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2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 review: Good looks and great manners

The 2017 Silverado 1500 not only has the greatest towing capabilities in its class, but it's also a joy to drive on the road.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
5 min read

When talking trucks, performance always comes first. These are practical machines, and so tow ratings and cargo capacity are the most crucial figures -- but that's no longer enough. Today's truck needs to haul people just as well as it hauls cargo while providing plenty of modern comforts and conveniences along the way.

In those regards, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 might just have the competition licked. Look at the numbers and you'll see the Chevy can tow more than any of its half-ton competition, but it wasn't until we lived with the truck for a few days that we realized this thing's real charm isn't its figures, it's in the near-faultless ride quality. 


2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71

The Good

Great towing performance and excellent on-road manners.

The Bad

It's missing some basic niceties, like keyless ignition and blind spot monitoring.

The Bottom Line

A great choice regardless of what you have to haul.

Looking the part

As you'd expect, you can configure your 1500 10 ways to Sunday, but if you're looking for an understated yet bad-ass visual effect, you might consider the Z71 Redline edition that you see pictured here. With this, everything from the bowtie on the grille up front to the wheels at all four corners has been blacked out, with red lines painted all over the place to give a bit of visual flair -- red lines everywhere but on the tachometer, curiously.

The $2,265 package is mostly about appearances, but it does include some niceties like a spray-in bedliner and runners on the side to ease entry into this decidedly tall truck. Beyond that, the Silverado is a very clean-looking rig, having received a slight visual update in 2016 that freshened things up and added LED lighting to the equation. It's a looker.

That dark feel the Redline edition adds to the outside may have gone too far on the inside, however, where it's easy to get lost in the sea of black materials. Everything feels nice enough and surfaces have the durability you'll want, but a little more contrast might be appreciated.

Still, it delivers where it counts, including acres of shoulder and headroom (despite the $995 optional sunroof on our truck) and plenty of space back in the crew cab for three grown adults. Even those of the burly variety.

2017 Silverado 1500 Z71 Redline adds menace

See all photos

Walking the walk

A truck isn't worth your time if it can't perform, and the Silverado doesn't disappoint. Buyers have a range of engines to choose from, including a 285-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6 on the low end, going up to a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 on the high. Or, split the difference with the 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8.

Our Z71 went on the high end with the 6.2-liter and its whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. That was more than enough to get the Silverado 1500 moving, and it made a good noise while doing so. With this motor the Silverado tops out at 9,400 pounds towing by default, an impressive figure, but if you really want to maximize your capability you'll need the Max Trailering Package. 

With that, the Silverado 1500 can tow a whopping 12,500 pounds. That's best-in-class -- and more than heavy-duty trucks were towing not that long ago. 

That said, this isn't quite an HD replacement. The lack of a gooseneck receiver in the bed means larger things like fifth wheels and horse trailers will be beyond the capabilities here. Still, if you went for broke on that trailer for your weekend trackday toy, or have some serious equipment to bring out to the job site, this is your truck. 

On, and off, the road

With its selectable 4WD drivetrain and 3.23 rear axle ratio, with a switchable transfer case, the Silverado 1500 should make for a more than capable companion when the road ends. That said, with those wheels painted up all pretty we'd recommend you steer clear from rockier trails.

And why head off-road when the Silverado is such a great companion on the asphalt? Any truck this size is going to have some compromises when it comes to on-road handling, and the 5,500-pound 1500 Z71 still feels very much like the big truck it is. But it does a remarkable job of taking the edge off unruly pavement and the like.

The Silverado is relatively quiet and composed on uneven pavement, not crashing and jittering over big bumps or getting unsettled in corners. As far as I'm concerned it has the best on-road manners in its class, and since that's where the vast majority of these trucks will spend the vast majority of their time, that's a very good thing.

That's helped by a comprehensive suite of in-dash tech to make the commute a little more pleasant, including support for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but is missing modern niceties such as keyless entry and ignition. On the safety side, the truck offers lane-keep assist, low-speed emergency braking and collision alerts, but disappointingly doesn't give you adaptive cruise or even basic stuff like blind-spot warnings. 

Chevy Silverado

A spray-on bedliner is part of the Redline package.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Options and competition

The Silverado 1500 can be configured any which way you like, from under $30,000 to more than twice that and everything in between.

The truck starts at $27,785, while models featuring the Z71 edition's upgraded suspension, underbody armor and hill-descent control start at a rather more dear $50,000. Our truck, with the Redline visuals package and the Enhanced Driver Alert Package, stickered at $59,610. Unless maximum towing were the priority, we'd probably save $2,500 by stepping down to the smaller V8, and those we love the blacked-out look, another $2,265 can be shaven off by losing the Redline trim. 


On the competition side, the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 are the immediate and obvious competition, with the Ford offering more engine choices and efficiency, and the Dodge offering an even broader options palette, including a diesel engine. Neither will tow or haul more than the Silverado, however.

And then there's the Nissan Titan, which we've been living with for the better part of a year now. The Titan sits in between these half-ton trucks and their HD siblings, yet costs about the same. It's bigger and offers the gooseneck hitch the 1500 lacks, but its ride quality and creature comforts leave a lot to be desired compared to the Silverado. 

Chevy Silverado

Plenty of room for you and the whole crew.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow


The Silverado 1500 Z71 Redline is an excellent workhorse, ticking the most important box for a vehicle like this. Despite that, it also makes for a very amenable daily companion, lacking only a few basic active-safety features that we've come to expect in modern vehicles. Even so, whether you're hauling something big down to the job site or loading up your family and heading out to dinner, the Silverado 1500 will not disappoint.  


2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 7Design 8Media 9.5