Since one in seven vehicles sold in the U.S. is now a pickup, Chevrolet and sister brand GMC regularly engage in an epic battle with Ford and RAM to see who can field the most advanced, best-selling light truck. You’ll see all four brands well-represented on American roads and it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.
Best Foot Forward
Chevy puts its best foot forward with the redesigned-from-the-ground-up 2019 Silverado, and GMC with the companion Sierra. In a crowded field that includes high-quality Asian offerings, Silverado boasts some key advancements: an expanded range of eight models and six engine/transmission choices; an increase in almost every exterior and interior dimension; weight reduction up to 450 lbs. by combining high-strength steel, aluminum and composites; and best-in-class cargo capacity, with the short bed holding up to 63 cubic feet. With so much versatility for just about any task or trip, Silverado and Sierra are pocket knives on wheels.
Our tester, a loaded Silverado LTZ Crew Cab in Summit White, was near the top of the range at almost $57,000, although the entry point is closer to half that. For the big money, you get a full suite of luxury and mechanical amenities, all the way down to ventilated seats and a power sliding rear window.
6.2 Liter is Shining Star
But the shining star of this model was its 6.2 liter V-8, a $2,495 option pumping out 420 horsepower and some stump-pulling torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. If the “6.2 L” letters in chrome on the hood look familiar, that’s because the small-block engine architecture is shared with Corvette. The Silverado focuses on hauling heavy cargo or a trailer up to 12,100 lbs., while the Corvette is tuned for fast throttle response and higher peak horsepower (460).
So this big rig can really deliver a whiff of Corvette-style fun, especially when you dial in one of three engine/steering/suspension settings to Sport mode. Just be sure to bring plenty of gas money. While Chevy highlights its Dynamic Fuel Management system, this Silverado is rated at just 17 city/highway miles per gallon of required 93 octane.
Highway Driving a Treat
With the LTZ’s smooth acceleration and supple suspension, highway driving is a real treat. So, too, is a plunge into snow or sleet, where you’ll feel more comfortable and snug than the proverbial bug-in-a-rug. Be advised, however, that pockmarked pavement can make the Chevy’s wheels dance a bit.
As expected in a $50,000-plus truck, Silverado’s spacious leather interior was cushy, plump and well-finished in a brown-and-taupe combination that Chevy calls “Gideon/Very Dark Atmosphere.” Dash controls are well-organized, although we’d prefer a console shifter to the column-mounted stalk. The infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay is easy to use and you can add your own smartphone-based navigation. In a nod to old-school style, a cool row of analog gauges decorates the driver’s binnacle.
Plenty of Storage
Around the interior, there are more bins and cubbyholes than you can shake a water bottle at, not to mention a double-decker glove compartment. And in a rear cabin that could easily hold four, we were enamored by the storage units hiding behind the leather seatbacks.
We could go on and on with the Silverado’s attractions, but we wonder who buys this pickup. Is it the prosperous construction business owner, who also wants something good-looking and luxurious? Is it the large family that prefers a rugged outer cargo bed to haul messy ice hockey gear or ATVs?
An Awful Lot to Like
Whatever the use, there’s an awful lot to like with this Chevy. If we really wanted to have our way with it, we’d load up the family and its cargo, tune some Garth Brooks on the Sirius XM, slap on the Ray-Bans and make for New York's George Washington Bridge. Once over the Hudson River, we’d head west for parts unknown. After all, isn’t that what a cool American pickup is really about?
Chevrolet unveiled the Corvette nearly 66 years ago in New York City and it quickly became known as America’s Sports Car. But from our northeastern U.S. home base, we consider it Long Island's sports car. Over the decades, the region’s car buffs have fallen hard for the image, performance and camaraderie that come with driving one of these powerful two-seaters.
Today, Corvette dealers, aftermarket shops and enthusiast clubs dot Long Island. Corvette attendance at weekend car shows seems almost mandatory, and there’s no shortage of local fans to ogle those bulging fenders.
The 2019 Grand Sport more than upholds the reputation as it resides in the sweet spot of Chevy’s sports car lineup. If you’ve saved your pennies for a Corvette since high school or are just seeking some midlife fun, this version is the way to go.
