First Drive: 2001 Chevrolet S-10 Crew Cab
Copyright July 2000,
By Michael Levine

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2001 Chevrolet Crew Cab Debuts in Chicago

The more things
change, the more they stay the same.

Chevrolet is taking a different tack with the introduction of the new 2001 S-10 Crew Cab. Where the compact, four door competition from Nissan, Toyota and Ford hinges on new designs, styling and powerplants, the venerable S-10 lays a steady course using the latest platform.

The current generation S-10 was introduced in 1994. Since that time the truck marketplace has seen massive innovation and GM's S-10 has moved with consumer demand to offer the options that most folks want in their compact pickups.

The ZR2 package was offered in the first year of production, for off-the-shelf off-roading capabilities. In 1996 Chevrolet began offering the S-10 with an optional third door on extended cab models for easy access to the rear of the cab. And in 1999 the S-10 Xtreme was introduced with factory ground effects and a two inch lower ride height to appeal to aftermarket sport truck enthusiasts.

While all this innovation was going on, GM began debating whether North American compact pickup buyers would be willing to sacrifice bed space for additional interior room and four, front hinging full-size doors.

Positive public reaction to the Nissan's Sport Utility Truck Concept, its 2000 Frontier Crew Cab, the Ford Adrenalin Concept and Ford's 1999 introduction of the 2001 Explorer Sport Trac at the North American International Auto Show helped persuade GM to enter the compact crew cab marketplace.

Dora Nowicki, Assistant Brand Manager for the S-10, expects that many Crew Cab buyers will be younger people just starting families. These consumers already own a compact pickup and would prefer to stay in the segment instead of having to move into a full size truck to accommodate more than three people comfortably. The 2001 S-10 Crew Cab offers these consumers the utility of an SUV and the practicality of a pickup truck.

General Motors expects that up to 25% of all S-10 sales may be Crew Cab models in 2001.

Thanks to GM do Brasil, where a crew cab S-10 has been produced for several years as a work truck, and some parts bin sharing, the 2001 S-10 Crew Cab took only 12 months from design to production for North America. The domestic S-10 shares roof and bed sides with its Brazilian twin while the interior is shared with the Chevrolet Blazer SUV.

You won't find the S-10 sporting any exterior changes for 2001 to go along with the Crew Cab option other than a few new shades of paint. In fact, the S-10 Crew Cab is pretty anonymous in the looks department other than the two extra doors. The wheelbase even stays the same as the extended cab model.

From the rear of the cab forward, the interior of the S-10 Crew Cab is practically identical to its SUV counterpart, the Chevrolet Blazer. New for the S-10 is the Blazer's overhead console featuring plenty of storage and a dual temperature gauge and compass.

The carryover styling and parts sharing does have its advantages though. S-10 Crew Cab pricing tops out at only $25,369 including destination charges. A very reasonable price for a 190 horsepower 4x4 - approximately $1400 more than a similarly configured extended cab S-10. The only options are $269 for fog lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel and dual CD / Cassette AM/FM stereo and $270 gets you a locking differential to help out on those sticky 4x4 excursions. Compare that to a similarly configured Blazer which could run several thousand more dollars. A foldable tonneau cover that also locks the tailgate will be available as an aftermarket item from GM later in the year.

The S-10 Crew Cab's 4x4 Z85 suspension uses a combination of 32mm twin tube shock absorbers, a 28mm front stabilizer bar and rugged P235/70R15 on/off-road tires. A four speed automatic transmission is standard on the truck.

We took the S-10 Crew Cab out for a brief spin near the Palace Sports Arena just outside Detroit.

On the road you immediately feel the extra mass provided by the approximately 400 pounds of extra weight the Crew Cab brings to the table versus a moderately equipped Extended Cab model. It feels quite solid and closer to the Blazer than the regular pickup, which only seems to make sense.

Though engine power does seem to suffer slightly from the extra weight, ride comfort is better than driving an unloaded extended cab S-10. In the handling department we did notice a slight bit of understeer around tight curves but this was probably due to the fact the truck we were driving was a preproduction model and more suspension tweaking will be done for the production trucks.

Acceleration is quite good though the 4.3 liter Vortec is starting to loose some luster in the compact truck segment where it used to be the far and away class leader. Rumor has it that GM may be considering a new inline six for the next generation S-10 scheduled to arrive early in 2002 as a 2003 model.

Sound levels in the preproduction truck were quite good. Highway noise seemed significantly less than the Nissan Frontier we recently drove.

Rear passengers may find the seating height a little on the low side but its a much more civilized way to ride than the jump seats found in the Extended Cab. We also like the rear windows which can be fully rolled down.

Overall the Crew Cab S-10 is a much needed addition to the GM truck fleet. Both it, and its twin the GMC Sonoma, should provide compact truck buyers with the extra space they have been looking for.

The 2001 S-10 Crew Cab is manufactured in Linden, New Jersey and is expected to enter production in late July / early August. Sales will be initially limited to geographic regions, such as the Pacific coast states and northeastern US, though any dealership can special order the truck if it is not located in one of the sales regions.

For posterity's sake, here's a shot of the S-10 Crew Cab and its big brothers - the Silverado 1500 and HD 2500.