If you are in the market for a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Premium, you probably either like American things, like towing big things, or like big V8 petrol engines. Probably some combination of all three.
The Silverado is a size and style of pickup truck that’s perfectly normal in the US, but seems comically oversized and over-the-top to Kiwis (the 1500 on test is the small one, by the way). This Chevrolet is one purveyor of the segment in New Zealand; the other is the Ram. Both are “remanufactured” to right-hand drive in Australia with the blessings and assistance of their respective factories, so they come with proper warranty and parts/service backing.
In the Silverado’s case, it’s pretty much a factory vehicle anyway. It comes to NZ via General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV), a division that partners with Walkinshaw Group in Australia for the right-hand drive work.
When even the maker’s own website says “Chrome takes centre stage” on the LTZ Premium, you know you’re in for a treat. The grille is a head-high wall of mirrors, all the more remarkable when you consider Chevrolet claims this is its most aerodynamic truck ever. Okay then.
It’s easy to get completely distracted by the Silverado’s vast exterior dimensions (nearly 6m long and 1.9m high) and enormous 6.2-litre petrol V8 powerplant. But that’s missing the point. What’s truly remarkable about the Silverado is the outrageously-fit-for-purpose suite of features and equipment that makes it a tray-excellent truck.
The cargo bed is vast: 1.8 long, with Durabed spray-on lining, LED lighting and tray camera as standard. The tailgate has both power-down and power-up operation – the later only from the cabin, but it’s a feature Chevrolet says is a first for this segment of truck.
We’ve been going ga-ga about new Ford Ranger features like the box step, but of course it’s the kind of thing US trucks have had forever; the Silverado has a chunky step at each corner of the rear bumper (yes, it’s called CornerStep) that allows you to easily leap the high wellside for loading.
The Silverado one-ups the Ranger/Hilux one-tonner class with a braked tow rating of 4.5 tonnes. Towing preparation is standard, including a hitching camera and in-vehicle “trailering” app; there’s even a Trailer View option with additional camera available for keeping an eye on the horsies. There’s a bit of opportunity cost with the payload, though: the Silverado is only rated for 760kg.
If we keep talking cameras, that’s because the Silverado has a lot of them, offering 15 different views around the vehicle. It goes a long way towards making the big fella a lot easier to handle in Kiwi environs than you’d think, although the LTZ still takes up a lot of real estate.
The powertrain is a highlight: the 6.2-litre V8 and 10-speed automatic are a great combo, smooth and pretty efficient relative to the Silverado’s other capabilities. It’s quick if you need it to be (0-100km/h in six seconds), but in normal driving the engine is completely unstressed. The consumption claim of 12.8l/100km seems highly optimistic on paper, but we averaged 13.5l/100km over two weeks without being particularly kind, and with a lot of urban driving.
The LTZ Premium comes with a full suite of driver-assistance features, including adaptive cruise control.
Away from smooth “freeways” (as they say in Americaland), the Silverado’s ride is not always happy on bumpy Kiwi roads. You can’t expect great things from a massive pickup on leaf rear springs, but it’s not as supple as the rival Ram 1500 or smaller Kiwi off-road trucks like the Ranger and Hilux.
The Z71 suspension package and all-terrain tyres, standard on NZ Silverado models, might be a factor. But you want the bragging rights of the full off-road package with “Rancho” shocks, right? Also part of Z71 specification are a low-range transfer case, auto-locking differential and an off-road-optimised air filter.
There’s nothing flashy about the cabin architecture, but it’s notable for the deeply impressive build quality of the GMSV right-hook conversion; many of those in the know say the fit and finish is superior to the left-hand drive factory product.
There’s good tech everywhere, including wireless Apple CarPlay with a nicely angled Qi charger that keeps your mobile in place on the pad.
It goes without saying there’s storage everywhere, from the cavernous box between the front seats to the clever knooks built into the backrests of the rear chairs; they’re big enough to hide a laptop.
Big numbers (capacity, dimensions, towing) make the Silverado something of a novelty in a NZ context, but there’s genuine appeal and ability in the powertrain and packaging. It’s an accomplished and, we found, ultimately quite endearing machine. One downside of the way Australasia gets its right-hook Silverados is that we're often a step behind the US in model years; that's the case here, with a facelifted model launched there last year.
As an aside, the new top-spec Silverado model in the US has GM’s Super Cruise technology, which allows legal hands-off driving on more than 160,000km of highways around the country – even with a trailer in tow. Not relevant for NZ of course, but it does show this seemingly old-school truck has great electronic architecture.
But back to the case for the NZ-spec LTZ Premium. The wall-of-chrome style won’t be to everybody’s taste, although it suits the bowtie badge perfectly: it’s a dressed-up business truck.
GMSV does offer a more traditionally rugged Silverado in the form of the Trail Boss (above right): blacked-out and lifted up. You do have to give up a little equipment, though: the seats lack leather upholstery, ventilation and memory, it goes without some of the driver-assistance tech (no adaptive cruise, for example) and it’s down a little on tow rating, at 4260kg. No power-up on the tailgate, too; sheesh.
The Trail Boss has a certain visual appeal, but you can’t help feeling the LTZ Premium is the business.
CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500 LTZ PREMIUM
ENGINE: 6.2-litre petrol V8
GEARBOX: 10-speed automatic, AWD