2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Review
Solid truck priced to sell.
The Chevy Silverado remains one of the best-driving full-size pickups, even when measured against its newer competition. It feels tight and quiet, with little road noise or wind noise.
Those are benefits of its stiff frame, which minimizes noise and vibration from the running gear. The rigid chassis allows the suspension to soak up and manage bumps and ruts and tar strips. The cab is stiffened by a magnesium beam behind the instrument panel and a lateral steel beam between the magnesium beam and the right side of the dash. This additional stiffening is designed to eliminate squeaks and rattles, and we haven't heard any.
The Chevy Silverado rides more smoothly than the Dodge Ram. We drove a Silverado 1500 2WD LS Extended Cab that rode very smoothly. Its long, 143-inch wheelbase contributed to the ride (and enhanced high-speed stability).
The Silverado handles well on dry pavement, loose dirt, deep dirt, and off road. It tracks straight at speed on dry pavement and it's stable on wet pavement. It holds its line when the rear wheels spin under acceleration, even when coming out of a low-speed turn on wet pavement. Steering is responsive and offers the right amount of feedback; there is a dead spot in the center when cruising, however, which Chevrolet says is designed to minimize steering corrections on the highway. Rack-and-pinion steering is used on Silverado 1500 4x2s. Four-wheel-drive and heavy-duty models use recirculating-ball steering.
The optional Ride Control Suspension is designed to enhance control when pulling a trailer. Press the Ride Control button when the truck is empty and the system firms up the shock damping, which reduces bouncing somewhat, although at the expense of increased harshness. When towing, Ride Control helps reduce the tendency of the truck to pogo as the trailer goes over bumps. It can also be used for better suspension control when driving off-road.
Four different engines are available for Chevy's light-duty pickups, so it's helpful to study power ratings, payload ratings, tow ratings, fuel-economy, pricing, and other data to choose the best engine for your needs. People talk about horsepower, but torque ratings better reflect how the truck will perform.
The V6 model is best for light-duty work when price and fuel economy are paramount; it also meets Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, or ULEV, standards. But the two most popular engines are small-block V8s. The 4.8-liter V8 (294 cubic inches), which GM calls the Vortec 4800, is popular in base models and delivers 295 pound-feet of torque. It offers plenty of power unless you're towing, hauling heavy loads, or driving at altitude, but it could definitely use more juice when trying to accelerate up hills.
The 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 V8 (327 cubic inches) generates 335 pound-feet of torque, enough grunt for all but the most demanding applications. It's the engine we prefer. It only rates 10 horsepower more than the 4800, but offers a lot more torque, over a broader range of speed. The 5.3-liter's fat torque curve is useful for light towing and hauling, but also makes the Silverado more fun to drive when commuting or out and about. Fuel economy is about the same.
All of these Vortec small-block V8s are based on the SB2 architecture introduced on the Corvette and extended to the Camaro and Firebird in 1999. Since 2003, they have featured Electronic Throttle Control for more precise, consistent throttle operation; new oxygen sensors offer improved reliability and reduced emissions during warm-up. All of Chevy's Vortec engines come with 100,000-mile platinum-tip spark plugs, sequential fuel injection, and 150,000-mile anti-freeze.
Larger engines are available for heavy-duty Silverados. The big Vortec 6000 6.0-liter V8, standard on 1500HD, 2500HD and 3500 models, delivers 360 pound-feet for pulling big, heavy trailers. An 8.1-liter V8 is available for heavy-duty models, as well as a 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V8, which now produces 310 horsepower and 605 pound-feet in automatic-transmission applications.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard in the base truck, but most buyers opt for the excellent four-speed automatic. The automatic features a Tow/Haul mode that reduces the tendency of the transmission to hunt between third and fourth gears in hilly terrain; and when it does shift, it shifts quicker and harder. This strategy reduces heat buildup for improved reliability. We recommend the automatic unless you run a snow-plowing operation or have a specific need for a manual. With all the advances that have been made in automatics, most of the advantages of a manual are now more imagined than real, even when driving off-road.
The Silverado SS, based on the 1500 Series short-bed Extended Cab, delivers quicker acceleration via a 345-horsepower version of the Vortec 6000 with 380 pound-feet of torque. A 3.06 first gear, 0.70 top gear and 4.10 rear end emphasize rapid performance and relaxed highway cruising over towing capability (although the SS can still tow a respectable 8,100 pounds). The SS model's 20-inch wheels and Z60 performance suspension are designed to improve road holding and cornering capabilities.
