The newest American pick-up truck to land in Australia, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ, has landed on local shores.
Like its rival, the Ram 1500, the newest Silverado arrives from North America as a fully built left-hand-drive vehicle, with a re-engineering program to convert it to factory-standard right-hand drive taking place in Melbourne.
Unlike reverse-engineered conversions of the distant past, HSV uses GM’s own engineering and CAD data where available, uses OEM equivalent suppliers for new parts where required, and in some instances replaces factory-supplied parts with more durable local equivalents.
The result is, as you’d expect, a vehicle that looks, feels and drives every bit like one that rolled off the Chevrolet factory floor. In essence, HSV’s facility is a production line on a smaller scale.
Any parts removed from the car during its rebuild phase, like airbags, seats or steering components, go back into the donor vehicle for traceability should a recall arise. Anything that isn’t original (like reworked wiring harnesses, which take longer to rewire than their original vehicle’s normal two-day build process) are barcoded, scanned in as a new part, and become part of the car’s data set.
As for the car itself, it’s a new-generation vehicle unlike the Silverado 2500HD and Ram 1500, which are both previous-gen cars.
That means the single-spec Silverado 1500 arrives in Australia with nothing to choose from apart from the colour.
For your roughly $110,000 plus on-road costs (final pricing is yet to be confirmed), you’ll get a mid-spec LTZ trim level with four-wheel drive and standard Z71 off-road pack (including a two-speed transfer case and underbody protection), a crew cab (the larger of two dual-cab options) and a short load bed (which as the name suggests is the shorter of two available).
For now, HSV hasn’t launched with the more basic work-focussed trims, while the extensive range includes the sport-themed RST, off-road-honed TrailBoss, and ultra-luxurious High Country trims in the USA. The door is still open to seeing some, but not all, added down the track, however.
Under the bonnet, the Silverado LTZ packs a 6.2-litre EcoTec petrol V8 rated at 313kW and 624Nm via a 10-speed torque converter automatic. Huge as it may be, the ‘EcoTec’ part of the six-point-two also sees it ship with an idle-stop system and Dynamic Fuel Management with the ability to deactivate up to six cylinders in low-load driving.
So, howzit drive then?
There’s no hiding its size. At a touch over 2.0m wide (2063mm) and almost 5.9m long (5885mm), the Silverado easily takes up the best part of any lane on most roads, and spills over the confines of your average suburban car park.
That’s alright, though, HSV freely admits these aren’t city-centric and appeal to a small niche of buyers. You’re unlikely to be wedged in between two (or park yours next to another) at your local Westfield, but expect to see them dotted around coastal caravan parks and scattered along rural roads between major towns.
Given the right stretch of open road, the Silverado feels surprisingly at home. There’s plenty of grunt from the V8, and the 10-speed auto is far smoother and more sensible in its gear selection than any light commercial vehicle really ought to be.
Official fuel consumption is rated at 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres, on a cycle from city to country, and mostly on the open road, but with a few boisterous moments thrown in, the Silverado showed 15.5L/100km via its trip computer.
Steering is neither sharp nor quick, but it’s light, free of kickback, and provides stability and balance to such a big battler.
Of the cars available in the launch program, HSV had one unladen, one with 325kg in the rear, and one with a two-plus-tonne caravan on the towbar – all on their Chevrolet-provided factory suspension.
As expected, the unladen car can pitch and bounce a little, but not a lot. It’s certainly less jittery than many of the ‘regular’ dual-cab utes on the market, with a softer edge over really rattly surfaces. Adding some weight to the tub – as expected – settles the wobbly ride feeling for a much more SUV-like ride.
You can, potentially, add up to 712kg of payload or tow as much as 4500kg (but not both at the same time) on a 70mm towball. Interestingly, Australia’s regulations on towing are much more stringent than those of the USA, so the factory towbar is removed and a beefier Aussie version gets subbed in.
With a caravan behind, a quick lap demonstrated that the Silverado 1500 barely breaks a sweat. There’s an effortlessness to the big V8 up front, but for added peace of mind there’s a fantastic array of 'Trailering’ functions to make hitching up as painless as possible.
These range from a top-down rear camera view of the tow bar to make hooking up easy, to a tow haul driving mode that modifies throttle and transmission behaviours, to trailer tracking that lets you store the details of your most towed equipment and can keep a watch on distances travelled and set maintenance reminders.
