Road Test Review: 2010 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71

Words and Photos By Mark Williams for

When GM tossed us the keys to a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Z71 Extended Cab, we hit the open road. Sure, the new Silverado has been for sale for a while and is without many significant changes, but there seemed to be a few new details. In fact, there are several new features, options and colors that keep the aging half-ton a significant player in the pickup truck marketplace.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Ford and Dodge have put out significantly redesigned players in the segment and reaped the benefits in market share and media attention. The Silverado isn’t scheduled for its remodel until 2013 or so, but we’re likely to hear more in the next few months, after the 2011 heavy-duty models finish their rollout this year.

We recently got into a 2010 Silverado 1500 4x4 Extended Cab Z71 pickup as a quick refresher of what the GM trucks have to offer. Our test unit came equipped with the all-aluminum Vortec 5300 V-8 with mpg-mindful active fuel management to allow the small-block to run in four-cylinder mode during low-load situations or V-8 mode when it needs to work. We’ve always liked how well this system operates, making the transitions between four and eight cylinders almost invisible. (You can train yourself with the help of the information center to search for the ever-so-slight shutter between the two modes.)


During our longer freeway stretches, the fuel economy readout told us we were getting 24 mpg on the flats (nothing in the bed) at 65 mph. Much of this truck’s ability to sip fuel when cruising has to do with the 3.08 axle gears, now offered as the standard axle ratio on all 5.3-liter V-8s. Combine this with the six-speed automatic transmission’s 0.67 sixth-gear ratio, and our test truck has a low-low 2.03 final drive ratio, allowing the engine to loaf along (saving fuel as it goes) at 1,300 rpm at 60 mph.

Gearing choices like this make sense with a potentially unstable fuel market and the gas-mileage race between Ford, GM and Ram. However, what surprised us most was that this type of mileage and these types of axle gear ratios are standard on the Z71 package — supposedly the roughest, toughest off-road package GM offers.

In the past, Z71 meant backcountry exploring in four-wheel drive for Chevy pickups and SUVs while sacrificing mileage cruising for gear ratios more biased to low-range crawling. GM’s solution is in the 6L80 transmission. More gears mean a lower first gear (4.03) for controlled slow-go and a higher sixth gear (0.67) for better highway mileage. In fact, even with the fuel economy axle gears, our Z71 Silverado has a respectable 31.3 crawl ratio (multiply first gear by axle gears by low-range ratio) when switched in four-wheel-drive low range — quite respectable in the 4x4 world. This means the 265/65R18 Bridgestone Dueler A/Ts can claw with control through horrible terrain after a washout or up to a steep trail to the mountain cabin, yet still cruise home on the highway (presumably at full tire pressures) getting gas mileage in the 20s. Not bad. In the past, “Z71” meant you had to have much lower axle gear ratios, like 3.73, which would give it a better crawl ratio, but not deliver the lower engine-speed advantages at highway speeds.


There are no changes to the four-wheel-drive system, but we still like the fact that GM is about the only full-size pickup truck maker in the segment to offer a full-time, set-it-and-forget-it all-wheel-drive setting, called “AUTO.” Ford offers all-wheel drive, too, but only for its F-150 Harley-Davidson specialty model. From our point of view, this makes the Z71 a more versatile all-weather and all-terrain hauler.

During our test time, we had a few quibbles with the 2010 Silverado. To begin, on our model at highway speeds, we found a good amount of wind noise at the A-pillar but couldn’t determine whether it was coming from a loose seal at the door or glass, or whether it was turbulence kicked up from the rearview mirrors. Regardless, we found the noise on both sides of the cab, which made for some challenging phone conversations on a long drive home (hands-free phone, of course).

Our LT model came with the front 40/20/40 front bench seats and open center floor. The dash itself is beginning to look old for the segment and was showing signs of factory quality issues as well. The “meet line” for the radio and dash and the dual glove boxes and dash clearly were not what they should be. One side of the radio's head unit was slightly inboard and the other side a bit outboard relative to the plastic bezel around it. Although it was difficult to capture in photos, the surface matching did not look up to par. Granted, this test unit had seen some hard miles, but several of the seams between the various dash and inlay surfaces had pronounced stair-steps.


On the plus side, the Rancho shock absorbers did a commendable job on all the road surfaces, which included expansion-joint-filled freeways, as well as off-road dirt trails at our local off-highway vehicle park north of Los Angeles.

We wish GM would do something more serious with the Z71 name (remember last year's ZR2 Concept at SEMA?) instead of a bunch of stickers and a few mechanical swaps, but we understand GM has to be exceptionally careful about every dollar it spends. With what Ford and Dodge are doing with Raptor and Mopar, Chevy will have to do something pretty special to keep up.

