The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado: A Versatile Pickup for Work and Play

And a few Chevrolet Silverado changes we think are due.

We love our pickup trucks, a segment that continues to expand with smaller trucks now entering the market. The best sellers, though, are the full-size models from GM, Ford, and Stellantis, including the Chevrolet Silverado 1500.

Chevrolet overhauled the Silverado in 2019 and will refresh this truck in 2022. In the meantime, the current iteration represents a strong entry in the segment. Indeed, the base model starts around $30,000, while the top-trim High Country with all the fixins’ retails for about $70,000.

Within that spread is a truck you might like. We find the sweet spot is about $50,000 for a well-equipped crew cab.

Two weeks ago we dissected the GMC Sierra 1500, the Silverado’s twin. We are taking a slightly different approach here as we first mention the many things we love about the Silverado, then follow with those things that need improvement.

Finally, we will look at how the Silverado behaves before concluding our review with a recommendation.

Chevrolet Silverado: All the Things We Love

2021 Chevy Silverado profile

Three Cab Sizes

Some competitors, including the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra, no longer offer regular cab models. This is understandable as the take rate is under 5 percent. Even so, by addressing the niche segment, Chevrolet demonstrates that it is committed to serving everyone.

Three large bed choices.

One of the reasons why anyone would want a regular cab model is an 8-foot bed. It is the only body style offering this. The other bed choices include a 5-foot, 8-inch short box and a 6-foot, 6-inch standard box.

All three sizes offer something for everyone. We could wish the long bed was matched with the crew cab, but we understand that it would be a bit too long for this model.

Eight Trims For the Choosing

Manufacturers offer a dizzying number of permutations with their pickup trucks. Indeed, you will find the standard rear-wheel drive and available four-wheel drive across the Silverado model line.

Further, besides the cab offerings, there are eight trims to consider: Work Truck (WT), Custom, Custom Trail Boss LT, LT Trail Boss, RST, LTZ, and High Country. Thus, you can outfit a Silverado in almost any way you choose.

Consider the Package Options

Further customization can be had by choosing one or more of the dozen or so available packages. One of the most popular choices is the available Z71 Off-Road Package. This one includes Rancho twin-tube shocks, skid plates, hill descent control, a two-speed transfer case, a locking differential, and upgraded wheels and tires.

Other packages upgrade the assist steps, tonneau cover, performance, and the trailering. There is something for everyone and the choices almost dazzle the imagination.

Superior Tech Features

2021 Silverado dashboard

The base WT model comes with a two-speaker sound system and that’s nothing to brag about. Still, this one also includes a 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, and smartphone compatibility. Moreover, Chevrolet adds a pair of USB ports.

You do not need to move far up the trim range to find such things as an 8-inch touch-screen display. Six or more speakers, additional USB ports, satellite radio, and a Wi-Fi hotspot come in. Other upgrades include a wireless charging pad, seven-speaker Bose audio system, bed-view camera, HD Radio, and a digital dashboard.

Five Engine Choices

Four, six, and eight: these are the number of cylinders available among the Silverado’s five engine choices. A 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the smallest of the lot, followed by a 4.3-liter V6.

A pair of V8 engines with displacements of 5.3 and 6.2 liters follow. Finally, a 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel engine is available as well.

Three Transmission Choices

A 10-speed automatic transmission governs most engines, but a 6-speed works with the V6 and is the base choice with the 5.3-liter V8. The 5.3-liter V8 may also work with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

In all, there are seven powertrain choices and that’s more than any competitor.

New Multi-Function Tailgate

2021 Chevrolet Silverado rear

Chevrolet now gets what GMC introduced in 2019: a multi-function tailgate. GMC calls it MultiPro, while Chevrolet names it MultiFlex. They are the same. What this available tailgate does is supply a small cut out in the standard tailgate.

That cutout drops, opens, and pivots, giving this model six options for carrying things and for ease of entry into the bed.

Strong Towing Capabilities

We know towing is a significant deal for pickup truck buyers. The Silverado does not disappoint. The turbocharged four-cylinder and the turbo-diesel recently received a boost in towing capacity.

Further, the beefy 6.2-liter V8 now boasts a maximum towing capacity of 11,900 pounds. Only the V6 gas model falls short, with a 7,900-pound tow rating. For everyone else, 9,000 pounds is the floor.

Capable Payload Ratings

How much weight do you need to carry? Between passengers and cargo, ample poundage is needed. Indeed, if you are carrying five huge guys weighing an average of 250 pounds, that’s 1,250 pounds right off the bat.

