2009 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 4×4 Review

By Roger Boylan

02.26.2009

hpim3119In Texas, nothing on the road is more imposing yet more anonymous than a big pickup truck. Of course, in such an enormous ranching and farming state, trucks are paramount in practicality and ruggedness; but, as we all know, many of them are simply “lifestyle statements,” especially in college towns such as San Marcos and Austin, where the typical driver with attitude is under 25 with a backward baseball cap and a jacked-up Chevy Silverado or Ford F-150. Some of these vehicles ride 2 to 3 feet above the rest of the traffic, with grill guards, extra-wide tires, and hunting lights, all (or mostly) statements of nothing more than callow machismo. But an imposing sight such a brute undeniably is, especially coming up fast in your rear-view mirror. And yet, there’s an anonymity about even the most thoroughly tricked-out Texas truck, because they’re all over the place–and will continue to be, even in this ailing economy, because Texans just love the things. Well-dressed matrons drive them. Priests and schoolteachers drive them. Even the recently retired President of the United States drives one (a Ford F-250 4×4) at his Crawford ranch, in preference to a car.

539wNearly 30% of the state’s vehicle registrations in 2008 were of pickups, most of them products of the ex-Big Three: Ford F-150s, Dodge Rams, and Chevrolet/GMC Silverado/Sierras, with an increasingly large niche for the Toyota Tundra (the Nissan Titan never quite pulled it off). So when my test Chevy Silverado LTZ 4×4 rolled up the driveway, and I swung myself on board, I felt that finally, sixteen years after emigrating from New York, I could pass as a Texan…but nobody would notice.

Beset at first by visions of parking-lot collisions and small creatures being crushed under my 18″ chromed aluminum wheels, I came to enjoy this hulking vehicle and to respect its potential. Of course, mine was the luxury model, the 4×4 Crew Cab at the LTZ trim level, featuring for its (wildly negotiable) $40K sticker price, in no particular order: dual-zone automatic climate control, power moon roof, Bose premium speaker system, XM Sirius satellite radio, rear audio system controls, Bluetooth hookup, color-keyed carpeting and rubberized vinyl floor mats (the latter a reminder that this was, originally, a vehicle destined for the muddy worksites of life, not the Neiman-Marcus parking lot), auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, remote keyless entry, remote vehicle starter system, very comfortable leather buckets (with 10-way power driver and front passenger seat adjusters and 4-way power lumbar control), heated seat cushions and seatbacks, power windows, heated power mirrors, electronic stability control (a very good thing in a vehicle with such a wide weight discrepancy between front and rear), side airbags, head curtain airbags, etc., etc.

hpim3120All of this was impelled forward by a 315-hp Vortec 5.3L V8 with 338 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine’s excellent cylinder deactivation system, whereby 4 of the 8 cylinders are shut down at moderate highway cruising speeds, renders the cabin almost silent and allows for highway mileage of nearly 20 mpg at 70 mph and an overall average of 18, not quite Prius levels but impressive for a vehicle of these dimensions (7000 lbs. GVW rating). Under acceleration, the baritone burbling of the V8 was a pleasant aural backdrop. Acceleration itself was very good, somewhere in the 7-sec. range for the 0-60 sprint and excellent for passing at higher speeds; I never hit a dead zone in a week of driving, under both expressway and back-road conditions. Power was administered in satisfactory doses by a smooth, unobtrusive six-speed transmission whose unfussy efficiency also contributed to the beast’s surprisingly moderate thirst.

