Chevrolet’s full-size Silverado pickup undergoes several changes for 2005, most of them cosmetic. There’s also a new gasoline-electric hybrid version of the half-ton 1500 extended cab model.

Changes include a power sunroof package, new standard-issue wheels and tires, a 3.23 rear axle ratio standard on two-wheel-drive models, a 160-amp alternator on the snow plow prep package, an available higher-performance version of the 5.3-litre V8, a new hood and grille design for heavy-duty models, and two new exterior colours. Perhaps the most puzzling change is a front disc/rear drum brake set-up standard on all models (except those with Quadrasteer); in 2004, all trucks got four-wheel disc brakes.

GM claims that the hybrid option, available in 2WD or 4WD, improves fuel economy by up to 10 per cent over a comparable gasoline engine, with reduced emissions. It’s not a true hybrid; its electric motor doesn’t actually help move the vehicle along. Instead, it starts the engine, and stops it whenever the truck would normally be idling, such as at a stoplight. The motor also takes the place of the alternator, runs the electro-hydraulic power steering and provides power assist to the hydraulic brake booster. It becomes most useful at a job site; it has four 120-volt/20-amp electrical auxiliary power outlets under the rear seat and in the pickup bed, and can be used in place of a generator. The truck is worth mentioning here, but don’t run down to your dealer just yet; for 2005, only a limited number are being allotted to customers in six selected U.S. states.

The regular Silverado, which also appears as the GMC Sierra, comes in a dizzying array of choices: eleven different cab/box configurations, four engines, five transmissions, and two- or four-wheel-drive. Available body styles are regular cab, extended cab with two rear-hinged access doors, and a crew cab with four independently-opening doors.

Available engines include a 4.3-litre V6, 4.8-litre V8, 5.3-litre V8 and 6.0-litre V8; transmission choices are three versions of the four-speed Hyra-Matic automatic transmission, and two five-speed manuals. Heavy-duty models come with a 6.0-litre V8, 8.1-litre V8, or 6.6-litre Duramax diesel, and choice of four- or five-speed automatic, and five- or six-speed manual.

As always, the Chevrolet Silverado is locked in a three-way tie with the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram; as good as they are, the imports have a tough time cracking this traditional market. In base form, the Chevrolet just squeaks in as the cheapest of the three, albeit by only five bucks under the Ford. But while the truck stands on its own tough-as-nails merit, its interior also looks and feels the cheapest of the bunch as well.

The Silverado is built in Oshawa, Ontario; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Pontiac, Michigan. The Silverado heavy-duty is built in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Pontiac, Michigan; and Flint, Michigan. The Silverado Hybrid is built in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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