 6-foot-6 or 8-foot bed.
Engine choices include a 4.3-liter V-6, 5.3-liter V-8, and 6.2-liter V-8. EPA ratings for the 5.3-liter engine are the best in the segment for gasoline-powered trucks, at 16 mpg city/23 highway with rear-wheel drive, and 16/22 with four-wheel drive.
The Silverado’s four-wheel-drive system includes low-range gearing through the two-speed transfer case, and an automatic-locking rear differential.
With the Silverado’s crew cab models, there are full-size rear doors that allow for easy passenger or cargo access to the rear seating area. The rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding arrangement so it can be moved out of the way to accommodate cargo that you might want to carry inside, out of the weather (such as your groceries, or the box carrying your new big-screen TV).
Available high-tech safety features include lane-departure warning, forward collision alert, and a safety-alert seat that vibrates to warn of a potential forward collision.
Among other standard or optional features, depending on the model, are moveable cargo tie-downs; LED lights for the cargo box; chrome exhaust tip; an underbody shield to help protect components from rocks and other off-road obstacles; front tow hooks; power/heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals; hill-start assist; front and rear body-color bumpers; and the EZ-Lift locking tailgate.
GM’s CornerStep bumper and built-in handgrips are included, to make it easier to step up into the bed. The EZ-Lift tailgate is better balanced to make it easier to raise or lower.
The 5.3-liter Ecotec flex-fuel V-8 comes with an aluminum block, cylinder deactivation, and ratings of 355 horsepower and 383 foot-pounds of torque. Cylinder deactivation cuts out four of the cylinders during level highway cruising to improve gas mileage.
Among other standard features are four-wheel antilock brakes with GM’s DuraLife brake rotors; electric power steering; a fully boxed hydro-formed steel frame; electronic stability control; a 4.2-inch color driver-information screen and eight-inch touch screen for audio/navigation; rearview camera system; and halogen projector-beam headlights. OnStar is standard, and offers turn-by-turn navigation.
The cab is made of high-strength steel, and standard safety features include trailer-sway control, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags with rollover protection, and tire-pressure monitoring.
Our tester’s LTZ Plus Package ($770) gave us power-adjustable pedals (great for those of us with short legs), a heated steering wheel, and the Bose audio system.
For safety, we also had the enhanced driver alert package ($945), which tacked on active lane-keep assist, forward collision alert, low-speed automatic forward braking, Intellibeam headlights, and the GM safety alert seat, which shakes under the driver to warn of an impending potential collision or other emergency situation. It’s rather disconcerting the first time the seat starts vibrating, but it’s a great safety feature.
Our truck included GM’s new dash warning and audible alert reminding the driver to check the back seat for babies or pets before getting out of the vehicle. We all know how important that is in helping to avoid senseless tragedies.
For $995 extra, our Z71 had the power sunroof. And for an additional $650, we had heated and vented front bucket seats. A $510 package added the front leather bucket seats with the enhanced center console, which included two cupholders, a gadget cubby/tray in front of the cupholders, USB ports and power outlets in front of the tray.
Finally, for $495 there was the navigation and audio system with eight-inch color touch screen and the Chevy MyLink features.
We were able to take the Z71 on a couple of mild off-road jaunts, but nothing serious. I have to note here that I have an earlier model of the Silverado 1500 Z71 extended-cab pickup as one of my own vehicles, but this newest model has spoiled that for me. This truck is so much improved over the one I have – two generations ago – that I could see myself going for a new one.
Our week in the Silverado also included a couple of highway trips, and it was just as much at home on the interstate as it was in the woods and on the beach.
The tester was configured for five passengers, and there was ample leg, knee, and headroom for adults in all of those seating positions. The front bucket seats were particularly comfortable.
There was no lack of power from the 5.3-liter engine, and the eight-speed automatic shifted seamlessly. The suspension insulated us fairly well from road faults – including the ridiculous speed bumps in my own gated community.
Silverado’s overall safety score from the federal government testing program is five stars, the highest rating. It also received five stars for frontal and side crashes, and four stars for rollover protection.
Total sticker price for our Z71 midnight edition was $55,800, including freight and $5,415 in options and accessories.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 Crew Cab LTZ short bed
The package: Full-size, Five- or six-passenger, four-door, four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, light-duty pickup truck.
Highlights: This is the off-road version of Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 Crew Cab model. It comes with a variety of standard features and a long list of options to allow consumers to customize it to their needs and tastes.
Negatives: Can get pricey with all the options.
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 355 HP./383 foot-pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Length: 230 inches.
Curb weight: 5,299 pounds.
Cargo capacity (payload): 2,120 pounds.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain both rows.
Towing capacity: 11,700 pounds.
EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/20 highway (5.3, 4WD, 8-speed).
Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/regular unleaded.
Base price (2017 1500 Z71 Crew Cab LTZ short box 4WD): $49,090, plus $1,295 freight.
Price as tested: $55,800, including freight and options (Z71 LTZ Crew Cab 4WD with Midnight Edition Package).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.