All 2017 Silverados to upgrade with 8-speed automatic; what else might Chevy do?

2017 Chevrolet Silverado

2017 Chevrolet Silverado

What changes will make the 2017 Silverado 1500 different?

New paint colors, repackaged options, and a complete phase-out of 6-speed automatic transmissions for more sophisticated 8-speed automatics. These 2017 updates will come on the heels of a substantial model-year 2016 update that included freshened styling. Also updated was GMC’s version of this half-ton pickup, the Sierra 1500. It was the first notable change since these full-size pickups were fully redesigned for model-year 2014. Silverado’s No. 2 in sales to the Ford F-150 in this very profitable segment. But while F-150 sales grew 5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, Silverado sales were stagnant compared to the same period last year. At the same time, the No. 3 seller in the class, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500, grew 12 percent. Some of GM’s full-size-pickup sales likely were siphoned off by its popular Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups. This report covers the Silverado 1500; heavier-duty iterations are available as the three-quarter-ton-payload Silverado 2500 and one-ton 3500.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

To take advantage of a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Its availability should no longer be limited to the most expensive trim levels and drivetrain configurations. Chevy started rolling out this gearbox during the 2015 model year. Availability was restricted to Silverados (and Sierras) equipped with the most powerful and most expensive engine, a 6.2-liter V-8. All other models continued to use a 6-speed automatic. For 2016, Chevy began paring the 9-speed with the far more popular 5.3-liter V-8, but only on Silverado’s top-line LTZ and High Country models. In 2017, we expect the 8-speed to become standard equipment across the entire Silverado 1500 line.

Aside from possible additions of even more special-trim versions, such as Black Out Edition and limited-availability Custom grade added during 2016, the core of that lineup should again consist of the contractor-class Work Truck (WT); the volume-selling LS and LT; the upscale LTZ; and the flagship High Country. The 2-door regular cab body style will return, as will the extended Double Cab and the roomiest and most popular, the Crew Cab. The latter two have front-hinged rear doors that open independently of the fronts. Expect the regular cab and Double Cab to again be available with a 6-foot 6-inch-long short-bed cargo box and an 8-foot-long long-bed, with Crew Cabs available with a 5-foot 8-inch short-bed and a 6-ft-6 long-bed.

Read our 2018 Chevrolet Silverado Preview for the latest information

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if your truck budget points you to a version with the proven 6-speed automatic transmission. It delivers a good driving experience, sacrificing just a trace of throttle response to the 8-speed. And depending on the trim level you choose, fuel economy will likely be a wash. The ’16 styling updates will carry this truck through to its next redesign, likely for model-year 2019 or ’20, although a 10-speed automatic transmission is slated for model-year ’18. Of course, buying a ’16 helps you avoid model-year price inflation. And you’ll save even more by taking advantage of the perpetually generous financial incentives GM offers on its full-size pickups. During spring 2016, for example, Certain Double and Crew cab models qualified for factory and dealer rebates of $10,000 or more off list price. This doesn’t mean your Silverado of choice will necessarily be cheap; loaded versions top out around $60,000. But your dealer should have plenty of room to drive down the price.

Will the styling be different?

Not after Chevy re-worked the Silverado’s exterior appearance for 2016. The truck’s basic design and engineering dates back to the 2014 model year. While that model received significant enhancements under the hood and inside the cabin, the exterior styling remained rather conservative. The 2016 freshening addresses this somewhat with a bolder front grille and sculpted hood. WT, LS, Custom, and LT models received LED accent lighting while the LTZ and High Country get the full LED headlight treatment. The overall design should continue into 2017 with no major changes until the next-generation Silverado 1500 comes online. The core lineup for ’17 should return with the WT, LS, and LT models available in all three cab configurations, the LTZ offered in Double and Crew cabs, and the High Country as a Crew Cab only.

Any mechanical changes?