Yes, the primary attention-getters among today’s Corvettes are the 755-horsepower ZR1, the 650-horse Z06 or the upcoming mid-engine Ferrari-killer shown in spy photos. Practice some restraint, however, and belly up to the 460-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 Grand Sport convertible starting at $70,590, or the coupe for $4,000 less.
You’ll be rewarded with a trusted driving buddy that can take you from a comfortable daily commute to a pedal-to-the-metal track day without breaking a sweat. The 2018 version made Car and Driver’s “10Best Cars” list and it’s an appropriate upgrade from the inherent goodness of Corvette’s basic $55,495 Stingray.
Our tester, a Ceramic Matrix Gray Metallic droptop, was loaded with $22,000 in options, bringing the total pre-tax price to nearly $93,000. Almost 10 grand goes to the 3LT “Preferred Equipment Group” that adds a bundle of interior electronics and luxuries. Another six covers the genuine carbon-fiber exterior bits that will surely turn heads at any Sunday morning cars ‘n coffee. You can eke out even more performance by adding the $8,000 Z07 brake, tire and aerodynamic package.
Standard Mechanical Goodies
While the price runs counter to Corvette’s bargain performance image, the base Grand Sport brings enough standard mechanical goodies – performance suspension, magnetic ride control, slotted Brembo brake rotors and multi-mode performance exhaust – as well as ample interior amenities. To beat its rush to 60 miles per hour in just 3.6 seconds, you’d have to shell out $123,000 for a Jaguar F-Type SVR or $163,000 for a Porsche 911 Turbo.
At first glance, the Grand Sport looks oversized with its Z06 wide body. But that feeling dissipates after a few miles. Cornering on twisty North Shore roads is rock-steady flat and steering is precise. The eight-speed automatic performs admirably, with or without paddle shifters.
Five suspension settings – track, sport, touring, eco and weather – handle every road condition. While we didn’t head off-Island to the track, a spin on the Long Island Expressway and romp through the Island's fabled North Fork were alternately exhilarating and comfortable . . . as long as we watched for police, and the road dips and speed bumps that scrape the ultra-low front splitter.
Interiors were once a Corvette weak spot, but you’ll feel cozy and contented in the Grand Sport’s optional leather-and-sueded cockpit, even in brisk fall weather with the top down. Credit goes to exceptional climate controls and available heated-and-ventilated, magnesium-framed competition sport seats that seem to fit every torso.
While the infotainment system with navigation is just OK, that’s not why you buy this car. Skip your playlist and listen to the roar of the exhaust and “pop-pop-pop” in track mode when you take your foot off the gas. Use the way-cool performance data and video recorder to chart your best lap times and impress your garage pals.
If you know your automotive history, the track-ready Grand Sport may even remind you of Long Island’s legendary Baldwin-Motion Corvettes from earlier decades, with their flamboyant styling and robust mechanicals to navigate both streets and speedways. This newest Corvette delivers all of the thrills and confidence you could want. Reserve us one in Torch Red, please.
If you don a football or baseball uniform, does that automatically make you an athlete? If your low-slung coupe has a muscular body, a tough-looking stance and a red-hot color, is it automatically a muscle car?
We faced the latter question after Chevy sent us this juicy, red, sweet, ripe tomato, a Camaro 2LT RS with the four-cylinder turbo. When you buy a car that looks this good and this fast, your bench-racing buddies are going to ask you the inevitable: what’s the horsepower? In this case, it’s a highly respectable 275 with 295 lb.-ft. of torque (more than the V-6), enough to send this baby to 60 in about 5.4 seconds.
Yes, we’ve driven the V-8 Camaro SS on street and track, and we love its 455 horsepower, not to mention the roar of the exhaust and the pop-pop-pop when you let up on the gas. It turns heads. It announces to the world aurally that you’ve just arrived on the scene. It makes us feel 18 again.
Secure and Confident
But if you’re secure about your place in the world and confident enough to brush off the horsepower questions, the four-banger in this 2LT is the refined and sensible way to go.
