After two years of luxury exclusivity, Chevrolet finally gets the same powertrain originally offered in the 2007 Escalade and Sierra Denali. With both 5.7L powerplants from Dodge and Toyota just south of 400 hp, Chevrolet upped the ante with their volume truck brand. Max Trailering packages still come with the iron-block 6.0L that packs almost 370 hp, but the all-aluminum 6.2L will surely make molehills out of mountains when pulling all but the heaviest loads. Although it has to rev higher to get to its torque peak of 417 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm, this V-8 is only 33 lb-ft shy of the torque output of the 8.1L big-block that last saw light-duty service in the '06 trucks.
We finally got our hands on the truck we wanted months ago for our 2009 Truck of the Year testing. Equipped with a six-speed transmission and a 6.2L V-8, this is essentially the Chevrolet version of the Sierra Denali, but with a low range transfer case. The powertrain of the Chevy kept a grin on our face and our foot in the accelerator for most of our test period. It might just be the extra power, but there might be less torque management with the 6.2L/six-speed than with the 5.3L/four-speed, honestly, we were having too much fun to notice. What we did notice was that the six-speed upshifted smoothly, and with hard throttle it really got the truck moving. Downshifting was different, as there were a couple of instances where there was a noticeable jump in revs. Not enough to really slow the truck abruptly, but similar to the downshifts we experienced in our Tundra long-tem tester. When we were able to just cruise the Chevy, we noticed that the relatively high rear gearing combined with the 6L80 transmission had the engine loafing around 1,500 rpm at highway speed. With our short-term loan and ever-present story deadlines, we never had the chance to get a good mix of freeway driving to round out our fuel consumption, but the instantaneous readings at highway speed indicate that the 19-mpg highway rating is a bit conservative, as we were able to coax 20 mpg out of trucks with similar powertrains in mixed driving. Off-road, the Silverado handled rutted, rocky, and muddy trails confidently. Although we didn't get into any serious off-roading, we were able to benchmark the performance of our Silverado to several other vehicles on the trail. Let's just say that it went everywhere other stock 4WD trucks were able to go, but we came back with our front air dam intact. Back on the road, we were amazed at how sure-footed the Silverado was on curvy roads. Compared to an '09 Ram 2WD the ride wasn't quite as smooth, but there was really little to complain about. The truck is just easy to drive, which is one of the biggest reasons why we love the current generation of trucks from GM, only this one has a better tranny and more power. Sounds like a great combination to us.
* 400 hp and six-speed transmission = power NOW
* LTZ interior still competitive against newcomers
* Steering and on-road feel
* Our tester was $46K, but didn't come with a rear camera? We admit, we're spoiled, but for that price, it should be there
* Steering wheel should be beefier
* Noticeable downshifts on a few occasions
2009 Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4x4 LTZ
Price (as tested) - $46,825
Engine - 6.2L OHV V-8
Horsepower (SAE) - 403@5,700 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) (SAE) - 417@4,300 rpm
Transmission - Six-speed automatic
Axle Ratio - 3.42
MPG - 12/19 (EPA) & 14.0 (as tested)