Silverado SS Two-Wheel Drive
By: Mike Magda, EditorPosted: 04-05-05 19:17 ET
© 2005

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Chevrolet is sneaking a 2-wheel-drive version of the Silverado SS into the market, and a company official tells that the current all-wheel-drive setup will not be available in the 2006 model year. He also left open the possibility that a sportier regular-cab SS model might come on the scene and offered a sneak peek at a facelift that next year’s 1500 models will receive.

The 2WD Silverado SS was introduced without much fanfare as Chevy focused attention on its cars and SUVs during the recent auto shows. But production started in March at the Oshawa, Ontario, truck assembly plant. The 2WD version starts out at $35,590 (not including destination charge), compared to the AWD model at $38,740.

“The two-wheel-drive does put us at a better price point,” says John Schwegman, Silverado Marketing Manager. “Most of the previous SS trucks were topping the $40,000 mark.”

The Silverado SS was introduced as a 2003 model and features a 345-horsepower 6.0-liter LQ9 V8 engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission and fulltime all-wheel-drive viscous-coupled transfer case. The suspension is lowered slightly with the Z60 chassis package that includes 20-inch wheels.

Schwegman says first-year SS sales were in the 10,000 to 11,000 range but dropped to average lower than 6,000 the next two years. Besides offering a 2WD version, Chevy also lowered the base content slightly to help bring the price down. Early Silverado SS trucks came with the upscale LT trim that included leather-covered, power bucket seats and OnStar. Now the base SS has cloth covered bench seat and OnStar is optional.

The current Silverado platform, codename GMT 800, is nearing the end of its lifecycle. First sightings of the 2007 next generation pickup aren’t expected to come until 2006, even though GM management has asked that the delivery dates be moved up. Meanwhile the 2006 Silverado lineup will get even more updates, according to Schwegman.

“We’re going to have the all-wheel-drive and 2-wheel-drive [Silverado SS] for the remainder of this model year,” says Schwegman. “When we go into the ’06 model year, we’re flipping to a 2-wheel-drive only.”

Schwegman says Silverado half-ton trucks will also get a facelift for the 2006 model.

“We’re coming out with a new front-end look on our light-duties. It’s going to look closer in resemblance to the heavy-duty look with the power-dome hood,” says Schwegman.

Another change for 2006, says Schwegman, includes expanding the Silverado Hybrid nationwide. Currently the Silverado Hybrid is available only in six states. Schwegman also lamented the demise of the Quadrasteer option by saying, “certain customers really loved the technology but there just weren’t enough of them.”

The Silverado SS has often been criticized when compared to the Ford Lightning, which is no longer in production, and the Dodge SRT-10 Ram pickup. The Silverado SS is underpowered and overweight when lined up next to those higher-priced regular-cab trucks.

“We put the Silverado SS out there to fill a particular need in our portfolio,” explains Schwegman. “We didn’t expect this truck to be the fastest. Our volume is in Extended Cab. We think Extended Cab is more of an everyday-use vehicle.”

Late last year, Chevy unveiled a concept truck called the Speedway at the SEMA show. It was a regular cab, short-bed model that featured plenty of styling cues from the Silverado SS and the LQ9 engine with a 2WD drivetrain. Schwegman says he’s only seen photos of the Speedway, a concept that PUTC asked in its review, “Why doesn’t the Silverado SS look like this truck?”

“There has been consideration to come out with a regular cab,” admits Schwegman. “And that’s still in the works but nothing definitive.”

Schwegman wouldn’t comment on reports from that a regular-cab SS model with a “nearly 400hp” 6.0-liter engine would be available in 2006.

In a final thought, Schwegman cited continued improvements in the Silverado line for the truck’s sale success in the first quarter of 2005 following a lackluster 2004 in which total Silverado sales were down about 1 percent. According to numbers from Automotive News, Silverado sales are up over 8 percent for the first three months of 2005. Ford F-150 sales are down 9.4% and Dodge Ram sales are down 13.4% for the same time period. Nissan Titan sales are up 52.4% and Toyota Tundra sales are up 36.7%.

“We were going up against heavy advertising weight from the new F-150, Titan and Tundra Crew Cab,” explains Schwegman. “It’s (Silverado) a platform we have not been willing to stand still on from a product standpoint, and I think that’s driving some of the success.”

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