The Silverado 1500 gets what most would consider an early update for 2016. Just two years into this generation, the half-ton Chevy truck has been given a visual overhaul and a handful of feature upgrades. Chevy reps say they didn’t wait the usual three years for a refresh because they knew the domestic competitors were planning updates of their own for 2015. We’re told the fast refresh was always in the plans, and that it wasn’t a response to critics (like us) saying “meh” to the new truck’s design, which some felt hewed too close to the GMT900s that came before.
If a Ford grille that reaches halfway into the headlights is good, a Chevy grille that cuts the units clean in two must be better. That’s at least how we imagine the designers’ thought process went. Those new split lights use HID projectors on lower models and full-LED tech on the upper trims, with all versions getting LED daytime running lights. LED taillights are also included on the fancier models.
Each of the eight trim levels has its own look, and the differentiation goes beyond the placement of chrome and the color of cladding. Look closely and you’ll see that elements of the various grille treatments are repeated within the headlights. It’s a neat touch, and proof that attention to detail is still a thing. Chevy also reshaped the hood, with sharp lines and pockets that look like they’ll do a great job of collecting snow come winter. We get why a Corvette has troughs in its hood (you know where the wheels are and see through the valley to the road) but the surfacing on the Silverado’s engine hat has only aesthetic benefits.
On the feature front, almost all 2016 Silverado models get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support; the 7.0-inch screen includes both, while the available 8.0-inch screen will add Android Auto through an update in March of 2016. The top High Country trim gets new power-articulating side steps as an option. In addition to swinging down to help you hoist yourself in through the door, the steps have a button at the rear that, when pressed, motors them down and rearward to give you a foothold at the front of the bed. Chevy also catches up to the competition with an available remote-locking tailgate.
Chevy also gets further into the competitive numbers game for 2016 with expanded use of its eight-speed truck transmission. In addition to its use in all 6.2-liter-equipped trucks, the eight-speed now comes with LTZ, LTZ Z71, and High Country trucks equipped with the 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8. (Lesser 5.3 trims and those with the V6 remain paired with six-speed autos.) The eight-speed has a wider ratio spread and a shorter first gear, and models so equipped get taller rear-axle ratios. The new transmission has two overdrive gears, just like on the six-speed. The surprise is worse fuel-economy ratings – for example, 16 mpg city and 22 highway for a two-wheel-drive, eight-speed truck compared to 16/23 for a rear-drive truck with the six-speed. Chevy says this is because the mix of eight-speed 5.3 trucks includes only the higher trim levels, trucks that have more options and are therefore heavier on average. We’re told real-world economy should improve when comparing similarly equipped trucks with the two different transmissions.