When we talked with Pete Callaway, general manager of Callaway Cars West, about their new C19 sport truck lineup, we brought up the word "tuner." He immediately responded, "Tuner is a bad word around here. We engineer and produce performance vehicles, we don't simply bolt on some parts and call it done." That philosophy should be embraced by custom truck and performance enthusiasts who are tired of compromising their desire to go fast with poor drivability, or better handling with poor ride quality. After a week-long test of Callaway's Silverado Sport Truck SC540, we understand why Pete wanted to clear the air about Callaway not being a tuner company, as this truck was purpose-built to do all things at a high level.

Our 2011 Silverado Crew Cab tester was equipped with the optional 6.2L LS3-based high-output V-8, making 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers aren't muscle truck impressive, but with the demise of the Silverado SS, F-150 Lightning, and Ram SRT10, those stats are near the top of the factory pickup heap. Thankfully, Callaway used its engineering prowess and added a complementary mixture of parts bringing the output north of 540 hp. The first of those parts is an Eaton-sourced 1900 TVS supercharger with integrated intercooler, air-to-water heat exchanger, high-flow fuel injectors, and air intake tube. With power and drivability in mind, the engineers at Callaway created a custom ECU tune with Callaway-specific transmission shift points. Callaway's tune also maximizes power when needed while keeping the truck under the radar when cruising around town. We use "under the radar" loosely, as the unique and bellowing Callaway after-cat exhaust's note is as addicting as margaritas during happy hour. Apply your right foot deep into the go-pedal and all 540 hp roar to life, while the rear tires try to hold on only giving way to a beautiful cloud of smoke. We couldn't get enough of the instant boost and huge power produced by the Callaway SC540, and we found ourselves power drifting around corners just because it was so glorious. Adding good looks to the 6.2L, real carbon-fiber coil pack covers are in place, and a sequentially numbered badge is found on the radiator shroud.

Power is fun, but if you can only go fast in a straight line, the novelty will eventually wear off. Using more than 25 years of engineering and racing heritage, the Callaway team created a Level 2 performance suspension package that lowers the truck 2 inches up front and roughly 4½ inches out back. Using custom dampers, the ride is firm without being harsh, and handling has been greatly improved with the addition of a larger front sway bar and new rear bar. It's difficult to find a good balance of ride and handling, yet the Callaway SC540 would be a comfortable cruiser to Vegas, while feeling at home on a high desert canyon road. Addressing the engine and suspension, Callaway also installed its high-end Le Mans GT big brake package, which includes two-piece 15-inch rotors and six-piston calipers. During testing, the engineers found the aluminum caliper with steel retaining bolts to handle high-heat situations better, because once the aluminum tried to expand during a specific heat range, the steel bolts stayed in a solid state and provided superior stopping power. As a $9,820 option, the Le Mans GT package isn't cheap, but given the Silverado's 118-foot 60-0-mph stopping distance, the brakes are world-class.

Keeping the Silverado's factory looks, Callaway didn't try the often over-exaggerated tuner trick of scoops, flares, and body kits, but instead added simple Callaway and SC540 badging where it deemed appropriate. One of the biggest hints to the truck's custom and performance appeal is the gorgeous wheel package. Contemplating different wheel designs in a saturated big-wheel market, the engineers at Callaway bit the bullet and created a 22x10.5-inch nine-spoke wheel that features a cast and flow-formed barrel for added strength during performance maneuvers. Available in silver, black, and chrome, the lightweight wheels can also be ordered in a black chrome finish for a true one-off look. Tires selected to maintain asphalt adhesion are BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, sized 305/40R22.

Inside the Crew Cab, Callaway attempted to spruce up our tester's LTZ trim package by way of a real carbon-fiber steering wheel horn button, aluminum pedals, floor mats with SC540 embroidered on them, and SC540 badging on the dash. All of those additions sound nice, until you see the factory fake wood still in place, factory low-grain leather seats, and factory three-knob radio. Callaway put their focus on making the truck perform at a level GM could've never imagined, but a little interior dress-up would have gone a long way for a truck package that totals more than $30,000.

A Callaway Silverado, or Sierra if you prefer, can be ordered to your specs from one of its 31 authorized dealers nationwide. The best part of these performance packages is they won't void the factory warranty, and Callaway offers its own extended five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Because of this dedication to engineering and overall product creation, we had a difficult time parting with the keys to the Silverado. The Callaway SC540 is a blast to drive fast, comfortable enough for a daily driver, and unique looking with subtle enhancements that will have people in the slow lane wondering what exactly it was that blew by them. For more information on Callaway's C19 line of sport trucks, go to www.callawaycars.com.


2011 Chevrolet Silverado Callaway SC540
Base Price: $41,375
Price as Tested: $75,965

Engine
Type: 6.2L OHV V-8 supercharged with Eaton TVS 1900
Displacement: 376ci
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Horsepower: 540 @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 522 @ 4300 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded

Drivetrain
Layout: Front engine, RWD
Transmission: Six-speed Auto 6L90
Brakes: Callaway 15-inch rotors with six-piston calipers front and rear
Rearend: 3.42 limited slip
Wheels: 22x10.5-inch Callaway
Tires: 305/40R22 BFG g-Force T/A KDW

Performance
Tow Capacity: 5,000 lbs
0-60: 5.8 seconds
¼-mile: 13.5 @ 103 mph
60-0: 118 feet
Observed Gas Mileage: 10.7 mpg (we drove a little aggressively)

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