Maybe it's the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon or maybe it is just because they are so bloody good at towing, but I see Ram 1500s everywhere. At our recent Caravan of the Year shootout (read all about it in issues 636 and 637 of Caravan World) we had no less than three arrive from dealers and manufacturers and on the road, I swear three in four big vans are towed by one.
I sort of get the appeal. They have high tow-ratings, they are relatively affordable and even with their stonking V8s, they tend to do okay on fuel when hauling big vans (we’ve seen approximately 30L/100km several times on long tows) but it's not the only truck in town and its main rival has a lot to offer. Bring on the Silverado 1500.
WHAT WAS ON OFFER
A test drive with a tow! That's fairly unheard of with only Isuzu and its D-MAX and MU-X launched featuring some towing; otherwise, it is a rare pleasure at new-car launches.
HITS AND MISSES
- Larger display
- Tow Modes
- V8 Grunt
- V8 Thirst
- Small Fuel Tank
We had two new 1500s, an updated LTZ Premium and new-spec ZR2, a nameplate not used for a long time but revered by offroad enthusiasts. The LTZ is the one that drew my attention the most. It is one of the top specifications offered by the factory with the local arm, GMSV, also ticking the 6.2L V8 and Z71 Off-Road Pack options on all coming our way.
The LTZ Premium features massive 20in wheels, a black leather-appointed interior, adaptive cruise control and a Technology Pack featuring additional cameras and a larger Heads Up Display over lesser-spec’d models.
The camera angles available are impressive with no less than 14 angles on offer. There are six focused on towing most of which require an optional camera system mounted to your trailer but what they can do is pretty cool. There is a Transparent view that morphs a number of views together to virtually see through the trailer as well as an option to mount a camera to the rear of the trailer as a rear-view camera. Also notable are a front view activated at low speeds to see what is in front of the truck and four angles that will be handy for hitching and towing.
The big update for the MY23 is the use of a new, larger screen for the Infotainment system and the main dash. For CarPlay, Android Auto and setting trailer configuration and so on, the new 13.4-inch main screen is easy to use and read. Where it comes into its own is in blind spot monitoring though. The new 12.3-inch main dash screen is equally as good with a multitude of configurations programmed plus the option to personalise yours.
I spent the most time in the LTZ with the drive from our accommodation to Norwell Motorplex – a good test of city traffic, undulating hills and highway cruising over approximately 35km. In tow I had a Kokoda Force 8 with a tare of 2880kg and ATM of 3500kg. That's well within the capability of the LTZ whose braked-tow rating tops out at 4500kg, but it was still no lightweight.
On paper, the specs of the 1500’s are pretty good with kerb weights at 2543kg and 2583kg for the LTZ and ZR2 respectively. Both have a 3300kg GVM, so payloads are a bit less than you’d expect from such big vehicles. Their GCM’s differ with the LTZ at 7160kg and ZR2 at 6851kg. Both can tow 3500kg with a 50mm ball and the LTZ up’s the ZR2 with a 4500kg max tow capacity with a 70mm ball over the 4200kg limit of the ZR2. Doing some sums at max tow capacity and the pair are both hamstrung by their GCMs though, a common theme among many manufacturers.
With a 4500kg van behind the LTZ and after subtracting the kerb weight, you are left with only 117kg before you max out your GCM. Only good enough for me and a case of beer; forget the kids and fishing gear. With a 3500kg van in tow, you can utilise the full GVM of the 1500 LTZ Premium which is a lot more than you can say about a lot of vehicles rated to 3500kg max braked towing.
The Ram 1500 and Silverado 1500 sold more than 500,000 units globally last year. In the same period, VFACTS claims total new-car sales topped $1.08m locally. In just these two models, pretty much all new cars sold last year could have been one of these two. For me, this popularity is one of their strong points, I’ll get to that.
Way back in Caravan World issue 628 I rated the big brother of the 1500, the 2500HD highly. I suggested it was the most capable tow vehicle I’d reviewed but I also mentioned that it's not actually bigger than its 1500 siblings, and it’s not.
The 1500 shares its cab dimensions with the 2500HD. However, the bed is longer in the 2500 and its underpinnings are substantially more, um, heavy-duty. I raise this as many people suggest the 1500 is a more manageable vehicle around town and in tight spots. I disagree, both are a magnitude bigger than what Australia grew up with. If you are thinking of either the 1500 or 2500, aim to book drive-through sites at parks and avoid ever parking one in the city. On the road, both are fantastic with their bulk sometimes motivating other drivers to give you a bit more room, but neither is unmanageable.
