Balance - no yin and yang here - we're talking horsepower, handling, stopping, and comfort are the four things that can make or break a sport truck. Fast is fun, but also scary if you can't stop. Turning is great, but boring if you have to do it slowly. Stopping and crossing your fingers should not be synonymous, and comfort cannot be compromised in a daily driver. Attention all manufacturers: Joe Gibbs has a winning combination for turning a factory-fresh truck into a real performance machine.
Turning more than 700 miles on the Silverado's odometer, we had the opportunity to clearly evaluate the truck's performance from the aspects of the freeway, roadways, and twisty canyon turnouts. With keys in hand, we began this journey as pessimists because we drive so many tuner-inspired trucks that do not meet our strict criteria of total truck improvement. However, many smoky burnouts later, this truck lived up to the hype and garners our utmost respect.
Starting with a basic '04 Silverado standard cab, Joe Gibbs Performance combined several of the technologies learned from his years of team racing in both NASCAR series and added those lessons learned to a solid platform and turned a cookie-cutter truck into a honest sport product. Gibbs also digs deep into the performance aftermarket world and pulls out some of the most respected names in the industry to help him achieve his winning combination. Swapping out the front bumper with a valance bumper cover with foglights from Decoma, the truck also receives a soft tonneau cover, larger rear spoiler, monochromatic black paint, and badges that clearly state it is a Joe Gibbs Performance truck.
Besides the subtle exterior enhancements, Gibbs also lowers the Silverado with a sport-tuned suspension package that includes stiffer front and rear antisway bars. With a ride that was not too harsh for daily driving but firm enough to tackle the corners, we found this mix to be the perfect blend of performance and comfort.
Providing a vast improvement over adequate braking is a Gibbs/Baer-designed brake package that includes upgraded larger drilled and slotted rotors. Our testing proved that stopping power is great and inspired confidence to push the envelope safely. Adding good looks and performance to the mix are five-spoke wheels, designed by Gibbs, measuring 20x8.5 inches at each corner. Where these wheels received mixed reviews from the staffers, we all agreed they were better than stock and gave the truck some added muscle. Wrapped around the stylized wheels are Bridgestone's new Dueler H/P 20-inch tires, measuring P275/55R20. Ride was compliant and provided positive feedback to the driver, while noise was surprisingly down. Smoking these tires was as easy as dipping into the throttle, thanks to a blown 5.3L V-8.
Adding the optional Gibbs-designed Roots-type intercooled supercharger to the V-8 made an impressive 390 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. Tuning for the truck is made possible by a complete Superchips kit, and it performed flawlessly during our test. Providing the aggressive exhaust note for the Silverado is a Gibbs/Corsa stainless steel exhaust kit with dual tips. Stock-sounding and quiet at speed, toe into the throttle, and the deep note is very pleasing to the enthusiast's ear. Moving inside, we again found a well thought-out mix of comfort and performance.
Embroidered with Gibbs' logos and covered in attractive suede and leather, the seats provided comfort, support, and looked good doing it. Adding elegance to the package is a set of custom Gibbs gauges that are silver during the day and reverse electroluminescent at night. An optional feature on each Silverado is a manual five-speed transmission with a Gibbs/Hurst manual shifter. We would have loved to drive one with the five-speed, since we're sure the truck could smoke the tires in the first three gears, however, our tester was an automatic tuned by Gibbs. A simple dash badge allows all unsuspecting riders know this truck is in fact different from the average Bow Tie. Overall, the interior is simple but effective and, by not going overboard with the add-ons, will be well received by the public.
One week of driving the truck, and we think Joe Gibbs Performance takes the checkered flag with its performance Silverado. Available at select Chevrolet dealerships nationwide, the truck is also available in Extended Cab versions as well as in a Tahoe package. Our tester was priced right under $35,000 and after tallying up the costs of the modifications, we think that is very reasonable for a sport truck with a manufacturer's warranty. Takers anyone? Gibbs will not have a hard time selling these Lightning competitors. For more information, check out www.joegibbsperformance.com.