New Car/Review

1997 Chevrolet Silverado K1500 Extended-Cab 4X4 Pickup Truck

Carey Russ

Chevrolet

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


It's been a long time since pickup trucks were used mostly for work, and even then there were plenty of customers for whom the family truck was also the family car. Today, pickups are the biggest- selling vehicles in the country. The full-sized Chevrolet C/K trucks are the best-selling vehicles in the General Motors empire, and out sell many competitive car lines. They even outsell the combined totals of the best-known luxury imports.

We're talking many, many trucks here. How can one vehicle be all things to all people? It's easy - "one vehicle" does not describe the Chevy pickup line. There are plenty of choices in the bowtie lineup to satisfy any full-sized pickup requirement. With trim levels for work or family, two or four-wheel drive, different box lengths and styles, gasoline V6 or V8 or turbo-diesel V8 engines, manual or automatic transmissions, regular, extended, or crew cabs, a variety of gross vehicle weight ratings and towing abilities, just about anything is available to configure a Chevrolet pickup to just about anyone's personal or commercial pickup needs. Chevy even has a program to provide financial assistance to people with disabilities for installation of aftermarket adaptive equipment, and extended-cab trucks have room for devices like wheelchair lifts.

One of the more recent innovations in pickups is a third door for access to the rear seat of extended-cab models. Chevrolet introduced its version of this feature to the full-sized line in 1996. The Silverado K1500 extended-cab 4-wheel drive pickup that I recently tested was so equipped, and what a useful option it was. It made loading people or cargo into the spacious back seat a snap. Think of a 3-door extended cab full-sized truck as a family sedan with a trunk you could live in. This one had all of the comforts and conveniences of a large sedan, and the rugged strength and power of a truck.

APPEARANCE: The big Chevy pickup has no pretensions to being anything but a truck. "Massive" is the word that comes to mind when gazing at it. Form follows function, and the boxy design means good space utilization. The corners and edges are slightly rounded, but the current automotive aero-look is conspicuously absent. Chrome, in amounts not seen on mere cars in years, abounds from the front bumper and massive egg-crate grille through trim on the sides to the heavy-duty rear bumper. The passenger-side third door available on extended-cab models is inconspicuous when closed. It is hinged at the rear, allowing a wide opening for easy interior access. The "Fleetside" pickup box is a modern, full-width design with small flares over the rear wheels, and the "Sportside" box is the retro-look narrow box with external fenders. Four-by-four trucks sit higher than their two-wheel brethren, and a variety of wheels are offered.

COMFORT: Much like the exterior, the interior of the K1500 is squarely functional. "Silverado" is the fanciest trim level, and my test truck had great cloth-upholstered "captain's chair" bucket seats in front, a useful floor console, and an overhead console as well. With plenty of storage around the cabin, and dual power points as well as a lighter, this truck is like a Swiss Army knife for utility. A squarish instrument panel may not be the height of fashion, but all controls and instruments were well-placed. The column-mounted shift lever increases console space, while the floor-mounted 4-wheel drive lever has direct linkage to the 4-wheel drive system. The front passenger seat can be moved forward for access to the rear bench seat, but why bother? The third door makes life so much easier. There is room for three in back, and plenty of storage spaces and cupholders for their gear. This truck has as much room inside as many midsized sedans, and a six and a half foot long pickup box that is usefully wide in Sportside or Fleetside styles.

SAFETY: The passenger-side airbag in the Chevrolet pickup can be disabled when carrying small children. Side door beams, antilock brakes, front and rear crush zones, and daytime running lights are standard.

ROADABILITY: A long wheelbase gives the Chevy extended-cab pickup highway stability, and the large tires cushion road shocks. Power steering, and a tighter turning circle for 1997, make it easily maneuverable. The high stance and large glass area of the cab make for great visibility. It's not the easiest thing to find city parking space for, but should make a good "car" for anyone who needs its cargo, passenger, and towing abilities.

PERFORMANCE: My test truck was equipped with the classic 350- cubic inch V8, so power was never any problem. All Chevy truck engines were upgraded for improved power and fuel economy characteristics last year, and the workhorse small-block V8 now has 255 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. City and highway traffic present no problems, and a 7500-lb. towing ability should please boat and trailer owners.

CONCLUSIONS: Full-sized pickups like the Chevy K 1500 3-door extended-cab model combine the best features of a family car with the best features of a truck.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price               $ 21,401
Price As Tested          $ 27,740
Engine Type              16-valveV8, pushrod ohv
Engine Size              5.7 liters / 350 cu. in.
Horsepower               255 @ 4600
Torque (lb-ft)           330 @ 2800
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length       131 in. / 213 in.
Curb Weight              4500 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    17.7
Fuel Capacity            25 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular
Tires                    P245/75 R16 B. F. Goodrich Radial Long Trail T/A
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / drum
Suspension, front/rear   independent with torsion bars /
                         solid axle with leaf springs
Ground Clearance         8 in.
Payload                  1634 lbs.
Drivetrain               front engine, on-demand 4-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      13/17/14
0 to 60 mph                        est. 10 sec
Towing capacity                    7500 lbs

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Preferred Equipment Group 1SB $ 3,164
     (Silverado trim package)
    includes: air conditioning, dual electric mirrors,
    AM/F/ cassette sound system, tilt steering wheel
    and cruise control, power locks and windows,
    exterior trim, etc.
Preferred Equipment Group Savings
    vs. separate                   -($ 750)

Vortec 5700 V8 engine                $ 1,195
4-speed automatic transmission       $ 970
Easy Access System 3rd door          $ 420
High-back bucket seats with
    overhead console                 $ 270
CA/NY/MA emissions                   $ 170
Remote keyless entry                 $ 140
3.73 rear axle ratio                 $ 135
Destination charge                   $ 625     

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