First Drive: 2005i Chevrolet Silverado SS 2WD
By: Mike Magda, Editor Posted: 05-01-05 17:10 PT
© 2005 PickupTruck.com

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Now SS stands for Super Smoke!

Just introduced in 2-wheel-drive, the new 2005i Silverado SS boils the tires with all the authority of a John Force half-track burnout. This basic street-cred maneuver had been hopeless in the original Silverado SS with its all-wheel-drive setup. Sure, the AWD Silverado SS would jerk your neck pretty good on a brake-stand launch, and you might get a little bit of tire chirp. But forget about smoke or any serious rubber calling cards on the asphalt.

The updated Silverado SS still won’t challenge its direct competition in the halo truck category—the Ford SVT Lightning or Dodge Ram SRT-10—in total power or street performance. But it’s a helluva lot more fun to drive and less expensive to purchase. More important, the 2WD version—and a special Intimidator SS from Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet—give us a preview of upcoming features on the 2006 Silverado line. We also heard about a new pickup configuration and a new Allison transmission that will be available in next year’s fullsize truck lineup.

I took the new Silverado SS for a quick 30-mile drive along back roads through the North Carolina woods surrounding the NASCAR shop of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. It still pulls hard with 345 horsepower coming from the 6.0-liter LQ9, but I found the aging 4L85-E 4-speed automatic transmission to be sluggish and slow to respond to the pedal. Also, GM went to a higher 3.73:1 rear axle ratio in the 2WD, compared to the 4.10:1 in the AWD version, which doesn’t help quickness when you stab the throttle. On the plus side, the truck is 258 pounds lighter without the transfer case and front diff and tips the scales at 4934 pounds. The starting price of $35,590 (not including the $850 destination charge) is also about $3,000 lighter on your wallet than the AWD version.

My first drive hardly revealed all the road qualities and performance potential of the new drivetrain. The pre-determined drive route never found a speed limit over 50mph, and we rarely encountered a long, straight stretch of road without steady traffic. My driving partner, Truckin’s Bob Ryder, did find a spot lonely enough to switch off the traction control and light up the tires for my camera. I’m looking forward to a full week of seat time and a couple hundred dollars worth of gas to put the truck through its proper paces.

Although the Silverado SS is challenged when matched with the Lightning or SRT-10, the SS does have many qualities that continue to impress, despite the age of the Silverado platform. The interior is comfortable and roomy. I remain a fan of the Silverado dash layout and instrument panel. I like that it isn’t symmetrical and puts function ahead of style. I like that the main audio controls are on the left side of the unit. I like that there is a full array of analog gauges and the tach is easy to differentiate from the speedo. There may be a sea of plastic around of you, but in Dark Charcoal the blandness is well masked. For 2006, GM started offering the Silverado SS in the LS trim, which starts out with a cloth covered 60/40 bench seat, to help bring down the prices. Previous SS models were available only with the leather bucket seats in the LT trim. Either setup is supportive and easy on the backside. Besides the available LT upgrades, other interior options include XM satellite radio, moonroof, Bose sound system and automatic climate control.

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