Fortunately, the Silverado 1500 delivers a minimum of 1,750 pounds to 2,280 pounds, depending on the configuration. If you need a greater capacity, the Silverado 3500 doubles that.

Chevrolet Silverado: Room for Improvement

No model is perfect, therefore there is always room for improvement. The Chevrolet Silverado is no exception, although we must admit the needed changes pale in comparison to the advantages offered.

Simple Interior

2021 Chevrolet Silverado front seats

Pickup trucks have come a long way. Once prized for its utilitarian purposes, the full-size truck typically doubles as the family vehicle. As such, many of the creature comforts are included or available. Full power accessories. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Optional leather seats.

That said, the Silverado’s design is basic, especially amongst its peers. The squared-off look of the exterior carries over to the interior. It represents a look that is familiar but now surpassed by the stylish interior of the Ram 1500 and the upcoming 2022 Tundra.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado rear seats

We think an overhaul of the design aesthetic is required. Hopefully, we will see this soon.

Safety Features and Scores

Automatic emergency braking is available, but it is not standard. Features such as blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors are available, but only on the top trim. Marginal scores in front crash testing and poor standard headlights did not help.

Ram and Ford F-150 outperform the Silverado in all things safety and that is never a favorable consideration.

Behind the Wheel

As with any full-size pickup truck, you sit up high behind the wheel of the Silverado. The front seats are wide and supportive. This means they are ideal for the above-average-sized adult. Certainly, the ideal choice in that row is a pair of bucket seats. The Regular Cab features a bench seat, however.

In models with two rows, the space differences are noticeable. The Double Cab almost seems like the strangest offering of the three body styles as it attempts to split the difference between the Regular and Crew Cab models.

This means you get the benefit of rear seating, but not the comfort offered in the Crew Cab. Indeed, the rear seat space in the Crew Cab is nearly identical to the space in the first row. Moreover, that second-row seat folds up, which then supplies ample storage capacity inside.

The cabin layout is straightforward with all dials, buttons, and switches where you would expect to find them. To the left of the steering wheel, the dialer for controlling the drivetrain is present.

On models equipped with four-wheel drive, defaulting to all-wheel drive ensures the front wheels kick in as needed. Otherwise, standard 2WD (rear-wheel drive) will do with available 4Hi and 4Lo for various four-wheel-drive conditions.

As is typical of our test vehicles, a 6.2-liter engine powered our truck. It is large, beastly, and probably the best choice for anyone needing something as close to a heavy-duty truck as they can get.

That said, we have driven models with each of the four other engine choices. We found that each one has something to bring to the table. Only the gas V6 seems somewhat subpar, although in recent years it has received a significant boost in performance.

Heavy-Duty Power

The beefy V8 begs to be pushed and we did so. Its step-off power is excellent as is its passing performance. The engine roars under full throttle and the transmission complies by seamlessly shifting in the background.

The trade-off, though, is a measly 15 mpg. That is not unusual for the class, but it can surprise some. On the other hand, exceeding 30 mpg with the turbo-diesel is possible. Just remember that it will cost you an extra $4,500 on some trims, where available.

Our default drive mode was all-wheel drive. We like this feature because we can set it and forget it. We could sense when the power shifted from the rear wheels to the front, usually only long enough to find some grip before releasing.

We kept the Silverado on firm terrain most of the time, adventuring off-road on occasion. Switching to 4Hi is a shift-on-the-fly experience. This means you can keep driving at moderate speeds and the system kicks in. Locking the rear differential and getting out of ruts in 4Lo is mostly a trivial matter.

That said, we could see where the Silverado’s girth becomes a significant issue on narrow trails. Couple that with a swampy expanse and watching where you drive becomes critically important.

All in all, the Silverado keeps up with the best of them. Some may find the 420 horsepower of the 6.2-liter engine a bit much. Otherwise, the gas V6 (285 hp), turbo-four (310 hp), and the 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp) shine.

As for the turbo-diesel, it delivers 277 horsepower and a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque, the latter matching the 6.2-liter V8.

Our Recommendation

As of this writing, the global semiconductor chip is adversely affecting inventories, including full-size trucks. It may be another year before supply aligns with demand. This means you will need to work with your dealer to find your Silverado.

Thus, building to order might be the best choice, especially if you can wait a few months for delivery.

As for the Chevrolet Silverado body style, we would go with the crew cab and the standard box. We would only consider four-wheel drive if we needed it. Also, the 5.3-liter V8 or the turbo-diesel would be our top engine choices, the latter perhaps the best investment for long-term ownership.

See Also2019 Chevrolet Silverado & a Turbo Four

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Matthew Keegan

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