- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

Chevrolet has introduced a new hybrid, but this one doesn't require guesswork to determine if it's a truck or sport utility vehicle: The 2001 Silverado 1500HD Crew Cab is pure pickup truck.

Instead of sacrificing utility for comfort with a compromise configuration, it offers more of both. While it has a "1500" half-ton designation, this new heavy-duty breed Silverado is arguably a closer kin to Chevy's light-duty 2500. The Silverado has comparable power and chassis engineering to the 2500, but offers a crew cab only on the beefier 2500HD models.

This "heavy half" — offered in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive — is the freshest in a line of new-generation Silverados that began with light-duty models in 1999. It's part of the new Heavy Duty line and boasts the same 8,600 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating as a light-duty Silverado 2500. Basically, the 1500HD is a product of 2500 and 2500HD modification.

This Silverado's purpose is to provide Chevy dealers with a half-ton crew cab truck to compete with Ford's F-150 SuperCrew. Cosmetically, the 1500HD shares features with its light-duty counterpart. Most of the similarities are up front, with the same sheet metal and bumper. The Silverado misses out on HD macho extras such as the elevated "power dome" hood and black "chain link" mesh. This truck has chrome egg-crate grille texture instead. Its muscularity is enhanced with standard wheel flares that are optional on light-duty 1500 4x4 models.

The standard Vortec 6000 V-8 power plant separates the potent 1500 HD from the light-duty model. Formerly reserved only for 2500 models, this brute is ideal for handling most recreational towing needs. It delivers a class-leading 300 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and, importantly, 360 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm: a significant punch over the 1500 lightweight, which maxes out with a 5300 V-8 that produces 285 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque.

Linked with a four-speed autobox featuring Tow/Haul mode, the engine generates grunt to tug a trailer up to 10,300 pounds. This compares to a 1500 extended-cab's 8,300-pound maximum towing. Engaging Tow/Haul mode enables the transmission to select the proper gears for optimum trailer-towing performance. This feature is most useful when hilly terrain is encountered. The 1500HD also excels at toting heavy payloads, boasting a 3,143-pound capacity. A 1500-lite's payload peak is 1,911 pounds.

Chevy didn't saw off the cargo box, which should please serious truckers. They kept a full-length, 6.5-foot short box, not a 5-foot-something minibox. A Fleetside short box is the only body style offered. It's not a trendy, 'burb-style pickup for show. The 237.3-inch-long crew cab indeed may be a challenge to park in some tight spots.

Despite its brutish character, the 1500HD is more civilized than its three-quarter-ton siblings. Chevy reports "extensive" tuning to the suspension to achieve a softer ride. This feature is somewhat countered by a firm-ride suspension package, added to enhanced trailering and handling. The tester with touch-button Autotrac 4WD cruises nicely on smooth pavement, but irregularities can prompt mild bucking.

Aboard the 1500HD, passengers benefit from a spacious interior that can comfortably seat up to six adults. A cloth-covered 40/20/40 front split-bench is standard on LS models, and leather-clad, dual front buckets are an LT standard. These six-way, power-adjustable buckets are surprisingly supportive, with firm cushions and aggressive lateral support one would expect in a European sedan.

And sitting in the rear of the crew cab isn't an uncomfortable situation, either. Like the front, headroom and legroom are ample for most adults. The 60/40 split-bench is comfortable — a bit cushier than the front buckets — and the seatbacks have a pleasing recline. One or both sections can fold flat to create a generous-sized, carpeted load floor.

The rear compartment is a great place to hang out during lunch stops. A substantial center console, featuring dual cup holders and a recessed tray, folds down from the larger seatback. The rear compartment beverage-friendly environment features another pair of cup holders that drop from the rear of the front floor console.

So, life can truly be a picnic in this heavy-half, which is offered for base prices ranging from the high-$20,000s to mid-$30,000s.

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