2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Z71 4x4
The Chevrolet Silverado and its twin, the GMC Sierra, debuted as all-new trucks just two years ago to rave reviews about their updated engineering, capability and refinement. One important change, however, was postponed at launch: The addition of a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2007 and 2008 Silverado could only be purchased with GM’s legacy four-speed automatic. As you’ll see in our testing, no mechanical change has been more important to these trucks than the introduction of a six-speed gearbox. It helps improve fuel economy by offering an extra overdrive gear, and it helps towing by adding an extra-low 1st gear to help get big loads moving fast.
Our Silverado tester came equipped with GM’s 6.2-liter V-8 and the newly available six-speed transmission. Before, the only GM half-ton with this powerful combo was the luxurious GMC Sierra Denali. The 6.2-liter V-8 is rated at 403 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque, making it the most powerful powertrain in the trucks we tested. However, it also required premium, 93-octane unleaded gasoline to hit those numbers.
The Silverado offers two distinct interior treatments: traditional work-truck style ‘Pure Pickup’ or a luxury-inspired premium layout. Our truck came with the premium cabin, highlighted by rich amber wood accents and cream-colored leather seats. The instruments were laid out intuitively, but the buttons were a bit small. We also found the climate controls confusing. Both the driver and passenger can control the temperature in their seating zone, but the controls for fan speed and airflow are both placed next to the passenger temperature controls, leaving the driver to reach over to redirect airflow from the floor to the dash vents.
GM and Ford are the only manufacturers that offer integrated trailer brake controllers, which are used to link a truck’s antilock braking system with a trailer’s electric brakes for improved safety. The feature was quietly introduced on the 2008 Silverado half-ton after debuting in GM’s heavy-duty pickups. We think this option is extremely valuable in today’s half-ton pickups. What we didn’t like about the Silverado’s brake controller was its location. It’s situated on the lower left-hand side of the driver, which isn’t an intuitive location; most aftermarket brake controllers tend to be installed on the bottom right of the dash for easy access to manually increase gain when necessary for extra braking or to brake the trailer manually, independent of the truck’s brakes.
The Silverado’s ride quality was very good. On good, bad and very bad roads around Detroit, the truck always rode cleanly. It didn’t bounce or side-step unless cracks or potholes were very prominent. We attribute part of the Silverado’s rough-road dampening capabilities to its new-for-2009 standard hydraulic body mounts. They’re available on every model.
Power from the 6.2-liter V-8 was always more than needed on public roads, even with the truck’s fuel-efficient 3.42 final drive ratio. We did notice a difference in ride quality between the Chevy and GMC Sierra; the softer shocks on the Silverado created a more compliant ride. Steering-wheel input from road surfaces was minimal and turning effort was low.
Ride quality improved with the 6,500-pound trailer behind the truck, but the margin of improvement wasn’t as noticeable as the high level of power the V-8 continued to provide. Towing acceleration was superb on public roads.