European visitors to Canada are often struck by the number of full-size pickup trucks on the roads here. Pickups are a relatively rare sight in Europe – and Asia – but over here, we love ‘em. As a friend of mine said: “So many trucks….and so cheap!!”
Well….yes and no. I’ll get to that in a minute...But in Canada, one-fifth of all new vehicles sold are pickup trucks, and the market is getting stronger and stronger. For example, the truck market in 2016 is - so far - more active than new passenger car sales almost two to one, and Ford’s F-series is still the most popular vehicle sold in North America.
Chevrolet would love to be in Ford’s position, but its full-size Silverado line is in fourth spot, behind the Ram and GMC Sierra models, respectively.
So why do people buy trucks? What is it about getting behind the wheel of an oversize hauler that was originally designed to work, but these days usually accommodates nothing heavier than a couple of bicycles or the odd couch?
For starters, trucks these days are comfortable and can match any luxury car on the road when it comes to modcons and amenities. The Silverado Z71 Crew Cab I recently drove came with leather upholstery, heated seats, heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, back-up camera, power sunroof, and on and on. I’ve been in expensive imports that are less accommodating when it comes to creature comforts.
And roomy. Theoretically, the double cab Silverado can handle six adults, and you can easily carry three people in the back. As well, head and elbow room is massive. Not to mention a centre console the size of a small fridge and storage nooks and crannies all over the place. And, of course, there’s the bed, which will take any cargo that weekend projects require.
And here’s a nice little bonus: the Silverado – and most big trucks, for that matter – is remarkably silent in operation. It produces very little wind or road noise and is a splendid highway cruiser. My tester had GM’s 5.3 litre V8 engine which features variable valve timing, mated to an eight-speed automatic.
So what’s it like to drive? Around town, it’s a bit of a handful. What you may gain in roominess and comfort you lose in terms of nimbleness and maneuverability. Parking this little beast, for example, requires a little planning and forethought. I find that I have to drive this truck slower and more methodically than I would a conventional passenger sedan, and it simply won’t fit into some underground parkades.
I also have a bit of a quibble with the transmission. It’s designed to maximize fuel economy – 13.1 L / 100 km combined rating, according to Natural Resources Canada – and, as a result, is less responsive than I’d like…..you have to give it some welly to get any kind of snap out of it and is a little on the leisurely side when it comes to accelerating onto the freeway or getting away from a stoplight. That could be because this is a huge vehicle; my double cab HD has a wheelbase of 3663 mm and tips the scales at well over two tons.
My tester was also a 4WD, with a trailering set-up and the Z71 off-road package, which includes upgraded shocks, hill descent control, underbody shield, and various other odds and sods. I don’t know if I’d class this as a serious off-roader, but in a pinch, it will get you out of most situations.
Which brings me to price. In a word: oy vey! After the dust settles, my tester goes out the door for almost seventy large….$68,945, to be precise. Without all the goodies, it starts at around $55,000, but those extras add up in a hurry. And I haven’t even mentioned the fuel costs, which on an annual basis, will exceed three grand, according to current fuel prices in Canada. In other words, you’ve got to really want or need this truck and be prepared to pay for it.
Maybe that’s why there are so few of them in Europe.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 5.3 litre V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drive: Four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 383 ft. lb. @ 4100 rpm
Price: $55,645 (base); $68,945 as tested.
Fuel Economy: 15.0 L /100 km (city) & 10.7 (hwy.) Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra.