Pickup letdown: 2018 Silverado skates on special editions until aluminum-body 2018 redesign arrives

2017 Chevrolet Silverado

2017 Chevrolet Silverado

What changes will make the 2018 Silverado 1500 different?

Only minor ones, given that this half-ton pickup truck is on track for a complete model-year 2019 redesign. Expect the ’18 Silverado 1500 to add a feature or two and maybe a couple of new trim packages to keep shoppers interested as the 2014-2018 generation winds down.

While the next all-new Silverado will employ weight-saving aluminum for some body panels – a controversial move pioneered by the 2015 F-150 — the cargo bed and frame are likely to remain steel. Chevy hopes the new design will stem a pause in Silverado’s sales growth. Silverado and its GMC equivalent, the Sierra 1500, were extensively updated for model-year 2016, but demand for Silverado, long the No. 2 seller behind the Ford F-Series, fell 15.5 percent in September 2016. That dropped it to No. 3, behind Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500, which enjoyed a 30.6 percent sales boost over the same period. (F-Series sales are off by a few percent as well).

Note that this report only pertains to the half-ton Silverado 1500 versions; the heavy-duty three-quarter-ton-payload Silverado 2500 and one-ton 3500 models are covered separately.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

If you like this generation’s looks, powertrains, and features, there’s little reason to delay purchasing until the 2018 Silverado arrives. The ’18 will likely bring a shuffling of features among trim levels and new special edition packages – like the current model’s Black Out, Midnight and Special Ops Editions. But its basic styling, dimensions, and mechanical specifications won’t change. That means it will again be available in standard cab, Double Cab (with a small back seat and rear-hinged access panels), and the top-selling Crew Cab (with four doors and a full back seat) configurations. Regular cab and Double Cab models should continue with either a 6-foot 6-inch-long short-bed cargo box or an 8-foot-long long-bed, with Crew Cabs coming with a 5-foot 8-inch short-bed or a 6-ft-6 long-bed. A broad range of trim levels will probably continue to include the back-to-basics Work Truck (WT), the Custom, the higher-volume LS and LT versions, the more-upscale LTZ, and the leather-clad High Country models that are luxuriously equipped and stratospherically priced.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes. With only minor changes anticipated for the 2018 model year, waiting will only subject you to an annual price increase, and you’ll be driving the Silverado for only a single year before the truck is expected to undergo its next major revision. Though the deals could become sweeter as the anticipated 2019 redesign approaches, we expect the Silverado’s recent sales slump should warrant generous manufacturer’s incentives and dealer discounts in the meantime. As of this writing – the beginning of the 2017 model year – Chevy is offering generous cash and financing incentives on the 2017 Silverado, with a Crew Cab LT with the All-Star equipment package being advertised with a number of cash incentives and discounts that add up to just over $11,100.

Will the styling be different?

Aside from perhaps a new wheel design added to the options list or a new color or two added to the exterior paint palette, we expect the 2018 Silverado to carry over visually. Updated for 2016, the truck’s basic appearance dates back to its last major redesign for the 2014 model year. At least as far as big pickups go, the Silverado should continue to be fairly conservative looking, with a boxy and broad-shouldered profile, capped by bold trim-specific front-end treatments. The truck’s interior is nicely designed with large legible gauges, and big buttons and dials on the dashboard; if so equipped there’s a seven or eight-inch touchscreen at the center of the dashboard for Chevy’s easily mastered MyLink infotainment system. All cab styles afford enough headroom for tall riders wearing cowboy hats, while Crew Cab units treat a trio of backseat passengers to limousine-like legroom. The WT, LS, and LT models should remain available in all three cab configurations, the Custom with only the Double Cab, the LTZ in Double and Crew cabs, and the High Country as just a Crew Cab.

Any mechanical changes?

