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Sturdy V8 Power and surprising ride comfort, a choice of 4 engines and roomy 5/6-passenger cabs—the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 offers all this and some of the best handling characteristics in the full-size pickup market.The Bad
A bland and dated interior, as well as a pokey base engine, fewer high-tech gizmos, a massive turning radius and cramped cabin storage again conspire to keep Chevy’s 2012 Silverado 1500 lineup lagging behind some of its rivals.
The CarGurus View
With strong points outnumbering weak ones, the 2012 Silverado 1500 is a decently wrought half-ton pickup, well worth a test drive. Unfortunately, most rivals offer marginally better trucks at competitive prices. Just a little inspiration and imagination on Chevy’s part could go a long way toward improving this heavy hauler to the point where those that kowtow to the mighty Ford F-150 will have to sit up and take notice.
At a Glance
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride pretty much sums up Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 lineup in a niche perennially dominated by the Ford F-150. This is not to say, however, that the 2012 edition of the Silverado 1500 full-size pickup is a bad truck. This hefty brute offers seating for 3 to 6 passengers in regular cab trims, Extended cab trims with their rear-opening back doors, or Crew cab editions with 4 independently opening doors. Regular and Extended cab versions sport either a standard 6.5-foot bed or the stretched 8-foot bed, while Crew cab trims carry only the 5.8-foot bed.
Look for 5 trim levels to return for 2012: the base and basic Work Truck, available with all bed and cab variations; the lower midlevel LS, available only in Extended and Crew cab versions with corresponding standard and short-bed choices; the LT, which offers all three cabs and beds; the Crew-cab-only XFE; and the top-shelf LTZ, available with all three bed lengths, but only the Extended or Crew cab. Though all trims are delivered with rear-wheel drive (RWD) standard, all except the XFE are available with either part-time or on-demand 4-wheel drive (4WD), depending on trim level.
Noted for its uncommonly smooth ride, quiet cabin and, in upper trim levels, plush seating, Chevy’s 2012 Silverado 1500 LS and LT trims boast a reworked front fascia and grille. An upgraded navigation suite is introduced this year in eligible trims, while integrated trailer sway control becomes a part of the standard stability control system.
Besides the mighty F-150 juggernaut, Chevy’s half-ton pickup, essentially a clone of the GMC Sierra 1500, must contend with the likes of the elegantly appointed Ram 1500 and Toyota’s roomy Tundra. The truck market has been traditionally cutthroat, with brand loyalty often the deciding factor in choosing a workhorse that offers utility, features, looks, power and performance. Despite some glitches, including a sizeable turning radius, an aging profile, relatively few techno-goodies and a less-than-overwhelming base V6 engine, the 2012 Silverado 1500 should again hold its own, and hope springs eternal among the Chevy pickup community that a full redesign is in the offing for 2014.
The obligatory choice of a number of engine sizes is once more offered for the 2012 Silverado 1500 lineup. The base powertrain remains a 4.3-liter V6 engine mated with a standard 4-speed automatic transmission. This combo, standard for the Work Truck regular cab and Extended cab, nets 195 hp at 4,600 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm, with mileage estimates of 15 mpg city/20 highway in RWD trims, and 14/18 in 4WD editions. Obviously, this powerplant is the Silverado 1500’s least-capable trailer-towing platform, with 5,400 pounds being the max when properly equipped.
Next up, a 4.8-liter ethanol-capable Flex Fuel (FFV) V8 is delivered standard with the Work Truck Crew cab, the LS and the LT, and it's available to the Work Truck with regular and Extended cabs. Combined with the standard 4-speed automatic, this smaller V8 can crank out 302 hp at 5,600 rpm and 305 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. Variable valve timing (VVT) means mileage estimates of 14/19 in RWD versions and 13/18 in 4WD trims, and towing capacity is maxed out at some 7,100 pounds with the proper equipment.
