(first posted 6/30/2017) Fleet vehicles often have a cursed existence. Born to be subjected to a terribly wide variety of drivers and situations, they experience a long term acid test of durability and stamina. The general, and often correct, perception is they are used hard and put away wet at the end of their service lives.
But there are exceptions.
The entity where I work has a rather sizable fleet so my career has been full of driving a multitude and wide variety of different vehicles of all ages, mileages, and histories. It’s a non-monetary perk that, if nothing else, gives me fodder for sharing with others online.
This sour cream white Silverado you see has been my steady steed for the last four years. My career has spanned twenty-one years thus far and this has been the employer owned vehicle I have been assigned the longest and driven the most.
Like many things in life, there are certain definitive chapters, so let’s look at it that way. It’ll also help negate the rambling from my first draft.
One Year (or so) Prior
When I moved to Jefferson City in 2011, I was assigned an all-wheel drive 2009 Ford Escape with the 3.0 liter V6. A mostly decent assemblage of parts, my opinion of it skyrocketed immensely after driving two similar vintage Escapes equipped with the 2.5 liter four. These four-cylinder Escapes were aptly named as I wanted out of them and few were happy about driving these two mini-SUVs that were assigned to the motor pool. Perhaps the Escape was one of Ford’s better ideas, but the four-banger Escape of this era wasn’t one of their better executions.
The V6 Escape assigned to me wasn’t entirely bad as its all-wheel drive allowed me to access some challenging areas off-road and it made decent power most days. However, soon after it came into my care, I started to experience profound pain in my lower back, accompanied with a sensation identical to the aftermath of being kicked in the nether regions, every time I stood or walked for more than ten minutes.
About a year later our safety officer resigned. Putting myself in wheeler-dealer mode (which is how I had never been assigned anything for very long), I approached his supervisor about swapping my Escape for the resigned safety officer’s Silverado. He bit, we swapped keys, I took a forgettable butt-chewing from the fleet manager, and the groin kick feeling soon went away.
When I took possession of this albino Silverado, it was six years old and had just 43,000 miles. A permanent fixture on our underutilized list of fleet units at that time, I knew it had had a very gently used past as evidenced by it having no scratches on the bed floor and an immaculate interior. I have treated it easily and the bed remains unchanged.
Several people were inquisitive about why I traded an all-wheel drive compact SUV for a two-wheel drive pickup. Why not? I got the better end of the deal.
Despite its plain appearance, this Silverado has heated leather seats, a moonroof, and a jacuzzi in the bed. Yeah, as if.
It’s pretty plain, but isn’t that the point? Just don’t jump to any conclusions about what is lurking under the hood as a 4.3 liter V6 it has not. Our fleet manager who purchased this pickup was an Iowa farm girl and GM devotee who believed tools needed to have versatility and capability, thus every pickup she ordered for a very long time had the largest displacement V8 she could buy. So this milk colored Silverado is propelled by the 5.3 liter V8.
Incidentally, the 5.3 in this Silverado is capable of burning E-85.
Otherwise this Silverado has the standard fleet fare of vinyl seats, basic AM/FM radio, steel wheels, and the trailer towing package. Anyone seeking an entertainment system in this Silverado, or even an auxiliary input for an iPod, needs to start singing to themselves as that’s as close as they’ll get. It works out great for me as while a lot of people greatly value the entertainment system in their vehicles, I couldn’t care less about having one. Besides the 5.3 sounds great when you stomp it; that’s much better music than anything on the Billboard Top 40.
Oddly, GM equipped it with drum brakes in the rear. That is somewhat surprising as the 2007 Ford F-150 I own has discs out back.
This particular Silverado has seen all highway miles. As stated earlier, it had 43,000 miles right at four years ago; it now has nearly 118,000 miles, so I’ve averaged about 18,500 miles per year with it.
A year or so ago I investigated its track record and discovered this Silverado had averaged just under 18.0 miles per gallon over its lifetime. A second check last week revealed that has increased to 19.9 mpg; of this I was rather skeptical due to the rapid increase in lifetime fuel economy, making me wonder if I had entered the wrong mileage at some point when getting fuel. For comparison purposes, this Silverado has an EPA rating of 20 mpg highway.
Incidentally, for those now thinking about what might appear to be inordinate fuel consumption in these eight-cylinder pickups, let me challenge you. About three years ago I did some research on our fleet, a fleet in which my employer keeps fanatical records. Comparing all V6 powered pickups (there were only about four or five) against a cross-section of V8 powered pickups I found the lifetime fuel mileage was within a few tenths of one mile per gallon. All were half-tons.
My findings do tend to reflect the EPA estimates for these, estimates that make me entertain the question of why the 4.3 liter V6 is even available as it doesn’t prove itself as being any sort of relative economy engine.
Just for giggles, I once filled this Silverado with E-85. The fuel gauge dropped noticeably quicker.
The Service History
Given the easy usage of this Silverado, its service history is pretty boring although boring is desirable in fleet service.
Sometime after I was assigned this pickup, I noticed some very uneven wear on the inside of the front tires. A few ball joints and/or tie rods fixed it.
