- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

Special packages, available with the 2009 Chevy Silverado 1500 crew cab pickup, designate more than just image-boosting cosmetics - they boost workhorse performance and provide the bonus of looking good while the truck is on the job.

The Texas Edition is my test pickup, and its equivalent is the Regional Value Package. Both are sold in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and some counties of New Mexico, Arkansas and Kansas. The Regional Value Package adds California and Florida to the list.

Tacking $3,070 to the price tag of a Silverado crew cab LT model’s base price of $31,145 for a 2WD model and $34,295 for the 4WD, the packages spotlight a more-efficient V-8 powertrain.

Propelling these Silverados is a 5.3-liter V-8 with Active Fuel Management, which delivers 320 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque. Teaming with this healthy torque output, the upgraded pickups include a trailering package.

The 5.3-liter also powers trucks equipped with the $3,145 All-Star Package, which is offered nationwide. This option boosts the crew cab’s towing credentials with a heavy-duty trailering package and automatic locking rear differential. Maximum towing capacity for 5.3-liter-equipped 2WD crew cabs is 9,600 pounds.

Contributing to the 5.3-liter’s fuel efficiency rating of 14 miles per gallon city and 20 mpg highway (regular gasoline) is its more-sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission mate. It has a wider gear-ratio spread and features two overdrive gears - a design allowing for lower “cruising” rpm, which increases fuel efficiency. Reduced engine speed also lessens noise, which contributes to a quieter cabin.

Power is sent to a set of chrome-clad aluminum wheels and P265/65R-18 tires - standard on the aforementioned packages. Along with adding dazzle, the aluminum wheels provide a weight savings over the standard steel wheels.

Particularly notable is the Silverado’s excellent ride quality. Occasionally, a stretch of pavement is encountered that causes a bit of bounciness, but on smooth roads, ride quality approaches that of a large luxury sedan.

A key refinement, available on all but base model 2009 Silverado pickups, is a new hydraulic body mount in the No. 3 position, just in the back of the cab. It improves overall ride quality, lessening roughness of ride and freeway hop, and increasing vibration isolation. StabiliTrak is standard on all GM light-duty V-8 models.

Well-designed 40/20/40 split-bench seats also factor into passenger comfort. Folding from between the seatbacks is a massive storage console with cupholders. Premium cloth upholstery is standard with the LT trim and a leather upgrade is available for $1,075.

Particularly impressive is the dashboard styling. This clean-design “pure pickup” instrument panel is a carry-over design for WT and LT trim levels, spiffed up into a more contemporary package. Gauges are attractive, large and easy to see, and a double-tiered glovebox (adorned with a Texas Edition logo on the test truck) ups utility. The dash is positioned low and forward, enhancing visibility and the feel of spaciousness.

Luxury and convenience are upgraded with the tester’s $645 Interior Plus Package. It includes a six-way-adjustable power driver seat (standard on the All Star Package), auto dual-zone air conditioning, steering wheel radio controls and Bluetooth wireless technology.

Convenience comes with standard interior door-pull handles, as well as exterior handles, which are large and easy to grip.

Silverado crew cab’s “stadium-style” 60/40-split rear seating configuration enables you, with one-handed pull-up operation, to split the use of the seats for carrying people or cargo.

For loading big cargo, all packages upgrade the 69.3-inch short box with the convenience of an EZ-lift locking tailgate. The test truck adds a $195 Cargo Management System, featuring tie-down cleats that can be moved on rails, positioned on the interior bed sides and back of the cab.

Chevy’s Silverado LT crew cab, in standard form, is a comfortable and capable pickup. Adding the special packages - especially with the 5.3-liter AFM powertrain advantages - makes good sense for the serious trucker.

Tim Spell is automotive editor for the Houston Chronicle InMotion section.

• Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009

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