A Hybrid model, available only in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and Florida, promises up to 10 percent better fuel economy with the same power and performance as the 5.3-liter V8. In fact, the Hybrid is powered by that same engine, developing the same 295 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Sandwiched between the engine and the four-speed automatic transmission is a compact 14-kilowatt (19-horsepower) electric motor/generator. While the Silverado is moving under the V8 engine's power, the motor/generator is feeding electricity to a 42-volt battery pack. Even while braking, the motor/generator uses the truck's forward motion to charge the batteries, a process called regenerative braking. Then, instead of idling in traffic or at a stoplight, the Hybrid's V8 engine automatically shuts down, so it uses no fuel at all when the truck isn't actually moving. The instant the driver touches the throttle pedal again, the starter/generator starts to turn the crankshaft, re-starting the engine almost instantly. An auxiliary oil pump assures enough line pressure in the automatic transmission for it to function instantly as well. A separate electric pump guarantees hydraulic pressure to the Hybrid's power steering and Hydroboost brakes, so steering and braking both function normally with the engine switched off. A significant side benefit of the Hybrid power system is that it essentially turns the Silverado into a mobile power generator, with two 120-volt/20-amp auxiliary power outlets (APO) under the rear seat of the cab and two more in the pickup bed. That means you can leave your portable generator home and use the Silverado's entire bed space for the job you have to do. The Hybrid option ($1,500) is available with 2WD or 4WD, but on standard-bed Extended Cabs only.
In some states, a bi-fuel gasoline/compressed natural gas (CNG) system is available for the 6.0-liter V8.
Silverado's frame is the stiffest, lightest, and strongest truck frame General Motors has ever built. First introduced on the 1999 models, its front rails are hydroformed, a process that uses high-pressure hydraulics to shape large and complex components that used to be fabricated from smaller stampings. One big hydroformed part is far more rigid than a bunch of pieces welded together. Tubular crossmembers and roll-formed mid-rails increase rigidity even more. This stiff structure enhances handling and ride quality immensely, while improving crashworthiness. The front suspension comprises aluminum upper and lower control arms, with coil springs on two-wheel-drive 1500s. Torsion bars are used on all 4WD models and 2500HDs.
Last year Chevrolet switched back from disc to drum brakes for the rear wheels of most 1500 models. Drum brakes are an older technology, potentially more vulnerable to dirt, water, and fade; but they are also lighter and less expensive. ABS is still standard, however, as is Dynamic Rear Proportioning (similar to Electronic Brake force Distribution, or EBD), which improves stability under heavy braking, whether the truck is loaded or empty.
For best ride quality and lowest load height, we prefer 2WD models, which can be ordered with electronic traction control. But four-wheel drive can be quite useful at times, and occasionally it's absolutely necessary. Silverado's Autotrac 4WD system lets the driver press a button to shift between 2WD (for best fuel economy) and 4WD. Select 4WD High, and it functions as a traditional part-time system that delivers excellent traction off-road. Press the button for 4WD Low for particularly rugged terrain. Spinning wheels in the rain? Pressing the Auto4WD button cures that problem. Auto4WD works very well. Step on the gas in the wet and there's half a moment of wheelspin as power is transferred to the front wheels and the Silverado takes off. Auto4WD is the mode to be in when road conditions are loose and fluctuating: icy roads, spotty snow, gravel roads, even slick pavement. Auto4WD eliminates the binding of the front and rear wheels that can occur with traditional part-time 4WD in tight parking lot maneuvers, nice in the winter. When the mud or snow get deep, or when the going gets rugged, switch to 4WD High. When it gets steep or truly nasty, switch to 4WD Low.
For even greater off-road capability, the Z71 package adds 46-mm gas-charged shock absorbers, off-road jounce bumpers, specific anti-roll bars, a skid-plate package, and a high-capacity air cleaner. While cruising on the blacktop, Z71 decals for the pickup box remind mere 2WD pilots of your off-road adventure potential.
Silverado SS comes with an exclusive full-time, electronic all-wheel-drive (AWD) that uses a viscous-coupled transfer case.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, click here: 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD.