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2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Test Drive Review
The V8 delivers a pleasing soundtrack, but installed in a crew cab with 4WD and a full load of equipment, it provides merely adequate power.
Truck buyers are fiercely brand loyal, and even if Truck A is better than Truck B in some way, Truck B is usually proven superior to Truck A in another way. Measured against its competition, the 2013 Silverado falls mid-pack, excelling in certain areas, but clearly in need of updates in others. If nothing but a gold bowtie badge will do, the Silverado is still likely to satisfy, but you might want to wait for the new-and-improved 2014 version to arrive before pulling the trigger.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
You are looking at the second-best-selling vehicle in America. Chevrolet moves more Silverado full-size pickup trucks than Toyota does Camrys, though the Ford F-Series remains the annual sales champ by a significant margin. Even if you include sales for the GMC Sierra, the Silverado’s corporate twin under the General Motors umbrella, the combined sales total for the two trucks still falls short of the Ford’s by 70,000 units or so.
The current version of the Silverado 1500 is entering the home stretch of a 7-year lifespan, and for 2013 it’s offered with standard Powertrain Grade Braking for the available 6-speed automatic transmission in addition to a couple of new paint colors. In the summer of 2013, a redesigned 2014 Silverado 1500 arrives, and General Motors hopes it can take a big bite out of Ford’s lead in the full-size pickup truck segment.
If you need a truck right now or simply want to take advantage of great deals on the 2013 Chevy Silverado 1500, variety is in plentiful supply. The Silverado is offered in regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab styles, with a choice between short, standard and long cargo beds. The Silverado 1500 is offered in WT (Work Truck), LS, LT, XFE and LTZ trim levels. A Silverado Hybrid version is also for sale, designed to maximize fuel economy for truck buyers who do not require the highest tow rating or greatest payload capacity. (We consider the hybrid version a separate model and cover it elsewhere.) Rear-wheel drive is standard. The WT and LS models can be optioned with a 4-wheel-drive system that includes a manual transfer case. Chevy’s Autotrac electronic transfer case is included in LT and LTZ trims with 4WD.
Our test truck was the LTZ Crew cab with 4WD. The Silverado LTZ includes a standard 5.3-liter V8 engine with a remote engine start system and a 6-speed automatic transmission that replaces the standard 4-speed automatic. Additionally, this luxury-themed version of the Silverado is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Bose premium sound system with a USB port and trim enhancements inside and out.
Starting with a base price of $43,435 including the $995 destination charge, our test truck had a navigation system ($2,250), a power sunroof ($995), tubular-style chrome assist steps ($689), the LTZ Plus Package ($605—EZ Lift locking tailgate, adjustable pedals, rear park-assist sensors, rear wheelhouse liners), the Z71 Appearance Package ($545—18-inch aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires, Rancho shocks, Z71 decal, body-color grille with chrome inserts, chrome tow hooks, body-color front bumpers, Z71 instrument cluster), a reversing camera ($450), an Off-Road Suspension Package ($295—skid plates, high capacity air cleaner) and a power sliding rear window ($250). The total sticker price came to $49,514.
I’m not a fan of the Silverado LTZ Z71’s monochrome exterior appearance. Give me the shiny chrome grille, shiny bumpers, and shiny optional 20-inch wheels found on the LT model. Now that’s a pickup truck, and those extra-cost wheels really fill out the Silverado’s swollen fenders. Outside of these personal preferences, however, the Silverado remains a handsome rig despite its age. Among pickup trucks, this is a clean and modern design, free of the tacked-on ornamentation that often makes a full-size truck garish in appearance.
Out of 10
Though Chevrolet offers 4 different engines in the Silverado, ranging from a 4.3-liter V6 to a 6.2-liter V8, the 5.3-liter V8 that was installed in my test truck is a popular choice for its blend of horsepower, torque and fuel economy. Plus, this engine is E85 flex-fuel compatible.
Using gasoline, the 5.3-liter V8 generates 315 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 335 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Active Fuel Management technology is standard with this engine, designed to shut half of the engine’s cylinders down under low-load driving conditions in order to conserve fuel. Rated by the EPA to return 15 mpg city/21 highway, my Silverado test truck averaged 15.3 mpg, with half of the miles driven on city streets and in mountainous terrain with nearly 1,800 feet of elevation change, and the other half driven on coastal highway, 2-lane highway bisecting farmland and freeways.
Maximum towing capacity for my test truck was 9,500 pounds, while maximum payload capacity measured 1,659 pounds. Buy the right Silverado 1500, and you can tow up to 10,700 pounds and haul as much as 1,937 pounds of payload. That’s more than the Ram 1500, but not as much as the Ford F-150. Toyota says the Tundra’s tow rating of 10,400 pounds is SAE J2807 towing rating-compliant, the only full-size truck to be measured against new tow-rating standards created by the Society of Automotive Engineers, and can’t be compared apples-to-apples with other pickup trucks.
The 5.3-liter engine feels strong… enough. Nobody is going to set acceleration records with this truck, or at least that’s how it feels from behind the steering wheel. The V8 delivers a pleasing soundtrack, but installed in a crew cab with 4WD and a full load of equipment, it provides merely adequate power. That said, my Silverado was geared to launch with authority, and it had no trouble powering up a dirt trail or steep highway grade.