Another detail we liked on our extended cab was how simple it is to open the rear doors. We admit to being transfixed at the simplicity, solidity and sheer size of the dual-swivel hinges that allow the rear doors to open a full 180 degrees, making interior loading and rear storage area access a simple slide-in. One final favorite feature of the truck is the amount of vehicle data that can be accessed from the gauge screen information center. Readouts such as transmission temperatures, tire pressures, instant fuel economy, oil life and whether your truck is in V-8 or V-4 mode are just some of the data it can show. But here’s a note directly to GM engineers: Give us more! Why not give us all of it or give us access to more detailed information you can store on some medium-sized memory chip or RAM? What about towing advice, bad-weather driving tips, local campsites or restaurant recommendations? Sure, we could pay for OnStar, but this type of data would be free. We like free.


However, what’s not free is a truck like this. A 4.8-liter V-8-equipped 1500 Extended Cab LT has a base price of $33,270 (including destination fee). In fact, for almost $5,000 more, we got the bigger and stronger (but just as fuel efficient) all-aluminum 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed transmission, rear locking differential, heavy-duty cooling, bigger wheels and tires, Z71 gauges and decals, Rancho shocks, fog lamps, extra skid plating, oversized air filter, remote start, locking tailgate and Bluetooth for a total of $37,775. Still, with a five-star front crash rating from the government for both driver and passenger, a five-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and more than 20 mpg on the highway, there is a value proposition here.

GM has done a good job in the past year streamlining its supply lines and improving plant efficiency. Unfortunately, finding the great deals are a little more difficult nowadays thanks to the reduced supply chain, but they are out there. As evidenced by our test truck, there is plenty of value to be had in the mid-$30,000s, and we’d expect the 2012 half-tons to be packed with value as well. As mentioned, we don’t expect to get a taste of the new Silverado 1500 for a little while, but you can expect we’ll bring you any news and spy photography as soon as GM engineers get closer to hot- and cold-weather sign-off. For now, it looks like the new F-150 and Ram 1500 have a slight lead over the aging Silverado. But that could all change real soon.

Quick Hits: What’s New For 2010 Chevrolet Silverado
-- New Battery Saver Voltage Monitor
-- 3.08:1 axle ratios standard with 5.3-liter V-8
-- E85 FlexFuel capability on 4.8-liter, 5.3-liter, and 6.2-liter V-8 engines
-- Variable valve timing on 4.8-liter and 5.3-liter V-8s
-- Six-speed automatic on regular and extended cab 5.3-liter V-8s
-- Side curtain airbags and seat-mounted airbags standard on 1500
-- USB connectivity on all radios (except base), as well as charging for some devices
-- Rearview camera available on more models
-- StabiliTrak electronic control system now standard on all 1500s
-- Two new exterior colors: Taupe Gray Metallic and Sheer Silver Metallic



Yea, the Ford and Dodge have advantages like chugging more fuel to operate them, with epa ratings of 14 city and 18 highway with the 5.4 try to run and 13 city and 18 highway with the 5.7 liter hemi. compared to the Silverado's 15 city and 21 highway epa ratings. These ratings on found on and are on the window stickers of the trucks at the lots.

Another advantage of Ford and Dodge is no automatic locking differential, no On Star with turn by turn navagation. GM may have the oldest platform for halfton's but it can go toe to toe with Ford and Dodge and is the second best selling truck on the market today.

GM fell behind so badly lost 4.3 billion last year wonder if they will pay back the canadian taxpayers and the us taxpayers there money back .Who the hell cares about onstar lol The fx4 can take this trucks hands down ford all the way!!

According to your precious website:

5.4 20/14
5.3 21/15


Ford FX4 has a electronic locker


Fords Dodges Yugos etc. come with GPS navigation with map and turn by turn directions for free.

super fail.

It shouldn't be too hard to believe the F-150 is ahead of the Silverado.

Remember this?

F-150 and Tundra are the only trucks who did not have to stop and engage 4WD in the test....GM and Silverado were required to stop and go into 4wd high.

Shootout Video:

Shootout Article: of the worst reasons to buy a vehicle. Onstar is one of the reasons I will not buy a Cadillac.

Not to mention the HEMI has Almost 70+ Hp and Tq on the 5.3. It also get similar FE numbers while using an outdated 5 speed tranny.

I'll take the HEMI.

Just curious, did GM say "Please do not take this truck off-road". I'm just curious how it handles off-road, but I'm sure you guys didn't want to get the truck dirty.