In the LTZ Premium, with ZL1 Offroad Package, the factory-supplied suspension feels calibrated to smoother, less bumpy roads than ours as the nose of the truck will float up and down a lot and it feels like it nearly maxes out its travel on bigger dips. The ZR2 however, belies its girth with Multimatic DSSV dampers, a technology you’ll find in high-performance sports cars and even championship winning F1 cars. In simple terms, the oils the dampers use are diverted in unique ways, and the outcome, is a big truck that soaks up small and big bumps with aplomb. Unhitched and passenger with Bathurst winning driver Paul Morris on the backroads of Sirromet Winery, the ZR2 felt every bit dirt-road racer as it does monster truck. So even with the slightly reduced tow capacity and GCM, is ZR2 the one to have? Well, yes but no.
IT'S ALL IN THE TYRES
Some TV ads will tell you there is only a palm-sized contact patch between you and the ground, and they are not wrong even if it's a big palm with the 1500’s. What they are trying to say is that your tyres matter more than most people realise and nowhere was this more obvious than hard braking, with trailers in-tow with vastly different tyres between the LTZ and ZR2.
The ZR2 comes shod with bespoke Goodyear Wrangler Mud Terrains, a tyre that has offroad performance in its design while the LTZ rolls on All Terrains. While the ZR2 ate up every bump off the pavement, it squirmed and struggled to haul up the test trailers on the dry test track; in braking the LTZ gave confidence and feedback in the right ways. In swerving and turning, the difference wasn’t as obvious, but I would suggest if offroad driving is not more than 75 per cent of your driving, you’d be better off with the more road-focussed All Terrains on the LTZ. If you want to tow a little and thrash around in the dirt more, go the ZR2, you won’t be disappointed – just monitor your braking distances.
FUEL CONSUMPTION AND DRIVING
Yeah, so the LTZ and ZR2 are not going to compete with your Corolla on fuel use but good luck towing a large van with the family hatchback. I expect real consumption is going to be around 28L/100km across a mix of stop-start and over 90km/h suburban driving. In a promising sign for the 6.2L V8, I saw as low as 22L/100km on my 35km loop from Sirromet Winery to Norwell via a mixture of small hills, urban and freeway driving with the LTZ and a Kokoda Force 8.
It was too short of a run to honestly suggest it will pull that regularly. That would equal or beat a new LandCruiser with a similar-sized van, if true. We really need to arrange a longer tow of a few hundred kilometres to be sure, but the signs are promising.
In terms of feel, I noted how the nose of the LTZ feels light, or that it could do with some extra dampening from its standard shock absorbers but aside from the minor gripe, it is a flawless drive. Like its big brother, the 2500HD, the 1500 has a presence on the road and manners that give you real confidence towing. Its large footprint and sizeable weight mean it was not bullied by the trailers we towed and there are safety systems designed that are hard to beat.
SAFETY AND COMFORT
Like all US trucks and now the Next-Gen Ranger and Everest, there is a swathe of towing tech in the Silverados. You can set up the dimensions and weights of your favourite trailer as well as do singlehanded light checks, and, in Tow Haul Mode it will adjust a few driving parameters and gauge display. The gauge update is important as it adds the transmission temperature display while lessening shifts in the ten-speed to reduce heat build-up. It's clever stuff.
The MY23 also comes adorned with every acronym and safety feature imaginable from Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control System with Traction Control and Forward Collision Alert to Low-Speed Automatic Emergency Braking but probably my favourite is how the main screen shows vision down the side of the truck and trailer when indicating to turn. If you've set the length of our trailer in the onboard settings, it will also shade out the area where collisions are possible (see image).
Again, clever and practical for towing and as you would expect, the 1500 LTZ comes with a factory-fitted trailer sway control and electronic brake controller, which is moved to near the driver's left knee, in easy reach. This was a detail I thought missed in the 2500HD which had it too far away, near the passenger's right knee.
It's comfortable to boot with touchpoints where you want, a driver's seat that is adjustable in almost any way and a driving position that allows for excellent visibility. I suspect, like the 2500HD, it will offer fantastic long-distance comfort. But there is one thing that’ll stop you from those long drives and it's the obvious one, fuel.
