Darkness enveloped the fast and wide road through the forests of East Texas, but the cab of the Silverado was serene.
An array of digital screens flowed with information, a Duramax diesel smoothly and quietly gobbled the miles, a powerful sound system filled the space with music while the best suspension system Chevrolet has ever put on a truck shielded me from road imperfections.
Chevy has been on a roll lately and it's easy to see why. With a luxury vibe, prodigious hauling, and towing capabilities, a ride almost as good as a Ram, and the ability to go more than 550 miles on a tank of diesel, Silverado's latest iteration is easy to like.
On the other hand, Lord knows what you might have to pay for one. Our offroad-ready tester stickered at $64,780, but COVID taught auto manufacturers that less inventory equals more cash flow. General Motors, for example, last week said that in March it will shut down the Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant that builds pickups "to help the company maintain optimal inventory levels."
The number of new trucks in GM's distribution system recently topped 103 days of supply. That's more than double what the company considers optimal. Supply-chain problems taught automakers that vast lots of unsold vehicles are not in their interests. Shortages and waiting lists mean factories and dealers get more money on every transaction. In a January conference call with investors, in which GM unveiled a 24% surge in annual income to $156 billion, the company said it would henceforth keep a thumb on inventory.
This allows GM to hold prices, avoid offering incentives, and gives dealers a stronger hand when boosting prices. It also fits CEO Mary Barra's plan to develop a wide portfolio of electric vehicles. Nine EV models are available now and 11 more are expected by 2025. To finance the R&D and new factories, including battery factories, GM is hauling in boatloads of cash from pickups and large SUVs, which generate gross profits of more than $30,000 apiece.
GM makes a move
The fourth-generation Silverado debuted in 2019 and received significant upgrades in 2022. Those included a more refined interior, a sweeping horizontal dash with a 13.4-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch configurable digital dash cluster, a long list of standard driver-assist features, and a host of tweaks to make the truck more comfortable and useful.
Upgraded Silverados hit showrooms last spring and the effect was dramatic. Sales in the last quarter of 2022 jumped 23%, boosting Chevy past Ram back into the No.2 spot. Add in a similar boost to its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra, and GM sold more pickups last year than Ford.
Both brands benefitted from the addition of a 3.0-L Duramax inline-six turbodiesel, a first in the GM lineup. Two V-8s and a turbocharged four-cylinder are also available. The diesel is a $2,500 option and well worth every penny. Performance from the small-block diesel is impressive. We averaged 24.5 mpg overall and topped 33 mpg on the open road.
Bear in mind, diesel fuel this week is running about 80 cents per gallon more than regular unleaded. Additionally, about $25 of DEF, a substance that turns nitrous oxide into water and nitrogen, must be added every 3-4 fillups. Still, 550 miles on a tank of fuel will sharply reduce the number of trips made to the gas station.
Mated to a 10-speed automatic, the power plant is silky smooth. With 270 hp and 460 lb.-ft of torque, the diesel can tow up to 13,300 lbs. Acceleration is not head-snapping fast, but it is sure and smooth. It is at once comfortable and comforting.
Prices not coming down
Our tester was a Trail Boss 4WD with a Z71 package, which offers a premium interior and the ability to go desert running or rock climbing.
What impressed us the most was the truck's exceptional road manners. Handling is crisp, but the ride is sweet for everyday driving. The suspension setup includes Multimatic damping with three separate spool valves and three connected chambers. Add uniquely tuned springs that increase front and rear suspension travel, and one has a trail champion in which traversing a winding country road feels like taking a nap on silk sheets.
The base price on the Trail Boss is $56,300 and ours had nearly $7,000 in options. Those included GM's multiplex tailgate, which opens in stages and can be a step-up, a workstation, or a bed extender.
Not included was GM's Super Cruise, which offers hands-free assistance on compatible roads, in compatible circumstances. This does not include construction zones and traffic jams, as we learned to our chagrin on a recent trip to the Metroplex.
For $64,000, you get a Silverado with lane-keep assistance that does not work. When activated, the system swerved from side to side before developing such a sharp angle that it was headed to a ditch before human intervention.
Also not included was a comprehensive camera system, which can aid towing and parking – something which seems to confound many local pickup owners. All the Silverado had was a backup camera. We found it useless for evaluating alignment in a parking space.
The Silverado received five out of five stars in government crash testing.
Bottom line: As pickups go, it's hard to top the ones from GM these days