2009 Silverado Reg W/T Review (I'll try to add pictures later)
Last week (Tuesday) I had the opportunity to drive my University’s shop truck for our department to Oklahoma and back to pick up some ‘equipment’ for my research.
The truck in question is a 2009 Silverado Regular cab short bed W/T trim. At the start of our trip it had just over 3400 miles on it. Yes only 3400. Initially I thought it had a V8 but sadly it was equipped with the 4.3L V6. Which also meant it was paired to the old 4 speed transmission.
Our package to pick up was approximately 6ft by 7ft in size so we rented a 6ftx12ft UHaul trailer to load it into. Overall weight to two was approximately 2000lbs at the most on the return trip. We pulled the empty trailer there due to availability.
My initial impression of sitting in the truck was that everything felt solid. There weren’t any loose panels or steering slop that was prevalent in my ’96 K1500. Materials were hard plastic but this is the work truck trim so it was expected and preferred. The gauge cluster was easy to read, and the steering wheel comfortable. The options on this truck included cruise control, power windows and locks, towing package, and A/C (a must in West Texas).
A few issues I did notice right away were some gaps in the fitting of pieces of the center stack for the A/C controls beneath the radio and some misaligned panels around the gauge cluster hump. None of these affected performance but was bit annoying to see in a modern vehicle, W/T trim or not.
Initial driving around town impression was mixed. For starters, there was a terrible rattle from somewhere on the driver side, almost seems like something in fender was loose, slapping the fender. We had to inflate the tires before we left, not a big deal – the system in the truck told us all the tires were low on air. Doubt they have been inflated in sometime. The actual dynamics of the truck felt solid. The steering was precise and firm, and the acceleration in town was suited for laid back, gentle driving. The brake pedal was way too soft though. My Altima receives comments from anyone that drives it that the brakes are very touchy. They are very sensitive. This truck however, felt like I had several inches of travel before they engaged and when they did, they engaged abruptly. The other graduate student had the same issue when we swapped driving later on. Around town the truck felt solid, the suspension and ride were nice without harshness over bumps or rough roads. Noise levels were acceptable (except for the rattle).
Once we picked up our trailer and headed out on to the interstate the route was simple: drive north 2 hours, switch interstates and go east 3 hours. Highway driving was interesting. I have some experience pulling trailers so I knew what to expect, especially considering the wind that is common in the panhandle. The truck was very solid pulling the trailer. Again the suspension and chassis are superb. I did not have any problems with sway. I did not use tow/haul mode on the way to Oklahoma, but I did use it on the way back. The hydraulic braking system on the trailer was terrible at low speeds when it would engage and disengage but that wasn’t the truck’s fault. The ride was smooth, which is important to me since I tend to get motion sickness in certain vehicles like buses or boats. The biggest issue I had with the truck is the engine.
To sum up my feelings about the 4.3L before this trip was immense dislike. To sum my feeling now: utter disdain. This engine is pathetic. Setting the cruise control at 75mph (speed limit on some interstates in Texas), the engine did fine – until you came to an overpass. Or any slight change in elevation. For those of you unfamiliar, West Texas makes Michigan look like it is the Rocky Mountains, it is flat here. Overpasses are our big hills. Any time we would approach an overpass the engine would go from cruising at low-mid 2k rpm and jump to 4500rpm and hold it well beyond what it needed to get over the overpass. I presume a 6sp transmission might have helped but this engine is weak. We would lose about 5 mph each overpass and the engine would struggle to keep up. The return trip with our load was slightly worse but with the different transmission shift pattern with tow/haul mode on, it seemed to drive slightly better. The smoothest operation I was able to achieve was without cruise control on. It is possible GM’s cruise control algorithm is terrible too and just doesn’t match this engine but I feel this engine is simply a disaster. During our first pit stop to refuel, I opened the glove box and looked at the window sticker for the vehicle. It was equipped with the woefully deficient 3.23 gear in the rear end, making our misery that much worse - the worst possible combination for towing anything. We averaged about 12mpg for the entire trip. I imagine that either of the V8 options would have given us better fuel economy since they would not have worked so hard.
At highway speed, road noise was very loud. It was difficult to carry a conversation. Fortunately, my fellow student slept most of the drive. And the annoying rattle couldn’t be heard either. Stereo worked fine, as expected. Sound quality was decent enough, no complaints about it from me. Something that bugged me though, when sitting in the passenger seat, I noticed some wind noise like a door wasn’t shut or a window wasn’t sealing that sounded like it was behind me, like the back window in a car wasn’t sealed but without any backseat there to be the source of the noise. My assumption is that the back window didn’t seat properly somewhere. And the lack of sound insulation between the cab and bed was annoying. Again I’m not sure if it is because this was the W/T trim or what, but I noticed a lot of small corners cut.
Other random things:
- The tailgate latch and handle were very smooth and easy to use. Tailgate has its typical heft but it folded up into place very nicely. The best action I’ve felt yet on a truck.
- Door handles are solid and easy to use. I’m a big fan of the current design and how it is integrated into the body better than the added on piece like the GMT800’s and Fords use.
- The actual layout of the W/T dash I much prefer to the normal dash design found in the Suburbans I’ve driven. I like that the radio is shifted and angled slightly towards the driver much like the original GMT800’s did. I've always liked GM's orientation of the controls towards the driver.
- The column shifter. I am a big supporter of column shifters in trucks. I really like the way GM has shaped theirs since the GMT800’s. I picked up the habit from my dad, but I like to rest my hand on the shift while driving when I’m messing with the radio controls. When in drive, the shape fits perfectly to allow easy access to the radio knobs when scrolling through radio stations to find music that isn’t terrible. Both my parents GMT800’s have it and I’m glad to see I can still do it on this truck.
- I did notice how thin the sheet metal was on the truck when I leaned against it. Not the most positive thing in the world but sadly I think we are at the point where that is going to become the standard to minimize weight.
- The glove boxes looked small. In the top one was an ice scraper that barely fit; you might get a few ink pens in there too, but it was very small. The bottom one was most filled up by the owner’s manual so I’d like to see better storage options in the future. There were a couple of cubby holes on the center stack but only one could hold my phone without me being afraid of it falling out. All were too shallow otherwise. Behind the seats were almost enough room to place my backpack but not quite so it sat in the center on top of the transmission bump.
- I never got fatigued during driving and I drove at least 9 hours of the trip, so I have to say GM did an excellent job on the seat and ergonomics. I’d say it was better than my Altima is.
- And man does GM build fantastic A/C systems. I love how much cold air it pushes on low settings and then when you need it to you can really crank up the fan. How I wish my Altima had a better system in it. It really isn’t loud until you turn it up all the way.
The final question, would I buy one? Not a chance if it had the V6. I would have to drive an extended cab with the 5.3L paired to the 6 speed transmission and proper gearing before I would commit, but I dare say the truck is well put together with a few quips. I feel that GM has an excellent chassis set up and I would buy one if the powertrain bits are in order. While I miss the days of driving a truck I don’t miss the fuel cost, so I look forward to seeing what GM has to offer us in the next 18 months with both the fullsize and midsize trucks and the push for greater efficiency.