Now, back to that 7,400-pound trailer and the Silverado towing “handicap” imposed on the rest of the trucks.
As I mentioned earlier, CR buys all of its own vehicles for testing, so there’s no chance a manufacturer might provide a 'better than average' vehicle for review. But in the case of the Silverado, CR didn't buy the most capable truck for towing.
CR could have substituted the 3.73 rear axle with a 4.10 at no charge. This single component change would have raised the Silverado’s tow rating from 7,500-pounds to 8,500-pounds, the same as the Dodge Ram 1500, which had a 3.92 rear axle. But with the 3.73 rear axle as tested, the Chevrolet Silverado finished in third place pulling the trailer from 0 to 60-mph in 22.6 seconds, 6.5-seconds behind the Toyota Tundra and 1.1-seconds slower than the Dodge Ram. That’s a huge performance gap.
So, why did Consumer Reports select the 3.73 rear axle? According to Jake Fisher, a senior automotive engineer for Consumer Reports, "For our readers, fuel economy is more important than gaining an extra second or two faster time 0 to 60, and we tested the trucks we felt were configured as our subscribers would use them."
Mr. Fisher also stated that the towing acceleration tests didn't play a role in determining the final score of each truck, but fuel economy did - significantly. If Consumer Reports had tested the Silverado with the 4.10 rear axle, it likely would have had lowered the Chevy's final score because of the axle's negative impact on mileage compared to a 3.73.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the Toyota Tundra CR tested. The Double Cab 4x4 was powered by the brand new 381-hp / 401 pound-ft of torque i-Force 5.7-liter V8, with a 4.30 rear axle and a towing capacity of 10,300-pounds.
Right away you can see the difference in power and rear axle ratings.
Normally it wouldn't be a big deal if one V8 powered truck was slower than another – hey, that’s the breaks. But there’s an issue here that goes beyond optioning the Silverado for tow testing with a 3.73 rear axle instead of the 4.10. It’s that the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can be bought with a 367-hp / 375 pound-feet of torque 6.0-liter V8, that’s rated to tow 10,500-pounds with a standard 4.10 rear axle. And that all the trucks tested, except the Silverado, were optioned with the most powerful V8 available from the manufacturer.
Asked about why Consumer Reports didn’t select the 6.0-liter V8 when it bought the Chevrolet Silverado, Doug Love, CR’s communications manager, told us, “We tested the engines that make up the heart of the market.”
It’s true that the majority of V8s that Chevrolet and Toyota sell are the 5.3-liter Vortec and 5.7-liter i-Force engines, but in my opinion any buyer serious about using a half-ton Silverado to tow heavy loads would likely opt for the 6.0-liter Vortec because of its 2,000-pound towing advantage over the 5.3. And almost certainly in CR’s tests, a 6.0-liter Silverado would have performed much better than the 5.3-liter version against the Tundra. This also would have moved the Chevy from having the lowest towing capacity (7,500-pounds) in the group to the highest (10,500-pounds).
At the end of half-ton testing, CR rated the Tundra 4-points better than the Silverado, 69 to 64.
According to David Champion, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center, “The Tundra’s powerful and responsive powertrain helped it achieve the best overall score in this group." CR's story also cites the Tundra's best observed fuel economy among the half-tons tested.
Both Tundra and Silverado are considered to have “very good” road test scores that place them near the head of the class. They are only outscored by the Chevrolet Avalanche - CR's previously tested and remaining #1 pick for full size haulers.