Nice article. 2013 seems so far away.

Dang and I thought we could get through another post without a word from BOB the Chevy guy, oh well my day is now complete.

I personally would take the GMC any day over this Chevy just for looks but neither look or run as good as a Hemi!

I like the looks of the truck with the color matched grill and bumper.
I don't think OnStar is a big deal. It may of been something special when it first came out but a person can get a cell phone that does most of what OnStar does.

im a FORD fan ok??? but i honestly think the silverado 1500 is the best looking half ton on the market. nice looking truck. feel free to hate me ford guys, i understand

The Silverado is NOT the oldest truck in the segment. The Titan is.

What are the towing/payload numbers on a truck equipped just like the one in this review? 5.3/3.08 setup.

I will say that i think that the silverado is the best looking exterior out there but the beauty is only skin deep.I agree with the test evaluation that the interior build quality is very poor to say the least.The materials they use look thrown together,cheap and cheesey and the seat fabric is a joke.Chevy needs to get a ford truck or any ford vehicle and study it very well and they will understand how to make a quality vehicle.Still would buy a chevy anyday over any dodge pos.


But what if Howie Long comes by, steals your cell phone, and disorients you? Then what? ;)

1) 3.08 axle will have transmission 'hunting' on hilly roads.

2) if your driving a truck, full-time 4wd is a non-issue.

I don't know what the competion offers but Dodge does have an all wheel drive option like the Chevy. You get to choose between 2hi, n, auto, 4hi, and 4lo. I believe both use the same t-case: NV 246. Just a note, neither offer a true all wheel drive. The auto setting locks the front axle, when wheel slip is detected a computer enguages a clutch pack locking the t-case in 4hi. True all wheel drive does not offer 2wd.

I got woke up for the same ole unchanged Chevy? Yawn....I'm going back to bed..

Dave, Lou and Frank,

You are ruining the post. This is a Chevy only post, so stop with your pro Ford F150 garbage. A cell phone? LOL. Nice try. Is a cell phone going to unlock your car? I don't think so! Go to a Ford post if all you want to do is talk Ford all day long and bash the most powerful truck Silverado.

For the love of god, just wait for the shootout before you start bashing the Silverado. The shooutout will say it all!

If Ford is so good then why is the Chevy Silverado a Consumer Digest Best Buy!??? Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Frank, Lou and Dave!


Try finding it on the website.

I searched before I posted and came up empty...

Might be a best buy because chevy has 40000 more miles on powertrain warranty than ford and if you buy chevy you will need the extra coverage.

@bobby1971 - you sure are a sensitive little guy,
what did I say that was so offensive?
Was it "I like the looks of the truck with the color matched grill and bumper." No, that wasn't it.

It must of been the comment" I don't think OnStar is a big deal. It may of been something special when it first came out but a person can get a cell phone that does most of what OnStar does."

I hate to confuse you, but, last I time I looked at my vehicle, it had a huge yellow bowtie in the middle of the grill.

Let me reiterate - OnStar was a cool item when it first came out, but now cell phones can do the same thing.. No, my cell phone won't unlock the doors, assuming you pay your annual OnStar fee. I can call my wife to bring a set of keys.
Must be a Chev guy thing - locking keys inside a vehicle.

@F-Ram a.k.a. Farmboy - But what if Howie Long comes by, steals your cell phone, and disorients you? Then what? ;)
Good question?
I'd be getting a big cheque from GM for doing advertising for them;)

I own a o9 ram trx4 crew with hemi. If any chevy fan ever took my truck for a spin they would never buy present chevy unless they just had to have ""chevy" I have 3.92 rear end with the hemi I get 19 mph but i have so much more power that chevy does not have. With such a small rear end I wonder how it would tow a boat filled with gear up a long hill. My dodge doesnt even blink. My interior is so much better than chevy anyone agrees with this even chevy fans.


1) You can use the keyless entry pad on any F-150 and the door will open automatically. You don't need to call anyone or use Onstar.

2) They already had the shootout and the F-150 won. The next shootout for the light duties won't be for a couple more years at least.

3) The Chevy commercial that keeps telling you Chevy is a Consumer Digest Best Buy, fails to mention the F-150 and Ram are also Consumer Digest Best Buys.

I don't care if you have a bowtie on your old 1980's van. You only have it because you are too cheap to buy a new pickup truck right now. You have been brainwashed by all of the pro Ford propaganda and are a pro Ford leaning guy now. I am sick of people ruining the post by posting anti GM and pro Ford information. Did you know that Chevy Silverado ranks #1 at US News & World Reports? That is amazing. Chevy is making their trucks better and better. Which one would you want? F150 or Silverado which is the US News & World Reports winner of the best full size truckk?
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

PS Howie Long and Lead Engineer, Gary White walk through the advantages of Silverado over F-150.

