THERE’S probably a good reason our cousins in the USA call vehicles with a tray behind the cabin trucks, and not utes, like we do. That’s because their pickups are mighty big, like the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71.
Climbing aboard Chevy’s Silverado 1500 for the first time can be a little daunting for Aussies used to a dual cab one tonner or a Holden or Falcon ute, but you quickly adapt to the shear size, and impressive performance, handling and ride.
That’s without even mentioning the amazing space they deliver in the cab and in the load bed, and this is the baby model. And so you know, the Silverado 1500 LTZ we’re testing, starts life as a left hook pickup truck.
It’s imported and converted to right hand drive by Walkinshaw Group (or as you might know them, HSV). That process adds to the cost. In the US, they retail for about $80,000 Australian, but here, you’ll be paying $113,000 plus on-roads.
And that’s before you dive into the extensive options list. Despite all that, US-soured pickups are growing in popularity down under, evidenced by the success of the more affordable RAM 1500 (which is converted in the same factory as the Silverado).
We did call the 1500 LTZ Z71 the toddler of the range, and that’s a bit of a misnomer, especially given it’s 5585mm long and 2000mm wide, and is just shy of 2600kg in weight. Negotiating the Westfield parking lot is a challenge, but not impossible.
There’s no small diesel under the hood either, the Silverado is powered by a 6.2-litre petrol V8 producing 313kW and a massive 624Nm of torque, which helps this large machine to easily get up and go when it’s called for.
Despite its size and weight, it can accelerate from 0-100km/h in a very respectable time of around 5.5 seconds. The price you pay for experiencing that sort of acceleration is the fact the fuel gauge drops in the other direction almost as quickly.
When driven carefully, the Silverado can be surprisingly frugal. We had average fuel consumption down to around 10.5-litres/100km on a cruisy highway trip up the Coast, with the big 6.2-litre purring along at a shade over 1000rpm.
That economy is thanks to the dynamic fuel management system, which seamlessly and automatically deactivates up to six of the eight cylinders on cruise. This system is so good you barely know it’s happening.
The major key to the impressive performance and fuel efficiency is the 10-speed automatic transmission, which is one of the great pieces of corporate cooperation, having been jointly developed with Ford (and is also found in the Mustang).
The 10-speed auto is smooth, quiet, efficient and shifts without fuss, no matter the situation. The Silverado gearstick is a throwback to another era though, and is in fact a column shift, which is fine when you get used to it, but a little cumbersome to start with.
The Z71 is a performance model, so features enhanced suspension, but don’t expect sports car-like handling. This is after all, a big and heavy pickup truck, and when pushed hard in corners you realise it takes a lot of physics to get it around the bend.
Having said that, it generally handles with a flat and controlled nature, but the damping is still a little on the soft side for Australian taste. A run across the Bell’s Line of Road and on to Bathurst and Oberon revealed it can easily cruise, but it’s no track day monster.
The latest Silverado 1500 rides on GM’s new T1XX platform, which makes it 200kg lighter than its predecessor, and offers better chassis engineering. It’s also aided in Australia by the fact that Walkinshaw uses its engineering smarts to apply its own suspension tune.
On smooth tarmac, the big beast handles particularly well on its 20-inch alloy wheels, although on rougher broken bitumen and gravel roads there are signs of scuttle shake and excessive shudder when unladen.
You have to remember though that it’s built to carry a load, so with that view in mind, it performs pretty impressively. Our test vehicle also boasted an optional Brembo brake package which significantly improved stopping power.
The rear tray can handle a 712kg payload, with a towing capacity of 3500kg, with the standard 50mm tow ball or up to 4500kg with a 70mm ball. That alone makes the Silverado and other American pickups hugely attractive to caravan hauling grey nomads.
The rear tub is lined with a tough sprayed-on black ripple coating that resists damage and protect the steel tray underneath. The rear tailgate also features an electric open and close function, and can even be opened from the key fob.
The Silverado has selectable Autotrac four-wheel drive, with normal 2WD and a two speed electronic transfer case for 4WD. We didn’t test its off road capabilities save for a wet gravel road but its sheer size could limit the places it can go in the Australian bush.
Interior space is abundant in the big Chevrolet, in fact if there was any more space inside this machine NASA would need to manage it. Seriously though, the room is tremendous, easily fitting five large adults, with enough leg room for an NBA starting roster.
Squashed is something you won’t feel inside the Silverado cabin. There’s a tonne of storage space too. One clever innovation in the rear is the fold up seat squab, which can free passenger area for luggage or cargo inside the cab.
There are a pile of USB charging points and a wireless charging pad in the centre console, however we had trouble making this work reliably during our time in the Chevy. The dash is alive with buttons and controls too, as is the steering wheel.
It’s all very well laid out though, and generally easy to use, although some of the buttons are a little small and at times difficult to hit accurately while travelling at speed.
The infotainment system revolves around an 8.0-inch LED touchscreen, coupled to a superb Bose sound system, with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are audio and mode control buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes as well.