At around 80,000 miles it had an alarming rattle in the valve train upon cold starts. Knowing some of its counterparts with the 5.3 had decided to swallow a valve at around this mileage, I quickly had it investigated. While I forget the fix – I’m wanting to say it was a faulty oil filter – it was minor.
Within the last two months the windshield and headlights have been replaced. The windshield had a sordid collection of rock chips and the headlights had grown quite cloudy.
The only truly annoying item in its history is a tiny electrical gremlin that is isolated in the radio. Every once in a while the clock on the radio will reset to 12:00 upon startup.
Otherwise it has had routine maintenance as per GM recommendations and company policy.
Periodically there seems to be some degree of angst about the physical size of pickups these days. So, let’s think about this for a moment.
The wheelbase of this Silverado is 133.9″ (340.1 cm); the overall length is 220.3″ (559.6 cm).
In 1973, Chevrolet introduced a new generation of pickup, similar to what happened in 2007. One fundamental difference is the half-tons only came in a standard, non-extended cab guise. It’s wheelbase was 131.5″ (334.0 cm) and its overall length was 211.25″ (536.6 cm).
Considering this Silverado sacrifices 18″ (45.7 cm) of bed length to gain a bigger cab while only gaining 1.4″ (3.5 cm) in wheelbase, it makes me think of the old Wendy’s commercial asking where’s the beef?
The Driving Experience
Pickups have long been the best selling vehicles in the United States and it’s not hard to figure out why. Beyond the obvious versatility and utility components, there is the subjective elephant in the living room that never gets mentioned – they are a hell of a lot more comfortable to drive than most contemporary passenger cars and some number of SUVs.
One could argue this Silverado is a throwback to the days of yore – no console, a gear selector on the steering column, etc. And that is exactly its appeal to many buyers. One statement I have heard from numerous people over time who have been subjected to various late model sedans is “I want to drive a car, not wear it.”
I digress again.
Having put countless hours in the business seat of this Silverado, it’s a darn good place to be. Sure the vinyl gets cold in the winter, but that’s a superficial thing. The basic shape of the seat is great although age is starting to rear its ugly head as the foam (or whatever is used beneath the wearing surface) is starting to show early, minor signs of deterioration. At first I thought it may have been the constant load of my butt, but at 190 pounds (86.2 kg) I’m not presenting any real burden.
The steering and brakes are great. There have been instances of having a heavy load in the bed or pulling a trailer of some size, and each time the brakes were more than up to the task and the steering never got squirrely.
If pulling a trailer, one needs to be highly cognizant of this Silverado having a trailer tow mode. Activated by pushing a button on the gear selector, it alters the shift points to compensate for the trailer, making its presence much less known. If you pull a trailer without it, the Silverado seems like a real dog. Perhaps the trailer tow mode also changes the engine management, but either way one needs to use it.
The 5.3 possess a deep well of power (it’s rated at 315 horsepower) and is always ready to tackle whatever is thrown at it. A pet-peeve of mine is vehicles that have to endlessly downshift when pulling hills and continue to lose speed; well, this Silverado has pulled some dandy ones with rarely having to shift down from overdrive. At 338 ft-lbs, torque is abundant and available. On those occasions when it does downshift, it rarely loses speed. What a concept.
Having driven this Silverado on many windy, hilly roads I can vouch it handles great for a pickup and is in a much higher realm than any pickup from twenty years ago. As one who has been accused of tearing through corners and called Mario Andretti more than once, it is not a stretch to say this Silverado presents a much better subjective handling feel than many sedans from not that long ago. The old stereotype of pickups being hard riding, poor handling creatures needs to dry up and blow away – nothing could be further from the truth.
While I’m biased, and freely admit this Silverado handles well, it still is not quite as comfortable, nor does it handle quite as well, as my 2007 F-150. There are likely a number of reasons for that, but a person will be well served in choosing either of these. With 2007 having been the first year for this extended generation of Silverado, one can still easily find low mileage examples on many dealer lots.
There are a few, but not all are directly due to any brain fart by GM.
Since this rig is ten years old and has never sat in a garage a night in its life, this gives a good indication of how items will wear. As mentioned earlier, the headlights became quite clouded, although that is far from unique to GM. The dashboard has developed a minor crack on the passenger side and the drivers seat is showing some wear. That’s pretty much it.
A demerit, due strictly to how it was ordered, is it not having power door locks. If I’m in the drivers seat and need to unlock the passenger door, I have the option of getting out and walking around or stretching way over to unlock it. Either way is a pain.
During this time, GM had cloth seats in their base model pickups as a no-cost option. I was briefly assigned an identical Silverado with cloth seats that were much better in temperature extremes.
I still prefer my Ford despite its power deficit to the Chevrolet. However, if a tree fell on my Ford tonight and I needed to replace it, I would look at a Silverado such as this as a potential successor. It would have to have the 5.3 and cloth seats would be my preference.
Why Reviewing Now?
While I’ve been wanting to review this pickup for a while, there needed to be the conclusion of a chapter – part of what lead me to such a presentation in this article. The new chapter has arrived as I’ve handed over the keys to another person. Having taken a different position, my chariot has changed.
It’s now a white Impala. Ooh, baby.