My initial fears of clumsiness and poor maneuverability proved mostly unfounded. Of course, it’s no Miata, but the Silverado handles almost nimbly for its considerable size. Sightlines are straight and uncluttered, so as soon as you become familiar with the truck’s dimensions, and its limitations as a rally car, it’s almost as easy to drive as a Miata, if not quite as much fun; on the other hand, it’s a lot more pleasant for someone of my broad dimensions to ride in. The Crew Cab model seats four with room to spare, five at a pinch. The leather bucket seats are welcoming and ergonomically well conceived, with ideal lumbar adjustment; I could happily drive to, say, Oregon in this thing and not worry about lower back pain. However, my slender wife, although comfortable enough, felt somewhat lost in the leather acreage of the passenger seat and had to stretch to reach the armrest. No question, the Silverado is built for big folks. Even the rear seats are adult-sized, and there’s sufficient leg room back there for a couple of XXL guys. Those rear seats easily fold up, too, thereby providing enough storage space to accommodate five suitcases, or your grocery shopping. I managed to transport gardening equipment, pottery, and a week’s worth of food in the rear of the cab. There’s the cargo bed out back, of course, but in my test vehicle it was the 5.75-ft. short box, more than adequate for bags of mulch, cement, potting soil, and the like, less so for things like ladders and 4X8 planks, which simply won’t fit without the tailgate being lowered. (Or you could go for the Heavy-Duty version of the Silverado and its 6.6-ft. bed.)

hpim3122The truck is solidly built, emitting no squeaks or groans, and the panels fit tightly together, not always the case in Chevys past. The ride is smooth, especially on the highway, when you would hardly think you were in a truck at all. On rougher roads the suspension betrays its utilitarian origins, but not to the point of actual discomfort. The four-wheel system is a cinch to use: turn a switch on the dashboard once for 4-wheel High, if roads are treacherous, and twice for 4-wheel Low, if you’re wallowing in the Orinoco floodplain. Most of the time leaving it alone will be just fine.

2008 Chevrolet Silverado LTZInterior decor is sober, with luxury accents–the supple leather, the walnut trim, faux mais élégant –clashing with some oddly cheap details, such as the flimsy door pockets and the hard plastic on the dash. As in the Silverado’s cousin, the Traverse SUV/Crossover (review here), the HVAC controls are irritatingly fiddly little button things rather than the logical big knobs one yearns for; but after awhile you get used to anything, and by the end of my week’s tenure I was working the buttons by touch, having recalibrated my intuition. The gauges, at least, are well laid out, and if anything excessively informative; I have no need to stay informed of the temperature of the oil, or the exact degree of the battery’s charge, just whether these things are working or not.

After a week of commuting and hauling odds and ends with the big Chevy, I came to appreciate the maxi-pickup mystique. It has nothing to do with how many bags of cement you need to haul, and it goes way beyond machismo. It’s an image, even a romance, that evokes freedom, independence, toughness, self-reliance: all the things Americans used to believe in. Sitting at the wheel of a big pickup is like being captain on the bridge of your trawler, with the deck stretching out behind you and the horizon ahead. But your S.S. Silverado won’t make you seasick, and it smells a whole lot nicer than your average shrimper.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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7 Comments

  1. I have a great weakness for pickup trucks and I’ve owned a lot of them, but I have never used one as the conveyance back and forth to the grocery store to the office park where I work, etc. I’ve got a small (weekend) farm and I use it in that fashion. I can’t imagine using a truck like car, because what is the point? I know a lot of people that have trucks use them like cars, as you write, especially in the West and the South (where I live), but it seems sort of pointless and wrong.

    It’s like that orthodontist near where I live that has a nice Porsche that he never drives more than 60 mph. He just wants the look. He just playing dress-up, except with his vehicle.

  2. Allow me to answer Larry’s question. I have an F-150 that 90% of the time gets used like a car. I drive it to work (bank), errands during lunch, pick up the kids (love the SuperCrew), etc. Why do I do this? Because the other 10% of the truck’s use is pulling a ski boat, hauling mulch, furniture, and everything else we love our trucks for. Sure, I could buy a small car and save %50 in gas a month…but at what price. Another payment plus another vehicle to insure…that will buy a lot of gas in my truck. Sure, I would love to have a small manual hatch to fly around town in, but until I can afford it, you’ll see me lugging around in my truck.

    Hope this helps.

