Southern California Cruiser

Road Test: 2000 Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme
by PUTC Staff

Quick, what pops into your mind when you hear the words Southern California? Los Angeles - yeah, maybe. Sunny weather - taken for granted. Malibu - that sunny 27 mile long strip of Pacific coast beach, perhaps. Hollywood - definitely!

Where else on Earth but Southern California can you find a culture where the boundaries between celebrity and entertainment and 'normal' life are almost indiscernible. Seemingly everybody works in, or knows a close friend or relative connected to, the entertainment industry. Hollywood is all around you - inescapable and larger than life. So what do these folks do between making movies, surfing and waiting tables? They have to do something to keep up the levels of hyperstimulation. Well, as you probably also know Southern California is also a great place for cars. And the cars in Southern California are just as much about getting from point A to point B as they are about entertainment and broadcasting to the world who you are. Every price point is represented from 'look at me I am a famous <insert entertainment profession title here>' Ferraris to trendy Volkswagen Beetles for those struggling actors. (Note to residents of Southern California reading this road test: with us folks from Northern California writing this article you probably think we are taking a few good-natured shots at you - and of course you would be correct. Someone has to balance out this state.)

So on a recent trip to Southern California over President's Day Weekend some of us decided to add some entertainment to our Northern California lives. We asked General Motors to let us review the limited edition Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme - where Detroit has combined Hollywood and pickup trucks to create one heck of an entertaining cruiser.

And talk about entertaining origins, the S-10 Xtreme began with the S-10 Hugger concept truck. The Hugger allowed consumers to visualize ways to customize their own S-10s and proved so popular with consumers, who saw it and gave two thumbs up, that Chevrolet put the truck into production.

At LAX, the de facto gateway to Southern California, we picked up a Victory Red S-10 Xtreme.

First impressions do count and with the low slung Xtreme you can't help but notice how aggressive it looks. Throw in the 360-degree ground effects, encompassing the front and rear fascia, wheel opening flares and rocker panels and you have a compact truck with an attitude and the

looks to turn heads even in car crazy Southern California. Put your foot on the pedal and the Xtreme's looks are backed up by solid engine performance.

The only other current production pickup trucks to possibly compare with the Xtreme are the Ford F-150 Lightning and Dodge Dakota R/T. Both the Lightning and R/T have strong, sports truck-like looks. The Dakota competes almost directly with the S-10 in the compact / mid-size truck segment and is powered by a 5.9-liter V8 engine pumping out 250hp and 345 ft-lb. of torque while the Lightning is in a league of its own with its supercharged V8 engine and larger size. The Dakota R/T prices itself at a slight premium to the S-10 but for the Lightning you will have to have at least one hit movie under your belt to afford its $10,000 premium over the Xtreme - and that's without an extended cab.

Inside & Out

Standard equipment on the S-10 includes dual airbags, power steering, air conditioning and cruise control. Our truck also included a remote keyless entry, highback cloth bucket seats, stereo with compact disc player and floor mats.

The interior of the Xtreme came with the upscale LS treatment and is reflective of today's compact truck interiors; a blending of car and truck that is less rugged in appearance when compared to their full sized siblings such as the Chevy Silverado. The dash instruments for example are extremely readable and informative but the rounded binnacle and soft shapes look slightly out of place in a truck. The plastic around the dash fascia looked a little on the budget-conscious side. On the passenger side was a robust grab handle over the glove box and airbag. Fit and finish were above average.

GM's second generation airbags come with a manual lock to turn the front passenger's SRS (supplemental restraint system) on or off.

Stereo and HVAC controls are logically grouped together. The AC Delco factory stereo system came with an optional CD player that is more than adequate for daily driving though true sport truck enthusiasts showing off their rides will probably want to add new speakers and an amp at the very least. Contrasted against the simple HVAC controls, the stereo buttons require some pretty dexterous fingers to change finer settings.

The thickly upholstered bucket seats feel good to sit in on both long and short rides and offer plenty of support. The driver side bucket was powered allowing for quick adjustments.

