2003 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Review

2003 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - Silverado SS strikes.

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The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck is the second best-selling vehicle in America and the top seller at General Motors. Without the Silverado, it's questionable if GM would be the world's No. 1 vehicle producer--or even profitable.

So it's natural that a new, hot SS version is offered to give the Silverado the high-performance status of the hot rod Ford SVT Lighting pickup and upcoming Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup.

The Silverado was last revamped for 1999, and that was its first major redo since 1988. However, Chevrolet has continually added features to keep the Silverado up to date every year.

That's especially important with a significantly revamped rival Ford F-Series pickup just around the corner and a formidable Dodge Ram pickup competitor that was redesigned for 2002. Not to mention new full-size pickups coming from Toyota and Nissan.

GM has brought back the SS designation, which was on Chevrolet's hottest 1960s Camaros, Chevelles and Impala autos. No wonder the $39,205 SS (Super Sport) is the most expensive--and sexiest--Silverado.

The base $18,950 Silverado has a 200-horsepower V-6, manual gearbox, regular cab with two doors and rear-wheel drive. The Silverado SS has a 345-horsepower V-8, automatic transmission with special gears, extended cab with four doors and all-wheel drive.

The SS also has a full-time all-wheel-drive system that doesn't call for driver involvement and unique Z06 chassis package, including the Silverado's largest-ever 20-inch wheel and tire combination and two-inch-lower ride height.

The Silverado is offered only in black, blue or red paint with monochromatic trim that emphasizes an almost total lack of chrome. There are specially styled aluminum wheels and "SS'' emblems and embroidered headrests.

In between the base model and SS are a staggering array of rugged Silverado models that lead up to the SS, which I recently tested. There's a dazzling variety of engines, transmissions, cab sizes, wheelbases, pickup beds, four-wheel-drive systems--along with a wide range of option packages and comfort, convenience and utility features.

An especially noteworthy new option is GM's Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system, which reduces the turning diameter almost 25 percent and assists high-speed stability. However, it adds height, which is one reason the lowered Silverado SS isn't offered with it.

All Silverados have carlike handling and braking. Standard for all models are anti-lock brakes, air conditioning and an AM/FM radio, with higher-line models getting more standard features.

Chevrolet says there are more than 40 new major features or improvements for the 2003 Silverado. Besides the SS and Quadrasteer availability, new for the 2003 Silverado are fresh front styling, interior refinements, dual-level front air bags and a front passenger-sensing air bag system to protect children.

Also new are availability of XM Satellite Radio, dual-zone heating, ventilation and air conditioning and first-ever Bose audio system availability. A DVD video option also is offered for the first time.

One drawback is that extended-cab models such as the SS have rear-hinged back doors that don't open independently of front doors. Getting into the tall Silverado--even the lowered SS--calls for extra effort. And the rear-seat area of extended cab models need more leg room for 6-footers. However, there is good cargo space with the rear bench seat folded up.

Fuel economy of full-size pickups isn't very good. For instance, the base V-6 rear-drive model with a manual transmission offers the best Silverado economy, and it's only an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 21 on highways. The SS provides 13 city and 17 highway.

All Silverados drive much like a big car, with good steering, handling and braking. The SS version especially shines in those areas. However, rough roads bring out a bouncy ride, especially with an empty cargo bed.

The SS is the most fun to drive of all Silverados. It's fast off the line, but I expected quicker 65-75 mph passing times. The supercharged, 380-horsepower Ford SVT Lightning can outrun it, not only because the Lighting has more power but also because the Silverado has a heavy all-wheel-drive system and gearing for relaxed highway cruising. However, the Silverado's all-wheel drive gives it much greater traction than the Lightning when the snow falls.

The cab is quiet with a straightforward dashboard design. Special white gauges in the SS are easy to read, and that model's front seats are especially supportive.

Radio and climate controls are large, and the roomy front area contains a big covered console storage bin and hefty dual front cupholders. All doors have storage pockets, and the big front doors have unusually large interior handles--although some may find they're too low.

Pickup trucks once were just slapped together. But the Silverado is nicely built, with good fits and finishes and attention to detail. It's pricey for a pickup, but has a lot to offer.

CHEVROLET SILVERADO
Prices:
$18,950-$39,205

Likes:
New SS high-performance model. Smooth. Tough.

Dislikes:
Tight rear legroom for 6-footers in extended cab models. Bouncy ride on rough roads. Low fuel economy for SS model.


Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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