What do you do when the same champion reigns for over twenty-five years and you are always a close second? Well, if you’re General Motors and you’re vying for the full size pickup truck sales crown, you don’t keep trying the same old thing. That’s what this reworked 2003 Chevrolet Silverado is all about. With fresh, modern styling, more comfort, and more performance than before, the new Silverado is designed to be a real crowd pleaser.
And that’s just what Chevrolet has done with their heavily revamped 2003 Silverado pickup series. Drawing styling cues from the Chevrolet Avalanche and Trailblazer, and sharing lots of clever technical touches with upscale GMC cousin Sierra, Silverado puts a very fresh look on what has been termed as a mid-model update.
While far from all new, there are enough substantial changes to Silverado to warrant serious consideration as one of the leaders in full size truck technology. Our test vehicle is a 1500 LT with the extended cab and fleetside 6 foot box. It came equipped with both 4-wheel drive and the Quadrasteer 4-wheel steering system.
Now the Avalanche/Trailblazer influence is most evident in the front area with the broad stainless steel band across the grill and in the right angle wheel-well housings. While some felt that larger tires would enhance this look, it is modern, strong, and muscular.
Our truck’s interior was done up in leather with full power front captain’s chairs, seat heaters, and a tilting leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Controls for the four- wheel drive, the Quadrasteer, and ride control are all easily within driver reach. The extended cab’s center opening rear doors allow for easy entry or exit. While not as spacious as the crewcab, leg and head room are adequate for short trips even with adults.
The 1500 extended cab comes standard with the 5.3 liter Vortec V8 mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. With 285 horsepower and 325 pound feet of torque, it gives our Silverado plenty of power. On the track, the Vortec feels very strong with a broad torque band right up to the redline. Zero to 60 times of 8.4 seconds mean that this truck will have no trouble merging with highway traffic. Quarter mile times of 16.5 seconds at 77 miles per hour, while hardly brisk, are reasonable for a 5400 pound vehicle.
But it’s in a tight spot that the advantages of the optional Quadrasteer 4-wheel steering system become evident. Quadrasteer turns the rear wheels in opposition to the front wheels during low speed maneuvers. At higher speeds, like on the highway, the rear wheels steer in the same direction as the front wheels. This minimizes the tendency of a lightly loaded pickup’s rear end to break loose and swing wide. The system is also a savior when trying any emergency maneuvers while towing a trailer. When combined with our truck’s 2-position adjustable ride control, it made the 2003 Silverado the most athletic yet easy to handle half ton pickup truck available.
The only place that Silverado seemed slightly disappointing was during braking. While the 140 foot average was acceptable, ABS feedback was excessive and the unloaded rear felt on the verge of coming around. But out on real roads in very difficult conditions our four-wheel drive Silverado performed like a champ. Early winter snowfalls were no problem as Silverado maintained its poise on very slippery roads where snow covered earlier ice. The shift on the fly 4-wheel drive system engaged effortlessly providing seamless transitions from clear to slick roads. On-road ride quality was firm but quite acceptable.
So how competitive is this crowd pleaser’s pricing? Well, an extended cab Silverado starts at $23,945. Our Silverado 1500 LT 4x4’s base price is $35,315. And that includes standard features like air conditioning and the advanced on-demand Autotrac 4-wheel drive system. Add in the cost of Quadrasteer, a great feature that recently dropped 2 grand in price, a limited slip rear, and other options, and you can easily top 40 grand. Not cheap, but still very competitive.
While the Avalanche-Trailblazer styling isn’t universally appreciated, the Chevy Silverado is built like a brick with a proven chassis. On the technology side, such innovations as Quadrasteer, adjustable ride, and an excellent 4-wheel drive system, give Silverado serious punch.
General Motors likes to boast that when you combine Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickups, that they outsell Ford’s F-series. But Chevy wants to beat the blue oval on their own, and they hope the latest Silverado will move them over the goal line. That will be a tough feat, but we wouldn’t want to bet against them.
Engine: 5.3 Liter Vortec V8
Torque: 325 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 77 MPH
60-0 MPH: 140 Feet
EPA Mileage: 14 MPG City 18 MPG Highway