Your car won’t start so you’re trying to flag someone down to help you. A 911 Turbo approaches but you wave the forty-something driver on. He’s probably suffering from a mid-life crisis — that’s why he bought that flashy sportscar, what use will he be? You’re waiting for a guy with a pick-up to appear because he’ll definitely be able to help… Blokes that drive trucks are the sort of people others would likely turn to if they needed help, that’s the image the rugged vehicles bestow on them. Due to their utilitarian nature, they give their owners the appearance of strength and confidence.
So while cruising around in the 2016 Silverado Z71, I encounter a chap whose Kia has broken down on the E311, pull over, offer to help and then do this notion of thought no justice at all as he needs a jump-start and I don’t have my leads with me. And, since you can’t push-start an automatic, I’m suddenly about as useless as the guy in the Porsche…
Ah, but the hunky, bright red single-cab Chevy has plenty of use. For example, it has a large bed for all my tools to go in (er, I don’t have any) and a big, comfortable bench seat for at least two friends to sit on (nope, don’t have those either…) and for 2016, General Motors has improved the truck in a variety of ways.
This is an amenity-packed, multitasking, hard-as-nails machine that boasts a quiet cabin and brilliant off-road ability. It also looks great; the new exterior styling is easily the most noticeable change from last year and not only does it feature a new grille, but the design itself changes from trim level to trim level. The top-of-the-range LTZ trim has an especially chromed-up look, but our tester, the LT with the Z71 package, packs a more subdued black finish with body-colour inserts. Also new are LED daytime running lights (our LT trim has HID headlights and the stacked design has been ditched, the LTZ has LED headlights) and a bonnet with more contours than last year with the result being a more dramatic outward view from the driver’s seat. The bumper design is more angular and aggressive than before too and overall, the front end styling is eye-catching. The rest of the exterior is similar to the previous year’s and again three cab styles can be had; two-door regular cab, four-door extended cab and crew cab. I’ve always loved two-door trucks (it doesn’t get much better than a 1957 Task Force for me…) and even though the four-door variants offer more practicality, I’d want the less doory version with this six-foot six-inch standard bed (a bigger eight-foot bed is also available).
This is an amenity-packed, multitasking, hard-as-nails machine that boasts a quiet cabin and brilliant off-road ability.
The interior doesn’t seem to have changed too much from last year either. The bench seat, steering wheel and the dash have carried over unchanged; not that this is a complaint (the seat in particular is still very comfortable). There’s the addition of Apple CarPlay with smartphone integration operated via the 8.0in MyLink touchscreen. What’s neat about this tech is when a compatible phone is connected, the touchscreen imitates the phone’s interface and this makes using it very easy. Also, pairing up the Bluetooth is straightforward and the clarity of calls via the six-speaker sound system is very good indeed. It also packs a rear-view camera, bed light, tinted glass, freezing cold AC, cruise control, power door locks, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. All this is good to know, but this is an off-road machine designed to beat the dunes into submission, so how does it perform off the beaten track? Brilliantly.
The Z71 features off-road-oriented hardware like special shock absorbers, a heavy-duty air cleaner, hill descent control, underbody shields and recovery hooks. This, and a gutsy 5.3-litre V8 making 355bhp and 519Nm of torque mated to a six-speed automatic that provides smooth gear changes and sends the power to the massive rear-wheels — it doesn’t put a foot wrong on tricky surfaces. With so much torque on tap (it can tow up to 5,034kg) all you’ve got to do is bury the throttle when you think it’s bogging down a little and with all-wheel drive modes available too, you simply won’t get stuck in the sand.
The V8 has a seamless fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system that changes between V8 and V4 modes without even a hint, which comes in very handy when you’re driving along the highway, and though the 5.3-litre has plenty of grunt, more can be had with the 6.2-litre V8 married to a new eight-speed automatic.
The V8 has a seamless fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system that changes between V8 and V4 modes...
Though this seventh-generation truck is really impressive off-road, its on-road behaviour doesn’t fare as well, but this criticism can be levelled at almost all trucks on sale today. Its leaf-sprung rear axle’s deficiencies show up the moment you ride over a speed bump; the chassis shudders and vibrates and takes an age to settle. It has a decent turning circle in spite of its sheer size but isn’t the most agile; enter a corner too quickly and the body leans and the tyres scream but it never stops being fun to drive. Even around town when the roads are narrow and full of traffic, it has the ability to put a smile on your face; the electric power steering, which is very light, comes in handy when you need to manoeuvre this monster and you never tire of peering down into the cabins of Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. It really is that tall.
With a wide range of body styles, comfortable interior with some cool new tech and a line-up of powerful engines, the Silverado is a solid option in the pick-up segment. If/when you get your mid-life crisis, don’t go down the usual route of buying a sportscar, buy a truck and at least look like you’re the hands-on sort. Hmm, I wonder how that guy in the Optima got on…