The 2016 Chevrolet Silverado takes a traditional truck path but counters that with a comfortable, refined interior and a mother lode of technology.
The 2016 Chevrolet Silverado lineup is heading into its third year since a major redesign; yet Chevy is already tweaking the Silverado's look and adding some key features—most notably, a more finely detailed front-end design, more widely available 8-speed automatic transmissions, bolstered active-safety hardware, and new-generation MyLink infotainment systems.
The set of changes should keep sales going strong, as they have been since GM redid these trucks for 2014, when they gained a design that falls closely in step with heavy-duty models from the automaker. A more upright, chiseled—some would say boxy—look was given to the Silverado then, with a more upright yet better-trimmed interior appearance to match. At that time, GM gave these trucks a strong yet more fuel-efficient engine lineup; better cabin refinement; and, at last, some safety and connectivity cred.
This year's refined look adds up to some sharpening and finer detail in the front end, with different grilles for each model, LED signature lighting across the board, and more use of LEDs on top models. Chevy has dropped the dual headlight look in favor of single headlights.
It all simultaneously nods to the looks of buff Chevy HD trucks while adding a luxury-car feature set to the top of the lineup. And while the Silverado may look every bit a direct rival to the Ford F-150 (which it is) the differences in engineering approach between these two trucks couldn't be more different. GM essentially sticks to a steel-bodied layout and traditional, big-displacement engines, while Ford has moved to downsized, turbocharged engines and aluminum-intensive construction.
Although the engine sizes in the 2016 Chevy Silverado lineup are probably going to be familiar to repeat GM truck owners, pretty much everything else is different, and it's all been thoroughly modernized in recent years. All of them feature aluminum blocks and heads and are now equipped with direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and continuously variable valve timing. The base EcoTec3 4.3-liter V-6 makes 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. That's a sufficient amount of torque to even be paired with the heavier crew-cab models, and we tend to think it's gutsy enough for all but the most serious towing and hauling needs. With the 5.3-liter V-8, you get 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, while the top 6.2-liter V-8, at 420 hp and 460 lb-ft, provides the most capability; it can tow up to 12,000 pounds.
Models with the 6.2-liter last year got a new 8-speed automatic, and for 2016 the 8-speed is available with the 5.3-liter V-8 in the LTZ and High Country models. A 6-speed automatic transmission rounds up the rest of the model line, and we've found it to shift decisively, albeit somewhat harshly with heavier loads. The new 8-speed's closer span of ratios taps into either engine's power better and should bring some towing and hauling ease, but it actually hurts EPA fuel economy ratings. That's an odd one, but real-life mileage may actually be better.
With the Silverado's redesign two years ago it made major gains in ride and refinement. In fact, with its well-tuned ride and responsive handling, it's perhaps the most pleasant of all the full-size trucks from the driver's seat. That's thanks in part to a bit better handling control; front springs were made stiffer, and two-stage leaf springs and twin-tube valving add finesse. Electric power steering is standard across the Silverado 1500 model line, as are four-wheel disc brakes that include a longer-life Duralife rotor design.
Inside the 2016 Silverado controls are logically laid-out, mostly on either side of the steering wheel or in the large center stack. Materials themselves were given a major upgrade a couple of years ago, with most of the touchpoints now covered in a soft-rubber material. Knobs and controls are large, and easy to use with a gloved hand, and cabin noise levels are now on par with, if not better than, many SUVs, thanks to more in-floor insulation. A top-of-the-line High Country model allies with the GMC Denali models to provide serious top-lux cabin appointments, including durable leather, unique wood trim, and other upgrades that GM's highest-end trucks have missed in previous generations.
Crew Cab models’ rear doors are large, for easy entry and exit, and the B-pillar is pushed forward, which helps get feet in more easily. Meanwhile, the rear doors on extended-cab versions now hinge from the front—they're called Double Cab in this generation—offering entry and exit ease that’s close to that offered in former Crew Cab models. The front seatbacks are thinner in this generation as well, and that increases rear leg room by about two inches and also eases entry and exit.
Three different cargo-bed lengths are offered: 5-feet-8-inches, 6-feet-6-inches, and 8-feet long, and in general cargo convenience is far better than it has been in previous versions of these trucks—everything from new CornerStep bumpers to a soft-opening, rotary-damped tailgate to LED lamps tucked under the bed rails.
The Chevrolet Silverado has earned some good safety ratings. The federal government gives Crew Cab models its highest five-star rating overall, while the IIHS has given the Silverado a top "Good" rating in all tests except for the small overlap crash test, where it earned an "Acceptable" rating in extended cab configuration and a "Marginal" rating for crew cab trucks. StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control is a standard feature, as are hill start assist and head-curtain side airbags with rollover protection.
For 2016, GM makes IntelliBeam (intelligent high-beam headlights) and lane keep assist available in an Enhanced Driver Alert Package that is offered for LTZ and High Country. Also offered are a lane-departure warning system, a camera-based forward collision warning system, as well as the Safety Alert Seat—a vibrating chair that alerts the driver to the direction of possible dangers. Front and rear park assist and a rear tailgate camera are also available.
An upgraded version of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is also new for 2016. It gets a faster processor and full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, allowing you to use smartphone apps via the vehicle's touch-screen system. MyLink is already one of the better systems on the market—refreshingly simple compared to some other lead rivals—with connectivity for multiple devices, natural-language voice recognition, a "favorites" system (contacts, destinations, radio stations or media), and an eight-inch touch screen. For 2016, GM also adds a version with a seven-inch touch screen for lower line trucks. Last year GM added text-message alerts, Siri Eyes Free, and available OnStar 4G LTE hotspot capability (with a subscription data service).
For 2016, Silverado 1500 V-6 models earn EPA ratings of 18 city, 24 highway, 20 combined with rear-wheel drive, and 17/22/19 mpg with four-wheel drive. The 5.3-liter V-8 model is rated at 16/23/19 mpg with the 6-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, and 16/22/18 mpg with the 6-speed and 4WD.