There’s even a light test function, which runs through the rear lights in sequence, and allows you to single-handedly check that everything is doing what it’s supposed to. Neat.
HSV also had an ‘engineering assessment’ vehicle on hand for a quick spin. Company execs were guarded about the potential, but ultimately an Aussie-specific Touring suspension tune could be offered as an accessory down the line.
If early indications hold up, it’ll be the right choice if you don’t load up often, creating a more settled highway ride without the float and jittering, doing roughly the same thing as 300-odd kilos in the tray does.
Other accessories, direct from Chevrolet, include upgraded six-piston Brembo brakes, transforming the very soft brakes into a more direct and confidence-inspiring set-up (tick this box), and a performance exhaust that liberates a few extra kilowatts and Newtons, but also gives the softly spoken V8 much, much more authority.
If you don’t tow often, tick this box too. There’s also an array of sensible load management, tonneau cover, and visual upgrades, too, of course.
Off-road adventures didn’t form part of the launch drive, so we’ll save that for when we can get the Silverado 1500 through the CarAdvice garage for a longer visit. A quick dirt-road jaunt at least showed a degree of loose-surface stability, but as something capable of generating its own gravitational pull, that’s no real surprise.
There’s the requisite 2WD, 4-high and 4-low modes, plus an auto setting that adds in front wheel assistance whenever slip is detected – allowing extra traction through a front-axle clutch pack as required when road surfaces vary.
Reassuringly, on a day where the rain was utterly relentless, the Silverado’s traction and stability control were quick and clever enough to catch axle skip before it takes hold in a straight line. Even bold launches around corners could manage only the barest of under-tyre stuttering, and the less chance of having almost 2.6 tonnes of truck break loose on you, the better.
On the inside, Chevrolet has got some of the things right that even premium brands get wrong, like fully lined window surrounds – a detail that brands like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda still miss.
There are no overhead grab handles for any seat, which seems off in a vehicle designed to be able to head off-road or tackle the rough stuff. There are, at least, assist handles to haul yourself in with on the A- and B-pillars.
The regular 110V power outlet has gone missing from the interior, but the switch for it remains on the dash. Were it not for this one detail, you’d be hard-pressed to know the car had been converted at all. There are still six USB ports through the interior, in a mix of USB-A and USB-C, to ensure no device goes unpowered.
HSV even goes to the trouble of switching the dual-zone air-conditioning controls so that the right-hand knob is the sync-mode master and the left one switches to dual-zone control. It’s a small detail, but a worthy one.
The interior is loaded with storage nooks. Perhaps a little oddly, there isn’t an over-supply of cupholders (there are still a few, though), but there are contemporary phone-sized trays, a wireless charge pad able to tackle plus-sized smartphones, places for keys and wallets, deep door bins, upper and lower gloveboxes, and a usefully sized console topped by a comfy padded armrest.
The padded dash and stitched surfaces may not match the look and feel of the best $100K Euro SUVs, but there’s no sense you’re missing something, and no feeling of cheapness or cut corners. The styling, trimming, finishes and quality are all at the top of this very limited segment.
The seats are big and broad, but there’s plenty of adjustment up front to accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes. I’m below-average height, but rarely felt dwarfed by the 1500, although on blind crests, shuffling forward to see the end of the vehicle only reveals ever more bonnet ahead of you.
Power adjustment, and heated and cooled front seats, take the pain out of getting settled. The rear seats are heated and absolutely bloody huge.
There’s a flat floor in the rear, more than enough width to comfortably seat three adults across, and enough head, knee and leg room to embarrass a short-wheelbase S-Class!
Because of Australian’s single specification, some of the home-market options don't make the cut here, like the available 22-inch wheel package or surround-view camera system, but Australia’s ‘base model’ is hardly left wanting.
You’d get a smaller V8, eight-speed auto, smaller alloy wheels and would have to option a low-range transfer case, autonomous emergency braking, and the leather/sunroof/powered-tailgate-inclusive Premium Package in the land of the free to get close to Aussie spec.
Back home you’d pay the equivalent of around $80K, making the Aussie version a not-outrageous proposition when you factor in the taxes, shipping and conversion costs by the time the Silverado goes on sale here.
Yes, it’s much more expensive than a regular HiLux or Ranger, but by the kilogram you’re getting a lot of car for your money. Not to mention the technology, powertrain, comfort, space and features still largely absent from other sectors of the ute community.