  3. If you’re actually using your truck for something a car can’t do, I applaud you. If not, if you just like “drivin a truck”, then I’m cool with that. It a personal preference, so go on with your bad self. What gets me is the people who rationalize why they “need” a truck. Or, an SUV. A woman with two kids now needs a big huling SUV to carry them around. The guy that picks something up twice a year from Home Depot, well he needs a truck. Heaven forbid he pays them to deliver whatever it is that he bought. His cousin needed help moving a couch which happens every eight years, well he needs a truck so he can help his family out.

    My truck? It’s got 187,000 miles on the odometer and I bought for $650 from a guy that never put a scratch on the floor of the bed. He drove it 78 miles to work and 78 miles back from work every day, and then wherever he drove it on the weekends. It passes inspection, still has some life in it, and BTW, it has plenty of scratches on it now. It stays dirty because it is a work truck. I named it Big Blue.

    The guy I bought the truck from replaced with another truck which he again uses to commute to work with, so maybe that will be my next work truck. But. I’ve got to give him credit because he says himself he doesn’t need a truck, he just likes driving a pickup truck. No bogus rationalization there.

  4. This truck pulls unlike any other, great interior and exterior, and this truck will never get stuck.
    The Main factor Is Mileage But Its Ok because Of Power

  5. Larry,

    You seem a little judgemental. This is America and people will drive what they like, regardless of how you judge them. Who are you to say that the mom with two kids doesn’s have a need to take her kids along with their friends to the movies or out shopping once a week. You’re just imposing your incorrect impressions on them. My family drive trucks (both my wife who drives a Suburban and myself who has owned pick-ups and Chevy Avalnches for their utilitarian convenience, their excellent visibility and their almost unmatched accident safety. I doubt you’re little commuting hatchback and you will look very good after crashing into my wife’s Suburban. This is America and if I chose to, I can protect my family behind 2.5 tons of sheetmetal with all the latest safety features and you’ll just have to live with it.

  6. Hummmm…I get it. Would ya’ll believe I drive a 09 Z71 4×4 LTZ because I’m 6’6″ tall and weigh 260lbs? Never mind I have 4 wheelers and dirt bikes that are just more of what I don’t need hahaha. I have had mine 2 months now and put 9000 miles on it and just drive around in circles not going anywhere cause I want to spend as much time in it as I can. Now that truck of yours Larry sounds just fine too and like you said it’s got 187K and still ready to party. Wonder how a Chevy Cobalt would work for ya at 200K? I imagine it would be DOA way before that on the roads I drive in AR here.

    Anyways, Point is there are many things to like about trucks period. rear wheel drive, reliability, ease of repairs, SIZE (hey, big is not a bad thing to me) versatility, safety, comfort and about 200 other things I won’t bore ya’ll with.

    For you folks that hate SUV’s that’s cool. I understand because I feel the same way about POS little 4 cyl front wheel drive gas shavers. I would rather ride a bicycle or just stay home as to jump in a Mustang II or KIA to go around the block. The neat thing about this country is we have a choice, so why choose uhhh…never mind. Hey, I’m a Capitalist and I’m gonna get all I can get and please save gas so I can have yours too.

    Hope you don’t think I’m picking on ya Larry…just kidding around but I am serious about my truck. I don’t tear the bed up on mine either, it will look good 10 years from now. The secret is to have a trailer like mine and tear it up…haul your crap in it. I find it a lot easier to work out of than the bed of my truck anyway.

    I remember back in the 60’s when my dad was in sales and he said he wished he could buy a truck but it wouldn’t be appropriate because he used his personal vehicle in sales. Too bad he died in 1975 because he would have really got a kick out of the available luxury you can have in a truck today like my Crew Cab LTZ and I’m using my personal vehicle in sales too. Know what? If a customer needed a pallet of product guess who would go to the warehouse and get it for them in a pinch?

    I’m smart enough to realize the future is not going to accommodate the vehicles we have always had in the past but pickups will survive at some level in some form or another because of demand. Oh, and for the record, our dentist here in town (we only have one) drives a Mercedes. Go figure.

  7. @ Larry: 3 words mate, Canadian roads + winter.

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