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FIRST DRIVE

Silverado SS pickup leads Chevy's performance pack

May 21, 2003|Jim Mateja | Chicago Tribune

It used to be that performance meant how many bales of hay or flats of sod a pickup could carry. Of course, that was when trucks were designed for work and not for play.

Trucks are no longer just tools, and performance now means horsepower, torque ratings and traveling from zero to 60 miles per hour in a short period. Rather than hold hay or sod in the bed, pickups now boast extended cabs to get two or three more people in the cabin.

The Chevrolet Silverado SS new for 2003, is the first in a promised line of SS, or Super Sport, editions intended to recall Chevy's performance heritage.

The full-size Silverado SS competes with the high-performance Ford F-150 SVT Lightning and Dodge SRT-10 full-size pickups. The SS is the only all-wheel-drive member of the three and the only one, according to Chevy, to boast a "throaty NASCAR-inspired exhaust roar."

In the car line, the Impala SS will be back in the 2004 model year, and the Chevelle SS awaits its production verdict. But first up is an SS truck. Chevy believes pickups have earned the right to carry the SS badge.

"As buyers have migrated to full-size pickup trucks, their need for refined performance has gone with them," said Silverado marketing director Rick Scheidt.

The SS is a short bed, four-door (two rear access doors), extended cab powered by a 6-liter, 345-horsepower V-8 that delivers 380 pound-feet of torque to enable it to scoot from the line like small sport coupes.

The Lightning and SRT-10 are considerably more potent, each boasting 500 horsepower. But Chevy counters that only the SS offers full-time all-wheel-drive for optimum handling on wet or dry roads.

The SS also comes with wide, low-profile 20-inch radial tires that, with the suspension, have been tuned for high-performance handling while delivering a rather smooth ride for a truck.

The SS chassis has been lowered by 2 inches and its track widened for added stability. No wobble, no lean and no top-heavy feeling

The SS comes in a monochromatic black, blue or red color scheme that includes the grille, front and rear fascias and specially styled five-spoke aluminum wheels.

But how about an even shorter bed and using the space to expand rear-seat legroom?

And that's not a console between the driver and the front-seat passenger. It's a cabinet that, if slimmed down, would provide more hip room for occupants. Base price: $39,205, plus freight charges. Add $95 for off-road skid plates and $15 for a spare-tire lock.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

2003 Chevrolet Silverado SS

Wheelbase: 143.5 inches

Length: 227.6 inches

Engine: 6-liter, 345-horsepower V-8

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 12 miles per gallon in the city/16 mpg on the highway

Base price: $39,205

Price as tested: $39,315. Includes $95 for off-road skid plates and $15 for spare-tire lock. Add $790 for freight.

Pluses: A Silverado with attitude. Really swift. Smooth ride and stable, sure-footed handling. Full-time AWD. Loaded with equipment, including a front-passenger air bag that deactivates automatically if a safety seat, child or small adult is up front.

Minuses: No power-adjustable pedals and traction control. Center console too big, rear legroom too small.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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