Over the past five decades, both the Camaro and Chevy’s smaller engines have undergone a remarkable transformation. Throw in stiff chassis engineering from Cadillac and you have a touring machine that’s absolutely perfect for a long weekend or a trek across country.
At $38,130, our tester was beautifully equipped. With the base price of $30,405, you already get a bunch of goodies, from leather interior to dual-zone climate control to a Bose sound system to Chevy’s excellent, user-friendly MyLink infotainment system.
The RS package ($1,950) includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, run-flat tires, HID headlights, some LED lamps, special front grilles and a rear lip spoiler. The heavy-duty cooling and brake package ($485) is a must, with its four-piston Brembos.
The convenience and lighting package at $2,800 adds a touch of needed luxury with memory seat and mirrors, interior spectrum lighting, illuminated sill plates, power mirrors, rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, 8” driver information center, side blind zone and lane change alerts, head-up display and heated steering wheel. The razor-sharp spectrum lighting on doors, center screen and console is trés cool, especially when it changes from blue to red as you adjust the driving mode from Touring to Sport. The cherry on this sundae is Chevy’s “Red Hot” color, which gives you gobs of Porsche- or Ferrari-style curb appeal for no extra money.
Speaking of driving modes, this is still a big sport coupe by global standards at more than 3,300 lbs. And yet, it’s a nimble ride around the curves, thanks to European-tight steering, superb sport suspension and the lighter powerplant. For most trips, we prefer Touring mode for its supple ride and level turns. Sport mode kicks things up a notch, but can be punishing on our rutted Northeast roads. Acceleration is plenty brisk. A touch of lag reminds you of the turbo. But there’s little to suggest that you’ve got only four cylinders. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is slick, but we long for metal paddle shifters instead of plastic.
Inside, the seats are supportive (except for the lack of a lumbar adjuster) and the leather is finely sewn. The dash is well-organized and a far cry from, say, the jumbled 2010 version. Gauges could not be easier to read and we like the digital dials that are front and center to check oil, water and other functions.
We also appreciate the ease of the climate controls and the idea that they are separate from the MyLink screen. Bose sound is top-notch and our iPhone became an integral piece of our trips, thanks to Apple CarPlay. There’s a wireless charger at the rear of the console, reachable by all passengers.
While there’s little room in the back seat for anything but small children or parcels, there is ample space in the trunk, with room for two suitcases plus accessories. If you need more, the rear seatback folds down.
OK, now you’re asking yourself how a car can be this good for around $38,000. So let’s get on to the nitpicks.
First and foremost is the exhaust sound. Push pedal to the metal and you get a robust tone worthy of a car that looks this good. But spool up the transmission normally and the hunt for gears is accompanied by an up-and-down, wow-wow-wow from the exhaust that sounds like an errant bumble bee or fly has invaded the cabin. It reminds you – no, assaults you – with the reality of four cylinders under the hood. Surely, if GM can produce a chassis this good, it can find a way to install a better exhaust, even if the roar has to be piped electronically into the cabin through those Bose speakers.
Then, there’s the somewhat claustrophobic cockpit. The chopped top and slit side windows bring panache to the exterior, but the black cabin can sometimes be as bleak as a coal mine, especially on a sunny spring day. If you don’t want to spend an extra $7,500 for the ragtop, then brighten things up with a power sunroof ($900), red or Kalahari (tan) interior trim (no extra cost) or at least a bit of red accent trim ($500) for some of the interior bits.
Sensible, Cerebral Choice
So, there’s no need to buy the 2LT, slap your head and exclaim, “I coulda hadda a V-8.” Instead, enjoy this beautiful touring coupe for what it is: the sensible and cerebral choice for those who love cars. No, it’s not a muscle machine. But at this price -- with solid power, a stiff chassis and gorgeous looks -- you won’t be disappointed.
Photos: inthedriveway.com; interior photo above courtesy of Chevrolet
David Fluhrer has been a classic car columnist for Newsday since 2008, as well as a new car reviewer for the auto section and a feature writer for Newsday's glossy magazines, Luxury Living and Long Island Living.