"Smart & Powerful." - Howie Long

"America's best truck." - Howie Long

all these chevy trucks look ugly....i miss the C/K 1988-1988 that was their best body style.... and the million mile engine the 350.....

@billiejoe the unlocking of your GM vehicle only works if you are in direct line of the satelite. if you are in the middle of know where, which is where you really need it, Onstar is worthless. And if Im looking for a review on a truck Im not looking at consumer digest, maybe a toaster, I would rather listen to real truck people like

Bobby's Hemi only goes 19mph? I knew they weren't fast, but gee! LOL

The Silverado is a nice looking truck, but at the same time, it is starting to look old. I really hope that after the new Silverado HD comes out this summer, GM will do a mild refresh of the 1500 Silverado just to keep it competitive, especially if we have to wait until 2013 for a completely new truck.

Does that thing have rear drum brakes?

@ bobby1971- what a baby. You and Bob are such rabid GM/Chev fanboys that any comment that doesn't show worship of all that is GM is construed as bashing.

OnStar is no longer a novel feature. It doesn't do anything a good cell phone does.
That isn't slagging GM.

I like GM Sierra trucks, I'm not a big fan of the Silverado. The grill and bumper looks incomplete and the rear fender flares are too big. I like the grill and bumper solid color on this truck.
I prefer the current Ford F150. It has the features I'm looking for. Ford needs to come up with a better looking headlight assembly. It's ugly. I can live with ugly headlights, but I won't live with a cheap interior.

So Mike,

Let's see some towing and payload numbers. Put this truck up against an identical model of Ford and Dodge. If you want see power numbers and capability numbers, show us a review of a 6.2L.... Ford and Dodge have no edge over this Silverado and never will. Let's see power numbers and fuel economy numbers compared to the competiton..... GM proves themselves once again. Hell my 1999 S10 ZR2 could do better off road than that Ford junk.

We will all see during the Heavy Duty Showdown as well, One will see that the Silverado will dominate the competition.

GM fanboys are such insecure babies.. OOOOhhhhh, you are ruining this post..... do you want some cheeze to go with your whine?
If you don't like it grab your purse and leave.

GM can use all those left over Hummer parts and build a real offroad pickup instead of this over priced sticker package.

What does Z71 stand for?
Z=last letter of alphabet, does that mean they can't come up with anything better?
'71 - is that the last year they actually made a decent pickup?

@ A.J. I looked to and your right its not there. It sure as hell should be though. I work work for a Dodge dealer ship and I promise you there is an auto function for the 4x4 if the truck is optioned for it. There are tech specs and repair procedures listed for it as well on the dodge tech repair site that all dealerships have access to. Seems stupid to not advertise it. Given the lack of Chrysler knowledge from posters and the guys who write articles for this site, I'd say that Dodge is doing a poor job of getting the word out.

Rancho lower shock mounts that low below the axle line and exposed out in the open and not even tucked away near the wheel?

Not much of an off-roader is this truck. Just keep it on the pavement!

You are the baby. I said the truck had Onstar and then you yelled at me about your cell phone. That was uncalled for. Cheap interiors? How can it be cheap if it has Onstar with turn by turn navigation?

What features are you looking for that the Silverado does not offer?

Read it and weap, boys. If the Silverado wins all of the top awards: Consumer Digest Best Buy, Car & Driver best truck, and US News & World Reports winner of the #1 truck how can the F150 be better? Explain that one to me.

"Smart AND powerful!" - Howie Long on the Silverado

Lou, you clearly dont know anything about these trucks, thats why you just agree with everyone supporting Ford. Silverado has cheap interiors? My friends owned Fords, and theyve gone through more trannys with Fords than my GMs. Fords are the cheapest, k mart plastic trucks out there.

Fair fight baby:


One last thing.

"Consumer Reports Names Chevrolet Silverado as a Top Pick for 2010

In earning the award, the Silverado replaces the Chevrolet Avalanche, last year's pickup truck Top Pick"

I know you Ford fan boys will sleep a little less comfortable tonight knowing that the Silverado is winning all of these awards and has Onstar. Good night.

My last post for tonight. Here's a picture of Lou's van. Hey, Lou, It looks like your steel belts are showing. ROTFLOL.

Go ahead and post the features that you are looking for that the F150 has and the Silverado does not have and make a liar out of me. I dare you. You would have already posted them if there were anyy features missing.

