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Fighting scratches and swans with a Silverado pickup

Posted by Bill Griffith  December 9, 2011 05:48 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe). Click photo for larger version.

In the end, I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t about to put the first scratch on a brand-new truck bed.

The arrival of the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD pickup truck seemingly was the answer to my prayers. After all, there was a pile of broken-up small branches, courtesy of the late October Nor’easter, plus 16 bags of leaves and garden debris awaiting transport to the local compost dump.

How often when confronted with such tasks had I lamented: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pickup truck this week?” That wish ranks up there with a “Where’s the traffic cop?” when someone blows by you at 95 on the highway or blatantly runs a red light. It’s oft-spoken, rarely seen.

This time, though, it happened. Here’s the truck. Here’s the cargo. What’s the problem?


Click photo for larger version.

The dilemma was that this truck was pristine with barely 500 miles on the odometer and not so much as a stone ding on the front fascia. Sure, it won’t be long before someone uses it to move a friend’s furniture or bring one of those now-aging 300-pound TVs to the recycling center. That would scratch up the bed liner, but it hasn’t happened yet. And I wasn’t about to be first if I could help it.

At first I prevaricated, saying, “Well, the Silverado doesn’t have a dump sticker so they probably wouldn’t let me in anyway.”

Not so, says Mrs. G. “You could talk your way in.”

Finally, I made multiple trips to the dump in my Subaru Baja, using the bed extender feature to jam in seven bags on the first run. Later that afternoon, I took off to do some errands in the Silverado, making a detour to take a run over my current stretch of torture track — the lower end of Hay Street in Newbury.

Alas, the road was shut down and in the process of being repaved.

So much for that, I thought, pulling to the edge of the road, stopping alongside a small pond while I pondered my next stop. That’s when the idea came to me: “Hey, this isn’t a bad spot to take a photo. The truck’s clean, especially because it didn’t rumble over the dusty roads to the dump.”

Now I’ve never considered trucks to be objects of beauty, figuring they’re pretty utilitarian and all share the same basic shape. But I’ve never considered them Ugly Ducklings.


Click photo for larger version.

Neither did the residents of the pond, a pair of swans who paddled over, apparently to welcome the truck. After a “swim by,” they waddled ashore and started pecking away at the ground next to the truck, craning their necks to check it out. Maybe they thought the striking mesh grille with its body-color surround was as nice looking as I did. One of the swans hissed as I left, so I’m not too sure.

The Silverado is long (more than 19 feet), wide (80 inches) and high (73.7 inches), weighing in at 5,431 pounds. It’s rated at 15 miles per gallon in city driving and 21 on the highway. Our mostly rural driving returned 19.2 mpg.

It’s also pricey. Ours was the crew cab configuration and upscale LTZ trim with a $43,435 MSRP and $48,419 as tested after a $1,000 discount. Options included an LTZ Plus package ($605) with locking and E-Z lift tailgate, adjustable pedals, and rear park assist.


Click photo for larger version.

Navigation ($2,250), sunroof ($995), 20-inch chrome wheels ($745), six-inch tubular steps ($689), rear camera ($450), and rear sliding window ($250) were the other major options.

Power comes from a 5.3-liter V-8 engine (315 horsepower) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive with hill-start assist, stability control and a full array of safety equipment. Even unloaded, the ride is remarkably comfortable (for a truck).

The touch-screen navigation system worked well and the rear view camera and park assist eased the job of “berthing” the massive vehicle into its off-street parking spot between the other family cars without damaging the fence.

The side steps eased entry into a well-appointed interior with nice touch surfaces, all-weather mats, and leather heated seats. A huge center console provides good storage space for working owners.

And, best of all, it went back without the first scratches.

Bill Griffith can be reached at

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab LTZ

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $43,435 / $49,419.
Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 15 mpg city / 21 mpg highway.
Fuel economy, Globe observed: 19.2
Drivetrain: 5.3-liter V-8, 6-speed automatic transmission, 4WD
Body: 5-passenger, full-sized pickup truck


Horsepower: 315.
Torque: 335 lb.-ft.
Overall length: 230.2 in.
Wheelbase: 143.5 in.
Height: 73.7 in.
Width: 80 in.
Curb weight: 5,431 pounds

It’s big, brawny, and pricey, with a decidedly upscale interior and easy-to-drive “roadability.” Rear seats flip up, jump-seat style, to provide lots of interior storage space.

THE BAD: It’s big, brawny, and pricey, but then you know that going in. Heated seat controls on door instead of center stack or center console

THE BOTTOM LINE: There are many, many of these trucks on the market so keep your options open

ALSO CONSIDER: Chevrolet Avalanche, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tacoma and Tundra

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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