There's a lot to like about the Chevy Silverado, but Ford and Ram continue to offer more compelling full-size trucks.
The Chevrolet Silverado is a good truck, yet it's still an underdog in the full-size pickup world. Capable and comfortable as it might be, Chevy just can't compete with the fancy-pants Ram 1500 and do-it-all Ford F-150. But even so, the Silverado's myriad configurations and distinctive design give it some genuine appeal.
The Silverado is available with no fewer than seven engine and transmission combinations, everything from a base 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed automatic to a 6.2-liter V8 with a 10-speed auto. The midrange 5.3-liter V8 is available with 6-, 8- or 10-speed automatics, and there's a 2.7-liter turbo I4 on offer, as well. Beyond the underhood configurations, the Silverado is offered with single-, double- or crew-cab body styles. You can pair those with a 70-inch short bed, 79-inch standard bed or 98-inch long bed. Three axle ratios are offered and you can choose between two- and four-wheel drive.
For this review, I've got what's arguably the best combination of the bunch: a 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel I6 with a 10-speed transmission and 4WD. I can't overstate how much I love this engine. Pushing out 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, there's enough oomph to get this full-size pickup off the line quickly. Highway lane-changes are easy-peasy thanks to gobs of midrange torque, and this truck will hum along at highway speeds smoothly and efficiently.
With the diesel engine and four-wheel drive, the Silverado 1500 is estimated to return 22 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. With the crew-cab body, the Silverado has a 24-gallon fuel tank, so I could conceivably go 576 miles between fill-ups. The regular-cab truck gets a larger gas tank, and it'll do nearly 700 miles in one stretch.
Generally speaking, the Silverado handles as well as any other truck. The brakes feel solid and linear under my foot, and the steering has a nice amount of weight and feedback. But Chevy could learn a few things from Ram when it comes to ride quality. The Silverado is floaty over bumpy pavement and every pothole is a jarring experience. You can get adaptive dampers, but only on the tippy-top Silverado High Country. A full air suspension, like the Ram's, would really do a lot to make this truck more livable day to day.
In terms of truck stuff, the Silverado is on the weaker side of competitive. When properly configured (two-wheel drive, long box), max payload is 2,280 pounds, while towing can get as high as 13,300 pounds (four-wheel drive, double cab, standard box, 6.2-liter V8). The Ram can haul up to 2,300 pounds in its bed and tow a max of 12,750 pounds. Meanwhile, the Ford F-150 can go as high as 3,325 pounds payload and 14,000 pounds of towing capacity, although, frankly, if you're going to be towing that much on the regular, you're better off stepping up to a heavy-duty truck.
My diesel-powered crew-cab tester can haul 2,060 pounds in its short bed and tow 9,000 pounds. A similarly spec'd Ram 1500 with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel handles 1,800 pounds of payload and 9,710 pounds of towing, thanks to a 3.92:1 rear axle ratio (the Silverado's diesel engine only goes to 3.23:1). The higher the rear axle ratio, the more low-end grunt you get. Ford's 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel in SuperCrew configuration can haul 1,805 pounds in the bed and somehow nets a 12,100-pound tow rating with 3.55:1 gearing.
However, the Silverado has a bunch of new technology for 2021 to make towing easier and safer. There's a jackknife alert that helps while cornering and a trailer length indicator makes lane changes easier. A cargo bed camera makes it a cinch to hook up a fifth wheel trailer, and if customers install a camera on the rear of their trailer, they can see a behind-the-trailer view with guidelines and angle indicators right from the truck's infotainment screen. Great as these are, however, the Silverado's corporate twin -- the GMC Sierra -- offers more camera views. Still, Ford and Ram can't match Chevy here.
The Silverado gets its own version of GMC's MultiPro tailgate for 2021, called Multi-Flex in Chevy-speak. But even without this, the standard tailgate is light and opens slowly. There are cut-out steps in the bumper to make climbing in and out of the bed easier, and my tester has a 120-volt, 400-watt outlet back there, in addition to 12 tie-downs and full LED lighting.
Where the Silverado really can't keep up with Ford and Ram is with driver-assistance technologies. On the Chevy, adaptive cruise control is only offered on the very top trim, and things like forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning are optional across the board. Ram offers a lot more features, and don't even get me started on the F-150, which has all the driving aids you can think of and can power an entire tailgating party if needed.
Interior tech falls short, too. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard while an 8-inch display is optional. Thankfully, Chevy's Infotainment 3 software is simple to use, and you can add wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But check out the impressive functionality of the 12-inch displays offered by Ford and Ram, and the Chevy just looks old by comparison.
At least the charging options are good, with one USB-A, one USB-C, a 12-volt outlet and an AC outlet up front. There's another USB-A and USB-C inside the center armrest, and additional USB-A and USB-C ports for rear seat passengers. Wireless charging is available, too.
But you guys, the Silverado's interior is pretty terrible overall. This might as well have been lifted out of a 2015 Silverado. Hard plastics are everywhere and even the home button for the infotainment tech feels icky. It's all just so cheap. Spend 5 minutes inside a Ram 1500 and you'll wonder why Chevy isn't trying harder.
There is, however, a ton of storage space. I can fit a couple of bottles in the door pockets, a wallet in the door handle, a tablet in the cubby on the transmission tunnel and my mom's gigantic purse in the center armrest. There's a place for small items just ahead of the cup holders and a little cubby on the dash, as well. Passengers get a dual glove box, although the upper box is not very deep and it seems things would easily fall out upon opening. The rear seat bottoms flip up to fit larger items in the back of the cab, too.
Pricing for the 2021 Silverado runs anywhere from about $30,000 on the base end to nearly $70,000 for a loaded High Country. My truck is a super-weird spec: a RST (which stands for Rally Sport Truck), paired with the Z71 off-road package and the diesel engine. Like, why would anyone try to combine a sporty on-road truck with an off-road package that adds Rancho shocks, hill-descent control and an upgraded air filter? It's so strange.
If you want off-road capability, go for the Silverado Trail Boss, which has a 2-inch lift, automatic locking rear differential and meaty 32-inch tires. You can't get that trim with the diesel engine, though, and off-roading with a full-size pickup is pretty tough -- unless you go for a Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX. Personally, I'd just snag a diesel-powered Silverado LTZ with a few tech options, which puts me in the mid-$50,000 range. When it comes time to spec a full-size pickup, the world is pretty much your oyster.
Oh, and if you're read this far and wonder why I haven't mentioned the two other half-ton pickup options, the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra, it's because they absolutely cannot compete in terms of utility, technology and powertrain options. I'm not really sure why you'd buy either of those.
Then again, I'm not really sure why you'd pick a Silverado over the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500. Hell, even its GMC Sierra twin is better-looking and a little nicer inside. Sure, the Chevy has a great diesel engine, nifty trailering tech and lots of interior storage space, but it's several steps behind the competitors everywhere else. Until the Silverado gets a reboot, it's not the truck I'd recommend.