Expect the 2018 Silverado to carry over mechanically. We had hoped Chevy might make the available eight-speed automatic transmission standard, or at least more widely available across the line for 2017. But don’t expect major powertrain changes until the Silverado’s anticipated 2019 redesign, when a diesel engine will likely join a roster of revised V-6 and V-8 powerplants. For ’18, the standard engine on all but the LTZ and High Country trim levels should again be a 4.3-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the LTZ and High Country and optional elsewhere in the line for around $1,200 is the volume-leading 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Select Chevy dealers in California should again offer this engine with General Motors’ “eAssist” hybrid system, in which a small electric motor gives the gasoline engine a slight boost in power as needed; horsepower and torque remain the same, though fuel economy is two mpg higher than with the standard 5.3-liter V-8. Rounding out the engine selection is a 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque that’s optional on the LTZ and High Country trims for around $2,500. Most versions come with a six-speed automatic transmission, with a more-sophisticated eight-speed version included with Double Cab models with the 6.2-liter V8 engine or Crew Cab versions with either the 6.2-liter V-8 or the Max Trailering Package. A full-time four-wheel drive (4WD) system that can be left engaged on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing for extreme off-road use will likely cost an additional $3,150. When properly equipped, the Silverado’s maximum towing capacity should again be a brawny 12,500 pounds.

Will the fuel economy improve?

Don’t expect it to, unless Chevy decides to make the eight-speed automatic transmission more widely available. As it stands, we anticipate the base 4.3-liter V-6 to again be EPA-rated at 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-drive, which is roughly on a par with the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500’s base V-6s. Curiously, for 2017 the Silverado was rated a tick higher with the 5.3-liter V-8 and the six-speed automatic (at 16/23/19 mpg) than with the eight-speed automatic (at 16/22/18), though that may have a lot to do with the heavier fully equipped versions to which the latter is limited. Mated to the eight-speed, the “eAssist” version of the 5.3 should again be rated at 18/24/20 mpg, which amounts to only a slight difference. Meanwhile the top 6.2-liter V-8 with the eight-speed should continue with a 15/21/17 mpg rating. With 4WD we expect the 4.3-liter V-6 will be rated at 17/22/19, the 5.3-liter V8 with the six-speed transmission at 16/22/18, and at 15/20/17 with the eight-speed gearbox. The 6.2-liter V-8 should again be rated at 15/20/17 mpg with 4WD.

Will it have new features?

Doubtful. Chevrolet made available a long list of new features between the Silverado’s 2014 redesign and subsequent 2016 update. In addition to three infotainment systems with smartphone connectivity and the usual comfort and convenience features, the Silverado should continue to offer many of the latest accident avoidance systems. These were included for model-year 2017 in the Enhanced Driver Alert Package that was standard on the High Country and a $945 option for LTZ models. For 2018, we’d urge Chevy to expand availability to less expensive trim levels.

The package includes forward-collision, lane-departure, and blind-spot warning systems, plus autonomous emergency braking that can automatically bring the truck to a stop to avoid a frontal collision. These systems work with GM’s Safety Alert Seat that uses vibrations in the cushions, rather than beeps or buzzers, as tactile warnings, which might be too subtle for some motorists to notice.

A Teen Driver feature should continue to come standard that allows parents to monitor a kid’s driving habits. Noticeably absent, however, is a high-speed auto-braking system. Other available amenities include wireless phone charging, a remote locking tailgate, and a spray-on bedliner. The top High Country version is equipped to be one of the toughest luxury vehicles on the planet, and can be fitted with high-end trappings like heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, power deployable running boards, and more.

How will 2017 prices be different?

We’ll undoubtedly see a modest price hike across the board for the 2018 Silverado. The most affordable model in the line should again be the base Work Truck version starting at around $29,000, including the mandatory destination fee (which for 2017 was $1,195). The top-of-the-line High Country Crew Cab version with the 6.2-liter V8, 4WD and a full range of options and accessories should top out close to a whopping $67,000. Splitting the difference, the higher-volume LT Crew Cab with 4WD should again start at around $44,000.

When will it come out?

The 2018 Chevrolet Silverado should reach dealer showrooms in late summer or early fall of 2017.

Best competitors

Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra.

What change would make it better?

Though the current Silverado has most of the bases covered with regard to features and performance, it lacks a few variations and amenities offered by the competition. For starters, we expect a coming Silverado to offer a diesel engine option to compete with the Ram 1500’s EcoDiesel. Making a long bed available on the Double Cab models would also be a nice addition to counter the same configuration in the F-150. Another area in which the Silverado comes up short is in novel features like the swing-open tailgate in the Honda Ridgeline or the built-in cargo wall storage bins offered with the Ram 1500. At the least, a future Silverado needs to offer an adaptive cruise control system with a high-speed automatic-braking function for added safety (the current system works between 5 mph and 37 mph).

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]