I think GM is doing a good job with getting MPG's where they need to be on the truck, I think it needs some cosmetic updating though, Both interiors look old fasioned to me and the front end is shaped like a box, also put some liners in the rear wheel wells, it looks tacky when you can see the frame and everything else.

When they start putting 4-wheel disk brakes on the Silverado then I will consider. Next they'll be putting in a four and five-cylinder in the Silverado with those drum brakes and shrink it in . Come on Chevrolet...get with the times! DI V6's and V8's and disk brakes on all fours. And produce that Off-Road ZR2 concept that was shown last year!

Now this truck rocks!

"Next they'll be putting in a four and five-cylinder in the Silverado with those drum brakes and shrink it in ."

What I meant to say is shrink it to Colorado size. Hopefully none of these won't be the case, though.


L1tech, you come across as a very angry person like most Chevy drivers. If you were not angry, you would not have typed the whole thing in caps.

Bobby, if that link was a fair fight, why was it conducted by a Chevy dealer? Why was the Ford in 2wd mode with a single spinner diff? (you can tell from the single wheel burnout). No doubt, the Chevy has the locker or LSD, and is in 4x4. They know their target audience (Chevy fanboys) are too stupid to know any of this. They just think it's all magic, or down to the engine.

Its easier than that. The ford just accelerates first loses grip and then the Chevrolet can floor it and pull it easy due to the lack of traction. Said it before say it again, Tug of Wars are nothing but parlor tricks.

LOL You GM fans are too much. Bob, Did you honestly say that the Chevy's interior was nicer and more expensive because of OnStar? I guess you are partly right. To get OnStar's features you need to pay them for it. Ford and Ram offer one time purchase Navigation and who doesn't already own a cell phone? OnStar makes no sense anymore.

BTW you are honestly using Howie Long ads and a review by US News as gospel as to why this truck is better? You do know Howie Long is a retired pro football player right? Not an engineer or even a professional driver or any other profession that would qualify his statements to be anything other than read off a script. You are also aware the US News is a news magazine also right? What exactly qualifies them to review anything automotive? I'll put my faith in truck rags and the reviews done on this site thank you. Reviews done by people who know what they are reviewing and talking about.

Also not sure why some of you feel you need to bring up GM's 6.2L V8. This review used the 5.3L. Like it or not, it is an almost direct comparison to the 5.4L Triton which stomps the 5.3L in usable torque and over all torque numbers. I also think Ford isn't resorting to a 3.08 rear end to get their mpg number either. This truck reviewed has the load rating of a 1/2 ton, but the actual power of a Colorado if you load it up or try and tow anything with it. A truck for people who really don't want/need a truck.

Bobby1971 - you asked me what features that I want that Ford has that GM doesn't. Well here are a few:
Crewcab - 6.5 box
I like the interior better.
4 wheel disc brakes.
I wasn't yelling at you or anyone else.
Like Tony said; do you what some cheeze with your whine?
Or you could follow Frank's advice: if you don't like it grab your purse and leave.

jesus, you chevy riding boys are lame. wow, it gets better gas mileage. whoop-de-doo. it has more torque and hp? whoop -dee-doo. chevy trucks have the edge on ford in the most minuscle categories, but ford f150s beat the silverado in the most important category, and thats payload and towing. there is a reason why the f seriers has been the best selling truck for 30 years. take that and smoke it chevy fans.

Now this is starting to piss me off. Fords 4wdr with the 5.4 liter engine is rated at 14 city and 18 highway and that is a fact. Go to your local ford dealer and look for yourself. same thing for the Dodge, 13 city and 18 highway on a 4wdr. Chevy get's superior gas milage with the 5.3 liter at 15 city and 21 highway. 3 miles per gallon is HUGE advantage for GM over Ford and Dodge!

The only ford or dodge that is rated at 20 miles per gallon is a 2wdr with the 4.6 liter or hemi engine in two wheel drive.

Chevrolet is the second best selling truck in the country and nothing your feeble minded little idiots say can prove otherwise.

'Rancho lower shock mounts that low below the axle line and exposed out in the open and not even tucked away near the wheel?

Not much of an off-roader is this truck. Just keep it on the pavement!" -oxi

I have the same sentiment. Always have and always will.

One of my sons drives a 2008 Silverado, the other a Dodge Ram. In terms of overall quality, Chevy wins hands down. Fuel conomy is also much better. In terms of styling, the Dodge wins. I have never considered a Ford. They look like the box they came in and my brother-in-law, once an avid Ford guy, has switched to GM. He got tired of the front suspensions needing to be replaced so often.

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