The Silverado SS: Chevy’s performance pickup package lives up to its legendary heritage

If there’s an emergency at your jobsite and you need to get on the scene in a hurry, then Chevy’s new Silverado SS Sport Truck is just the ticket. Featuring a finely tuned suspension, Corvette-derived Vortec 6000 V-8 and a highly specialized four-speed automatic transmission, this truck can get you anywhere you need to go quickly.

OK. I’ll admit that scenario stretches credulity a bit (and I’ll say thanks to my publisher for coming up with it). It’s pushing matters a bit to claim you’ll ever use a Silverado SS as your primary work truck. Although it’s tricked out with GM’s trailer towing package and all-wheel-drive, there’s no doubt this Silverado is intended for the drag strip, not the gravel pit. But, if you love pickups (and what contractor doesn’t?), then the Silverado SS is bound to make your pulse race.

The Sport Truck concept isn’t new, but the level of high performance found on the Silverado SS is akin to the famous cars of the 1960s, reinforcing my opinion that the modern pickup has replaced the muscle car in the mind of today’s automotive consumer. And any automotive buff worth his salt knows the SS badge has identified high-performance Chevys since 1961. And the Silverado SS is a worthy descendent of legendary forerunners like the Impala SS and Chevelle SS.

V-8 equipped pickup trucks are nothing new. The Silverado SS’s standard high output LQ9 version of the Vortec 6000 is rated at 345 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque, which can be found on GM products from Sierras to Escalades. Unlike its GM stable mates, though, this engine is mated to a 4L65E four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. This gearbox features a 3.06 first gear and a 0.07 final gear ratio. This is a match made in hot-rod heaven, and gives the Silverado SS Fast and Furious off-the-line performance. It will also snap your head back when you tromp down on the accelerator at highway cruising speeds.

The standard all-wheel drive ensures sure-footed handling in all driving conditions. I told more than one friend to make sure they had the SS pointed where they wanted it to go when they put the hammer down. I wasn’t joking. With all four wheels pulling, this truck will jump out from under you in a hurry. And the all-wheel-drive system guarantees it’s going to go exactly where the front tires are aimed.

This all-wheel steer system uses a viscous-coupled transfer case and requires no input from the driver. It automatically and continuously transfers torque from slipping wheels to those with a firmer grip. The truck’s continuous 38/62 front-to-rear torque split gives you optimum handling and control, which is further enhanced by a standard full locking rear differential. And all of this performance technology works together seamlessly. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s apparent only that you’re driving one hell of a performance truck.

It takes some serious rubber to hold all this power on the highway. Chevy engineers responded to this challenge by equipping the Silverado SS with 20-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels. In addition to the performance they offer, the large tires and rims dominate side views of the truck and help set the Silverado SS’s appearance apart from other GM pickups. This visual concept extends to full front and rear bumper fascias that wrap completely around the body, a wide center-band air scoop that is flanked by two rectangular corner intake scoops.

My demo SS was a brilliant scarlet hue, which Chevy has named “Victory Red.” To say it’s eye-catching is an understatement. And if the red is a bit too loud for your taste, you can opt for “Onyx Black” or “Arrival Blue.” I’d call the total look “understated aggression.” At it’s heart, the SS is obviously a Chevrolet Silverado, but the dramatic color schemes, understated body molding and oversized tires all work to set this truck apart and turn heads as you roll down the street.

The SS interior is pretty much straightforward General Motors, which I think is a good thing. Both Chevy and GMC have mastered interior comfort details and anyone who’s driven one of their trucks lately will feel right at home in the SS. The SS comes standard with the LT luxury trim package, including Bose stereo, six-disc, in-dash CD changer, power seats with memory and driver/passenger climate control. There are a few SS exclusives inside, however. Among these is a sporty instrument cluster with distinctive white backlighting and orange pointers, as well as special “SS” embroidered headrests and instrument panel badging.

As good and as fun as it is, the Silverado SS isn’t perfect. Several friends expressed disappointment at the truck’s exhaust system. Chevy’s running a single, 3.5-inch outlet pipe that it says has been specially tuned for a NASCAR-inspired roar. Personally, I think Chevy engines sound great with duals, and that would’ve been my choice for exhaust pipes. The current pipes do sound off and turn heads when the truck hits second gear, but I’d like to hear more of a rumble coming from the engine at traffic lights and when taking off.

Looks and comfort aside, the bottom line is the Silverado SS is simply a fun truck to drive. It’s the kind of truck you look back over your shoulder to admire as you’re walking into a building. It looks cool and runs great. Everyone, girls and guys alike, was impressed with its performance. One friend maintained that off the line, the SS wasn’t a whole lot quicker than his ’02 Sierra (his wife disagreed). But even he had to admit that at highway speeds, the Silverado had a lot more top end power than his pickup.

But he was the only dissenter. This sports truck turned almost as many heads as my demo H2 Hummer did back in the winter. It gets noticed and has the performance to back up its aggressive stance and demeanor. If you’re a fan of performance and pickups, the Silverado SS is one truck you definitely ought to take a look at.