The 5.3-liter FFV V8 powerplant that comes standard in the XFE and LTZ is mated with a 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission for 315 hp at 5,200 rpm and 335 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. With variable valve timing, RWD trims should get 15/22 and 4WD versions 15/21, while this peppy V8 also sports active fuel management that shuts down a number of cylinders at cruising speed for some added fuel economy. Towing, meantime, is maxed out at 9,100 pounds with proper equipment. The Work Truck and LT Trim levels are also eligible for this potent and efficient powertrain.
Finally, a Flex Fuel 6.2-liter V8 again combines with the 6-speed shiftable automatic for 403 hp at 5,700 rpm and 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 mph. Towing with this beast is maxed out at a respectable 10,700 pounds, while VVT allows mileage to hang in at 13/18 in RWD editions and 12/19 in 4WD trims. Both the LT and LTZ trims can be ordered with this trailer-taming monster.
For 2012, the Silverado 1500's 4WD system features part-time 4WD on lower trims, with the usual floor-mounted transfer case. Upper-level trims boast the highly touted Autotrac feature, which automatically engages the 4WD system when wheel slippage is detected. Each 4WD setup features either manual or electronic hi-lo gear selection, auto-locking hubs and a mechanical center differential. Higher trims additionally sport a standard rear locking differential.
Reviewers generally find the V6 carried in the base Work Truck configurations to be somewhat underpowered, not to mention a bit noisy under even medium acceleration. The smaller V8s are only marginally more refined, but, according to most reviews, provide adequate to impressive power for most ordinary tasks. A Silverado 1500 equipped with the 6.2-liter V8 scrambled from 0-60 in an impressive 6.6 seconds, helped by the more up-to-date 6-speed shiftable automatic. The 4-speed automatic, meantime, has, in the opinion of the vast majority of reviewers, long since passed its prime.
Ride & Handling
With a long-and-short-arm front independent suspension, live rear axle and front and rear stabilizer bars, all Silverado 1500 trims are generally regarded by reviewers as boasting a far more compliant ride than most full-size pickups. Rear-end dancing is reasonably damped, even with the bed empty, and most bumps and ruts are well-controlled, another rarity in this class of hefty 4-wheeled workhorses. Lower trims roll on 17-inch steel or alloy wheels and tires, with the LTZ sporting standard 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, thereby becoming just a tad less comfy, cruise-wise.
Trims that carry the available Z71 off-road-oriented suspension, of course, ride noticeably harsher than their more subdued siblings, but, according to reviewers, not to the point of distraction. Fast corners, on the other hand, are said to be handled nicely with the Z71 underpinnings, and this beefy suspension is touted by most reviews as eminently drive-able either on-road or off. As expected, the standard suspension handles cornering with a bit less aplomb, though steering is generally found by reviewers to be precisely weighted, if a bit numb. On the downside, virtually all reviewers agree that the Silverado 1500’s outsize turning radius makes it the proverbial bull in a china shop when maneuvering crowded parking lots.
Finally, braking performance throughout the lineup is described by most reviewers as powerful and true, though a few complain of some sponginess in the pedal action, a not uncommon phenomenon in the breed.
Cabin & Comfort
Though not the equal of Ford’s mighty F-150, techno-feature-wise, the 2012 Silverado nevertheless provides at least the expected modicum of cabin comforts and conveniences. The basic Pure Pickup cabin scheme in the Work Truck, for example, gathers vinyl upholstery, tilt-wheel steering, cruise control and air conditioning, and complements all this with an AM/FM stereo and 4 speakers in regular cab trims, 6 speakers in Extended and Crew cabs.
The LS adds power rear quarter windows, cloth upholstery, remote power door locks, power windows and heated power-adjustable outside mirrors. Offered only in Extended or Crew cab configuration, this lower-midlevel trim sports an MP3-compatible single-CD player and 6 speakers, along with satellite radio and standard OnStar Directions and Connections technology.
The LT throws in premium cloth upholstery, simulated alloy dash and door trim, a leather and simulated-alloy steering wheel and a trip computer. The workaholic XFE, meantime, piles on a standard trailer hitch and wiring, soft bed cover, auxiliary transmission cooler and power-sliding rear window.