For 2013, the 6-speed automatic transmission is equipped with Powertrain Grade Braking, and it works as advertised to maintain speed on downhill sections of highway. No matter where, or how, I drove the Silverado, I had no complaints about the transmission, which downshifts quickly when the driver requests extra power and shifts unobtrusively the remainder of the time. Keep in mind, however, that a heavy trailer or payload could reveal undesirable characteristics.
Like most trucks, the Silverado’s steering is slow, and the turning circle—especially the crew cab’s version—is wide, making it hard to maneuver the truck in cramped urban conditions. In the country, this is less of a problem, unless you’re trying to negotiate kinks in a tight trail. On arrow-straight farm roads, the steering is resolute, requiring little correction or minding as long as the road isn’t crowned and the wind isn’t blowing.
The Silverado’s brakes proved faithful in the mountains and easy to modulate in the city. I’ve got no complaints about pedal feel, pedal travel or the ability to fine-tune pressure as necessary. Then again, I didn’t tow or haul anything, and extra weight tends to reveal otherwise undetected problems with driving dynamics.
Despite the optional Z71 suspension, the Silverado provides a decent ride quality, filtering out the effects of lousy local pavement. The truck isn’t soft, exactly, but it doesn’t ride as stiffly as expected. This perhaps translated to lower speeds during an off-roading excursion, during which I dragged the truck’s front rubber air dam into the dirt while traversing erosion in the trail. On the flip side, the Silverado essentially pummeled lousy concrete into submission, almost gliding over one stretch of harsh freeway surface near home.
Form and Function
Out of 10
Speaking of comfort, the power-adjustable, leather-wrapped driver’s seat in my test truck provided exactly that, though the Nebraska-flat seat lacked anything resembling lateral support. With the seat raised to my preferred height, however, the door-panel armrest and center-console armrest were located too low for my comfort, and the upper door panel section proved too thin to serve as a shelf upon which to rest my left arm. I also find the 2013 Silverado’s old school, thin-rimmed steering-wheel design uncomfortable to hold.
In back, the Silverado crew cab’s bottom seat cushion is too soft and too low to provide proper support, and the seatback is fairly vertical. I can’t see this as a place I’d want to spend much time. Rear legroom and foot room are adequate, and the 60/40-split rear seat cushion flips up with one-handed operation to increase in-cab cargo space.
My LTZ test truck had the upscale-looking dashboard Chevy uses for this luxury-themed trim level, one shared with the Suburban and Tahoe SUVs and equipped with automatic climate control and navigation and radio components that were designed for installation in smaller General Motors vehicles. This approach works fine for the Tahoe and Suburban, but a pickup truck ought to have a more rugged and industrial interior appearance, and it ought to have much larger buttons and knobs, because people wearing work gloves often drive them. The “pure pickup” dashboard used in WT, LS and LT models is an improvement in this regard, but still not up to standards set by the competition.
Out of 10
For an older design, the Silverado offers several appealing features, ranging from its free 6-month trial of OnStar telematics to a dealer-installed accessory that turns the truck into a mobile Internet Wi-Fi hot spot. A MyChevrolet mobile application allows the Silverado’s owner to run diagnostic checks on the pickup, lock and unlock the doors, remotely start the engine, run the heater or air conditioner before departing on a drive and more. Additionally, the Silverado includes 3 months of free satellite radio service.
Additionally, Chevy has upgraded the Silverado’s navigation system since my last test drive of this model. Graphics are improved, the touchscreen is more responsive, and the system is more intuitive to use than before. The screen and its virtual buttons are still too small, but the 2014 Silverado’s MyLink technology will resolve this complaint.
Out of 10
Every 2013 Chevy Silverado is equipped with 6 airbags, antilock brakes and a traction and stability control system. Options include rear parking assist sensors, a reversing camera and OnStar telematics with 6 free months of Automatic Collision Notification service and Family Link service. In the event of an airbag deployment, the Automatic Collision Notification service puts the Silverado’s occupants in touch with a live operator who can check to see if everyone is okay and dispatch emergency rescue personnel to the scene of the accident. Family Link allows someone to remotely check on the vehicle’s location or to receive alerts about the vehicle’s location.
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all versions of the 2013 Silverado received a 4-star overall rating, one level down from the best rating of 5 stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) determined that the 2013 Silverado provides Good crash protection in a moderate offset frontal impact collision, Acceptable protection in a side-impact collision and Acceptable protection against injury in a rear-impact collision. The IIHS rates the Silverado’s roof crush strength as Marginal.
Out of 10
Chevy dealers are offering big discounts on this, the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado, and have added free scheduled service and maintenance for 2 years and 24,000 miles to entice truck buyers. You may save money on a Silverado 1500 up front, but this truck does a poor job of retaining its value over time, according to ALG, an industry leader in setting residual values for new vehicles. According to ALG, the Silverado’s depreciation rating is 1 star out of 5 stars. The only other non-GM light-duty pickup in that same category is the Nissan Titan.
Add the Silverado’s middling observed fuel economy of 15.3 mpg, which is better than a Titan’s or Toyota Tundra’s but not as impressive as a Ford F-150 EcoBoost’s, and the 2013 Silverado delivers merely average cost effectiveness despite the pile of dealer and customer cash sitting on its hood.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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