For 2006, the full-size Silverado pickup undergoes several changes across its three model sizes.

The 1500, 1500HD (heavy-duty) and 2500HD models have a new front-end appearance, with a revised grille design and power dome hood formerly available only on the 3500 models. To increase towing capability on Silverado 1500 extended cab/standard length box models and 1500 Crew Cab, a new VortecMax Performance Package includes a high-output 6.0-litre engine, heavy-duty trailering package and new 9.5-inch rear axle.

The 1500 also introduces a new configuration, the extended cab/short box configuration. Available in 2WD or 4WD, the 5-foot-8 box, the same box as on Crew Cab models, means the 1500 is now available with short, standard (6-foot-6) and long (8-foot) boxes. The new model comes in LT trim with a 5.3-litre V8 engine.

The Silverado SS is now available in two-wheel-drive configuration, with a 3674 kg (8100 lb) towing capacity. Based on the 1500 Extended Cab with short bed, it uses a high-output version of the 6.0-litre V8, producing 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque.

The Silverado’s Allison 1000 transmission is now a six-speed, up from 2005’s five-speed configuration, and is available on heavy-duty models equipped with the 6.6-litre V8 diesel or 8.1-litre gasoline V8. It still has a tow/haul mode, but includes a new range selection feature that allows the driver to select the desired gears via a thumb-activated switch on the shifter.

In addition, all 2006 Silverados equipped with OnStar and satellite radio have a single-unit antenna. A redesigned camper mirror is available, and the Dark Grey Metallic exterior colour is gone, replaced with Blue Granite Metallic and Greystone Metallic. The Silverado Hybrid becomes available in a wider market range, and dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) and bi-fuel system vehicles available in the U.S. market are not sold in Canada.

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 regular Silverado, which also appears as the GMC Sierra, comes in a dizzying array of choices. 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; two versions of a 5.3-litre V8 (295 and 310 horsepower models), two versions of a 6.0-litre V8 (300 and 345 hp models); and on heavy-duty models, an available 8.1-litre gasoline V8 or an available 6.6-litre Duramax diesel V8 engine that has been enhanced for 2006, making it quieter and smoother, and with lower emissions.

Transmission choices include three versions of the four-speed Hyra-Matic automatic transmission, and two five-speed manuals.

As always, the Chevrolet Silverado is locked in a three-way tie with the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram; as good as the imports are, they have a tough time cracking this traditional buyer’s market. The truck stands on its own tough-as-nails merit; the powertrains are top-notch and the exterior design changes look good, but Chevrolet’s interiors tend to look and feel cheaper than they should.

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