Finally, the top-shelf LTZ packs standard leather upholstery, heated, 8-way power-adjustable front bucket seats and reverse-tilt, turn-signal-integrated power mirrors onto its sizable frame. Dual-zone climate control, simulated alloy and simulated wood accents, driver memory settings, a USB connector and Bluetooth hands-free communications, along with phone pre-wiring, complete this high-end ensemble.
As is traditional, the lower Silverado 1500 trim levels can be upgraded with a number of items that come standard in the higher trims. Various rear axle ratios are available lineup-wide, as is an optional integrated trailer brake controller. A Max Trailering Package, with Class IV hitch, added transmission cooling and a 3.73 rear axle ratio is available to those trims equipped with the 6.2-liter V8, and the LT and LTZ are available with an Off-Road Suspension Package that boasts skid plates, joust bumpers and an underbody shield. Depending on the trim level selected, upgraded 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, shocks, audio components and exterior chrome, as well as a power sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, rear parking sensors, remote engine start, a hard-drive-based navigation system and a rear-view camera are all available to Chevy’s half-ton pickup.
Reviewers find the Pure Pickup motif common to the lower trims to provide adequately comfy seating, an upscale feel and substantial cabin room across the 1500 lineup, though interior storage and some control placement issues present problems for more than a few. The luxury interior that comes with the LT and higher trims and is available to the lower trims features a classier dash, more user-friendly controls and appropriately upscale materials, but still comes up a bit short on cabin storage. Visibility is just fine in regular cab versions, according to most reviewers, while Extended and Crew cab trims, with wide rear roof pillars, present some challenging blind spots to each rear quarter.
The 2012 Silverado 1500’s hefty bulk, of course, offers substantial occupant protection. Bolstering its pure size, Chevy’s full-size half-ton also offers 4-wheel antilock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution throughout the lineup, with the ES and above tossing in emergency braking assist. Curiously, the Work Truck, LS and LT offer standard front disc, rear drum brakes, with the LTZ and XFE the only trims providing ventilated disc brakes all around. Front head airbags are standard lineup-wide, with rear head airbags provided in Extended and Crew cab variations. Dual front side-mounted airbags come with all trims, as do dusk-sensing headlights and daytime running lights. The LS trim level and above boast a standard post-collision safety system, not to mention a remote antitheft alarm, while the LTZ additionally sports standard front fog/driving lights.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Silverado 1500 4 stars overall, its second-highest rating, with 4 stars awarded in front impact and rollover tests, and 5 stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) isn’t as generous and rates Chevy’s 1500 lineup Marginal (its second-worst mark) for roof strength, Adequate (its second-best mark) in side impact testing and Good (its best mark) in frontal offset crash tests.
What Owners Think
Problems with some of the electronics plague owners of the 2012 Silverado 1500, as do dated looks, both inside and out, tough-to-clean cloth upholstery, low-grade tires, reliability and the lack of power-adjustable front-seat lumbar support. Safety scores can be better on this beginner’s full-size pickup, according to a number of owners, and the lack of side-curtain airbags has at least a couple of owners questioning GM’s commitment to passenger safety.
On the plus side, plenty of owners are just fine with their new pickup, praising its power, riding comfort, pleasing passenger room, plethora of cab and bed configurations and the number of techno-gizmos carried standard in the higher trims. Power out of the two top V8s is claimed to be more than enough to get some heavy towing done, while mileage figures, especially with the 5.3-liter V8, continue to impress owners.
Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Top Comparisons
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Looking for a Used Silverado 1500 in your area?
CarGurus has 93,463 nationwide Silverado 1500 listings starting at $1,500.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Questions
2012 silverado CD player stays on after turning off truck, please advise thank you
Hood light, and, and traction lights all flash when I turn the air conditioner on. News battery, new alternator, new cluster. Help
power sterringfluid leakingat hose next to radiator also when you turn the sterring wheel it makes noise
i have 325,000 on a chevy silverado z71. the rear and front seal on the engine is leaking. should i fix it or buy a new engine
I have a 2012 Chevy Silverado 1500 5.3 L V8. I got code p0106 for a faulty map sensor and I replaced the map sensor and the code will not clear. Now I'm getting issues with my stable track and tra...
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