As noted, the 8-speed automatic transmission should become standard equipment on all 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 models. Expect engine choices to stand pat. Standard on all but the LTZ and High Country would be a 4.3-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the LTZ and High Country and for about $1,200 on all the other models, you can get what is, by far, the most popular engine on this truck: a 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Available for about $2,500 on the LTZ and High Country is a 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This engine is shared with the high-end GMC Sierra Denali pickup and Cadillac Escalade premium-large SUV. Rear-wheel drive is standard. Full-time four-wheel drive (4WD) that can be left engaged on dry pavement would be available for an additional $3,150. The system includes low-range gearing for heavy off-road use. When properly equipped, the Silverado’s maximum towing capacity is a robust 12,000 pounds.

Will the fuel economy improve?

Probably for lower-trim models, thanks to the 8-speed automatic. Oddly, 2016 EPA ratings were slightly lower for 5.3-liter-V8 models equipped with the 8-speed than for those with the 6-speed. That may have reflected the higher curb weights of the LTZ and High Country trims, the only versions available with the 8-speed for ‘16. The 8-speed should help V-6 Silverados beat ’16 ratings of 20 mpg city-highway combined with rear-wheel drive and 19 with 4WD. They may or may not change for the 5.3-liter V-8 with the 8-speed, which rated 18 mpg combined with rear-drive and 17 with 4WD (versus 19 and 18, respectively, with the 6-speed). With the 6.2-liter V-8, Chevy will try to leverage the 8-speed to beat ’16 ratings of 17 mpg city-highway combined with both rear- and four-wheel drive.

The V-6 and 5.3 V-8 will again use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline or E85 ethanol-blended fuel. GM will again recommend premium-grade 91-octane gasoline for the 6.2 V-8. Both V-8 engines will again come equipped with GM’s Active Fuel Management that shuts down four of the cylinders under cruising and light load conditions in order to save fuel.

Will it have new features?

Probably not, per se, but expect existing options to be repackaged into different groups to potentially offer buyers greater value. Model-year 2016 brought the addition of several useful technology and convenience items, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as part of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system; available wireless phone charging; an optional remote locking tailgate; and a Cargo Convenience Package that includes a spray-on bedliner, cargo tie-downs, and a cross-rail tiered storage system.

Silverado customization is limited pretty much only to your imagination. At the bottom of the pecking order, Work Trucks are for blue-collar businesses who need dependable rigs to run their companies. While you can get niceties such as power windows and locks, it is possible to equip a WT without them if you’re really watching your bottom line. At the other end, the High Country is for business owners or recreational users who crave luxury-sedan trappings but need to tow their horse trailers and/or moderately sized watercraft. These trucks are available with high-grade leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, power running boards, a navigation system, and more.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll doubtlessly be higher, but probably only by a few hundred dollars. A 2016 regular cab WT starts at $28,090, including $1,195 destination fee. A decked-out 4WD High Country (which is crew cab only) with the $1,095 Premium Package (forward collision alert, lane keep assist, high beam assist); $2,495 6.2-liter V-8; extra-cost paint ($395-$995); and 22-inch wheels ($2,995) will top out at $60,000, give or take a grand or two. A more modestly equipped 4WD LT Crew Cab, which should account for the majority of non-fleet sales, should sticker for about $46,000.

When will it come out?

Expect a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 release date in the fall 2016.

Best competitors

Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra

What change would make it better?

Chevy once offered Silverado in a Double Cab long-bed version and some buyers might appreciate its return; Ford is the only rival currently offering such a combo. It’s also pioneered the use of aluminum instead of steel for body panels and bed. GM touts the all-steel construction of its trucks now, but it, too, will employ some aluminum body panels in its next-generation full-size pickups. Otherwise, the Silverado should soldier on as a reliable workhorse with a wide range of body styles and features to suit most any truck shopper. It lacks the forward-thinking styling and engineering of the Ford F-150 or the excellent road manners and available diesel power of the Ram 1500. These points won’t matter to Chevy die-hards, but first-time buyers or those not loyal to any brand may want to consider the competition first, at least until the next-generation Silverado is ready to roll.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]