Step into a new car these days, and you’ll likely feel a bit like you’ve entered a spaceship.
Between “infotainment” screens, semi-autonomous commands and enough knobs, dials and assorted gimcrackery to make the USS Enterprise blush, it seems like our vehicles are increasingly designed to make us forget they’re, well, vehicles. The movement has even taken trucks under its wing, as more and more folks are turning to luxury pickups in lieu of roadsters and coupes for their next driveway splurge.
So when I had an opportunity to drive a fully loaded 2018 Chevrolet Silverado for the weekend, I was expecting to step into a luxury hotel suite on wheels.
Three days later, though, I am pleased to report that the Chevy Silverado is still very much a truck, and a damn good one, fancy new capabilities notwithstanding. It drives well for its bulk, packs a ton of room for bags (and legs) and offers just enough tech to keep the driver comfy without distracting him from his primary objective.
Where we drove it: Northern New Jersey to Jay Peak, Vermont, a ski resort way up there in the Green Mountain State. If you listen close enough, you can hear Canucks apologizing to each across the border. It’s a quiet drive: every once in a while you pass a sign that reads “MOOSE, Next ½ mile” or a roadside BBQ with a gravel parking lot, and it’s generally tough to tell what decade it is. Massachusetts offered us some half-assed sleet, while Vermont was a gauntlet of spotty visibility and winding, slick roads. The Silverado performed admirably throughout, lurching into 4WD with the simple toggle of a button to the left of the steering wheel.
What’s different about this truck, on paper? Options! This is a highly configurable pickup. Anchored by beastly V8 engines that’ll offer you up to 420 HP and a 12,500-lb. towing capacity, the Silverado’s added all sorts of safety features (auto braking, lane keep assist, rear vision camera) and beefed up its tech options, too. A handsome dashboard oversees pair-up possibilities with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Chevrolet MyLink.
Enough with the jargon. What will we non-gearheads enjoy about this car? Space, and lots of it. Six-footers looking for something easy on the knees can rejoice. The truck seats three in the back, and there’s plenty of room to adjust the driver and shotgun seats. There are also generous storage compartments aplenty and the front windshield is massive (great for turning a bend into a full-frontal mountain vista at sunset). It also rides a bit closer to the road than I’d expected, being new to the truck game.
How does it handle? Considering all this “space” you mention? Unexpectedly well. Open road, the Silverado has excellent pick-up. It’s a true left-lane vehicle, especially when other cars are struggling in wintry weather. But there’s a nimbleness to it in narrow spaces, too. It drives light and thin on backroads and in parking lots, utilizes a backup camera to squeeze easily into tight spaces, and generally feels less like a giant work truck and more like a full-size SUV.
Bells ‘n whistles. Tell me about ‘em. There’s a touchscreen dashboard with an excellent navigation system and a series of widgets to scroll through, and the truck has its own 4G LTE Wifi network, which performed pretty well, considering we were in the boonies. There’s also the myChevrolet app, which turns your phone into a digital remote control for starting the truck, handling lights, etc. Tunes-wise, you’ve got Bluetooth and a traditional auxiliary hook-up … not to mention Sirius XM radio, where we spent more time sampling ‘70s on 7 than anticipated.
How much does the truck cost? The one we drove, which was pretty much maxed out on options, will run you $58,000. But it starts at $28,000. It seems worth the investment, over all. I actually remarked to my co-pilot just an hour into the drive that it felt like a dependable car you’d have forever.
Ok, but this thing can’t be good for the environment … Electric off-roader, this is not. You’re looking at 20 MPG highway; 15 city. You’d spend nearly $4,000 more in fuel costs over five years compared to an average new vehicle, and deposit over 500 grams of carbon dioxide every mile along the way ... which isn’t terrific.
Thoughts on the fire-truck red? Loud, and very easy to find in a parking lot. Regardless, the Silverado’s got 15 different trim levels to choose from, so everyone’s going home happy.
Final thoughts? It’s a good truck, and a great car. Chevy clearly made an effort to update it with a load of tech, but the appeal comes across more in its ease of driving. There’s so much space (not to mention the cargo lorry we didn’t even use), but it corners smoothly, unaffected by tough turns or tougher weather. And you really get used to the respect you can command on the road. We were the only car waved right through a coned-off accident site on a parkway in Connecticut.
I guess they figured we had more important places to be.