2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 review: When good isn’t good enough

It’s a nice RST truck, at least.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

The Chevrolet Silverado is a good truck, yet it’s still a loser in the full-size pickup truck world. Capable and comfortable as it could be, Chevy can’t compete with dress pants Ram 1500 and do everything Ford F-150. But even so, the Silverado’s myriad of configurations and distinctive design give it a real charm.

Like it

  • Smooth diesel engine
  • Lots of trailering technology
  • Numerous charging options

I do not like

  • Limited driver assistance technology
  • Poor interior
  • Latest generation infotainment

The Silverado is available with no fewer than seven engine and transmission combinations, everything from a basic 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed automatic to a 6.2-liter V8 with a 10-speed car. The 5.3-liter mid-range V8 is available with a 6, 8 or 10-speed automatic transmission, and there’s also a 2.7-liter turbo I4 on offer. In addition to the underhood configurations, the Silverado is offered with single, double or twin cabin body styles. You can match those with a 70-inch short bed, a 79-inch standard bed, or a 98-inch long bed. Three bridge ratios are offered and you can choose between two and four-wheel drive.

For this review, I have what is arguably the best combination of the bunch: a 3.0-liter Duramax I6 turbodiesel with a 10-speed transmission and 4-wheel drive. I cannot exaggerate 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. Lane changes on the highway are easy thanks to the mid-range torque drops, and this truck hums at highway speeds smoothly and efficiently.

With the diesel engine and all-wheel drive, the Silverado 1500 is estimated to return 22 miles per gallon in the city, 26mpg on the highway and 24mpg combined. With the crew cabin body, the Silverado has a 24-gallon fuel tank, so I could conceivably go 576 miles between refueling. The regular cab truck has a larger gas tank and will go nearly 700 miles in one stretch.

Overall, the Silverado handles like any other truck. The brakes feel solid and linear under my foot and the steering has a good amount of weight and feedback. But Chevy could learn a few things from Ram when it comes to ride quality. The Silverado is floating on a bumpy pavement and every hole is a jarring experience. You can get adaptive dampers, but only on the Silverado High Country. A full air suspension, like Ram’s, would really go a long way in making this truck more liveable day-to-day.

Three cabin configurations and three bed lengths are available.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

In terms of truck stuff, the Silverado is on the weaker side of the competition. When configured correctly (two-wheel drive, long box), the maximum payload is 2,280lbs, while towing can go up to 13,300lbs (four-wheel drive, double cab, standard box, 6.2 liter V8). The Ram can carry up to 2,300 lbs in its bed and tow a maximum of 12,750 lbs. Meanwhile, the Ford F-150 can go up to 3,325 pounds of payload and 14,000 pounds of towing capacity, although, frankly, if you tow that much regularly, you’d be better off getting into a heavy duty truck.

My diesel-powered crew cabin tester can carry 2,060 pounds in its short bed and tow 9,000 pounds. A similar-spec Ram 1500 with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel handles 1,800 pounds of payload and 9,710 pounds of tow, thanks to a rear axle ratio of 3.92: 1 (the Silverado’s diesel engine only goes at 3 , 23: 1). The higher the ratio to the rear bridge, the more low-end grunt you get. Ford’s 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel in SuperCrew configuration can carry 1,805 pounds in the bed and somehow achieves a tow rating of 12,100 pounds with 3.55: 1 gearing.

However, the Silverado has a ton of new technologies for 2021 to make towing easier and safer. There is a switchblade warning that aids in cornering and a trailer length indicator facilitates lane changes. A cargo bed camera makes it easy to connect a fifth wheel trailer, and if customers install a camera on the rear of the trailer, they can see a view behind the trailer with guidelines and angle indicators directly from the truck’s infotainment screen. As big as they are, however, Silverado’s corporate twin, the GMC Sierra, offers more camera views. However, Ford and Ram cannot match Chevy here.

The Duramax diesel engine is smooth and powerful.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

Silverado gets its version of GMC’s MultiPro tailgate for 2021, called the Multi-Flex in Chevy-speak. But even without this, the standard tailgate is light and opens slowly. There are steps cut into the bumper for easy climbing in and out of bed, and my tester has a 120-volt, 400-watt socket on the back, plus 12 fixtures 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 top trim, and things like forward collision warning and lane departure warning are optional across the board. Ram offers a lot more features and you don’t even get me started with the F-150, which has all the driving aids you can think of and feed an entire tailgating party if necessary.

The interior technology is also not up to par. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard while an 8-inch is optional. Thankfully, Chevy’s Infotainment 3 software is simple to use, and you can add wireless Apple CarPlay is Android Auto. But check out the impressive functionality of the 12-inch displays offered by Ford and Ram, and the Chevy looks old by comparison.

This cabin is really dated.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

At least the charging options are good, with one USB-A, one USB-C, one 12-volt outlet, and one AC outlet on the 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 also available.

But you guys, the interior of the Silverado is pretty awful overall. This may also have been removed from a 2015 Silverado. Hard plastics are everywhere and even the home button for infotainment tech looks icky. It’s all so cheap. Spend 5 minutes inside a Ram 1500 and you’ll wonder why Chevy isn’t putting in more effort.

However, there is a lot of storage. I can put a couple of bottles in the door pockets, a wallet in the door handle, a tablet in the closet on the transmission tunnel, and my mother’s giant bag in the center armrest. There is a place for small items just in front of the cup holders and also a small storage on the dashboard. Passengers receive a double storage compartment, although the top compartment is not very deep and it looks like things could easily fall out when opened. The underside of the rear seats lifts to accommodate even the largest items in the rear of the cabin.

The price for the 2021 Silverado ranges from around $ 30,000 at the base end to nearly $ 70,000 for a loaded High Country. My truck has a super weird spec: an RST (which stands for Rally Sport Truck), paired with the Z71 off-road package and diesel engine. For example, why would anyone try combining a sporty road truck with an off-road package that adds Rancho shock absorbers, hill descent control, and an upgraded air filter? It’s so strange.

The Silverado just can’t keep up with Ford and Ram.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

If you want off-road capability, choose the Silverado Trail Boss, which has a 2-inch lift, auto-locking rear differential, and meaty 32-inch tires. You can’t get that trim with the diesel engine, however, and off-roading with a full-size pickup is pretty tough unless you choose a Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX. Personally, I’d just get a diesel-powered Silverado LTZ with a few tech options, which puts me in the mid $ 50,000 range. When it comes time to specify a full-size pickup, the world is pretty much your oyster.

Oh, and if you’ve read this far and wonder why I didn’t mention the other two half-ton pickup options, the Nissan Titan is Toyota Tundra, it is because they absolutely cannot compete in terms of utility, technology and transmission options. I’m not really sure why you would buy one of those.

Then again, I’m not really sure why you’d choose a Silverado over the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500. Hell, his too GMC Sierra the twin is prettier and a little cuter inside. Sure, the Chevy has a great diesel engine, sleek towing technology, and plenty of internal storage, but it’s several paces behind competitors everywhere. Until the Silverado reboots, it’s not the truck I’d recommend.

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