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel capacity is low, too low for a vehicle that towing a mammoth, 4500kg trailer could reasonably consume 30L/100km. At 91L, you’ll want to keep a fuel station in mind, constantly, carry some jerry cans or upgrade the fuel tank. Thankfully options exist in the Long Ranger (205L total), Walkinshaw (188L) and Brown Davis (185L). These tanks all replace the factory tank, consuming the void left in front of the factory tank and all retail for around $3000 with easy-to-follow DIY instructions. I would ask my dealer to fit one or have it done immediately after purchase.
There are 10 gears in the 10R80 gearbox. It felt crisp to shift and could keep the 6.2L Ecotec V8 on song if wanted. Though with 313kW (a touch under 420hp) and a diesel-like 624Nm of torque, you needn't open the throttle wide at all. It felt like it always had power in reserve.
Pricing is sharp with the LTZ Premium carrying a recommended retail price (RRP) of $128,000 and the ZR2 a $133,000 RRP. Factoring in on-road costs and it's likely you’ll be spending around $140,000 driveaway for the LTZ. The ZR2 looks to be in hot demand so you may pay a bit more over RRP plus ORCs to secure one in the short term. Compared to the darling of towing in Australia, the LC300, these prices are not bad and before you scream a Toyota is easier to service and find parts for, I would recommend having a look at the sales volumes of the 1500’s. The volume of consumable and replacement parts for the Silverado (and Ram) is likely immeasurable and I’d suggest the lazy, L86 V8 shares a lot of DNA with one of the world's best, the LS series of V8s. Short of the parts used to remanufacture the trucks to righthand drive, you should never have an issue getting a part and they should be durable.
Do I think Silverado has the edge on the Ram 1500? It is close, but yes. The e-Torque Hybrid engine in the Ram hasn't shown to be more efficient than non-Hybrid variants and the signs are promising for the Silverado in terms of fuel consumption under-tow. The 1500 Ram Limited benefits from self-levelling air suspension which is frankly fantastic but carries a hefty price premium (around $25,000). Compared to the more similarly spec’d Ram 1500 Laramie, it's very close with the Ram around $5000 more expensive than the LTZ Premium.
Both the Ram 1500 and LTZ are hamstrung by low GCMs, and the Ram Laramie has a low payload too; no separating them there. The same goes for their warranty which is three-year/100,000km and service intervals (12,000km). Where the two are separated is on the inside. In terms of interior, the Silverado now takes the mantle of best-in-class with larger displays, and I think better all-around feel (this is subjective of course).
What I think will sway your choice is the availability of a dealer for servicing and the look of them. And looks are subjective, aye mum?
MY23 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500 LTZ RATINGS
- Value for money 8/10
It is not priced far from high-spec 300 Series Landcruiser but the 2500HD is not much more again
- Towing performance 9/10
Only its thirst, which was pretty good, holds it back a touch
- Hitching up 9/10
Up to 15 views from the cameras, a solo light check system and excellent checklists impress
- Creature comforts 8/10
Touch points are better than its big brother and its seats and layout just as good
- Accessibility of Spare Parts 6/10
They’ll sell over a million of these so parts won’t be an issue, in America
- Fuel economy 7/10
It was better than I expected, I am not going to lie, but it's still thirsty vs Japanese utes
- Solo performance 8/10
All of the tech makes it a breeze to use but due to its size, it’s best out of the city
- Engine power 7/10
I rarely had to ask much of the thumping V8 but its power and torque are high in the revs
- Innovation 7/10
The MY23 version is more of a light facelift than a new model but its new screens are welcome
- X-Factor 8/10
The rarity of US Trucks is waning but they still command position on busy roads and will out-tow anything
MY23 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500 LTZ PREMIUM SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Ground clearance (at kerb weight)||228mm|
|Gross Vehicle Mass||3300kg|
|Gross Combined Mass||7160kg|
|Towing capacity unbraked/braked||4500/750kg|
|Transmission||10-speed automatic with 2-speed 4WD transfer case|
|Power||313W at 5600rpm|
|Torque||624Nm from 4100rpm|
|Suspension||Front: Independent, coils, sway bar|
Rear: Solid axle, leaf sprung
|Brakes||Front and rear vented discs|
|Wheels||20in alloy with All-Terrain tyres|
MY23 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Premium price from $128,000 RRP
For more information, head over to GMS' website.
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