The S-10 Xtreme came with the extended cab and sporting an optional third door on the driver side. The third door makes it very easy to throw items you want to keep out of the elements in the back of the cab - which proved convenient for keeping our luggage dry from the airport to our hotel during a rare late-winter downpour in LA. In the extended cab you can normally fit up to four people in the S-10, but instead of a bench seat the S-10 comes with side-mounted rear jump seats. The rear seats are pretty cramped even for short trips unless you are under 10 years of age. With the optional rear door you lose one of the jump seats but you gain extra room for a third passenger and additional storage in the side of the door.

On the outside the S-10 comes with two bed options - standard fleetside or "Sportside". Our truck had the curvaceous "Sportside" option but you pay a price for style because unlike the fleetside bed, which is as wide as the truck's cab, the Sportside box can't haul as much stuff as the regular bed can. We don't expect people who buy the Xtreme with the Sportside bed to worry too much about the decreased cargo capacity.

The Victory Red paint job fit the Xtreme's personality beautifully. It's not so much a 'fast as a speeding bullet' red like a Corvette as it is a 'hey, pay attention to me' red - perfect for cruising Santa Monica or Hollywood Boulevard. The color nicely complements the stepside looks and carries over to the body-color grille, bumpers, and special Xtreme front air dam (with integrated fog lamps).

Five spoke 16" aluminum wheels unique to the Xtreme in the S-10 lineup round out the sport truck looks.

On the Road

The Xtreme's optional 4.3-liter engine proves as sporty as its appearance. Making 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 250 lb.-ft of torque at just 2800 rpm, the Vortec 4300 ensures the sport truck’s performance matches its looks. A four cylinder engine is standard but we won't even comment on putting that engine in this truck. The Xtreme begs for the six.

Chevrolet offers two transmission choices - a five speed manual or the 4L60-E four-speed automatic. We would have loved to try this truck with the manual but even with the automatic transmission engine performance was very responsive. When combined with the excellent suspension we never felt as if engine control was a problem, even on the winding roads of the Pacific Coast Highway that demand quick braking and rapid acceleration.

The Xtreme is built on S-10’s ZQ8 suspension, which is two inches lower than the base truck's suspension. Before the Xtreme customers would buy a stock S-10 and then have it lowered somewhere else. Unfortunately, some might have fallen victim to lousy conversions and voided their warranty. The S-10 offers a factory-warranted solution.

NVH levels in the Xtreme were also very good. The S-10 was somewhat noisy at highway speeds but otherwise it was quiet around town. There was one noise that did drive us up the wall though and that was the left hand turn signal. When you indicated to the rest of the world you were about to turn left the 'clicking' of the indicator seemed to originate from the far right side of the cabin. The suspension adequately dampened all but the largest speed bumps and potholes, but be careful when pulling into steeply raked driveways as the low ground clearance can cause the front air dam to scrape the pavement.

Gas mileage averaged around 17mpg during combined highway and city driving. Considering the mixed conditions we had the mileage was still lower than we expected but the 4.3L V6 also has quite a bit of displacement which makes for a hungry truck. It's a tradeoff of performance for fuel economy.

Summing it Up

Unlike other factory hotrods like the Ford Lightning, Chevrolet's consumer strategy with the Xtreme is to offer a factory customized truck but not forget the budget conscious buyer. And unlike aftermarket conversions, you can get a stock truck with some great features, and it’s all rolled into the vehicle’s financing.

Depending on the options you choose, the S-10 Xtreme is a great piece of resonably priced entertainment. Perfect for driving the roads of Southern California.

2000 Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme

Base Price: $15,913 Price as Tested: $24,075

Price as Tested Includes: Xtreme Preferred Equipment Group with Sport Appearance Package ($3,236); Vortec V6 Engine ($1,195); 4 Speed Auto Transmission ($1,095); Convenience Group with Power Windows, Door Locks, Heated Mirrors, and Remote Keyless Entry ($795); Sportside Body ($475); Tilt Wheel and Speed Control ($395); 3rd Door ($295); Reclining Highback Bucket Seats ($291); Locking Rear Diff ($270); Deep Tinted Glass ($115)