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SEE ALSO:Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

The best-selling models of motor vehicles aren't cars. They're pickup trucks. And the full-sized Chevrolet pickups are perennially near the top in sales figures.

Ever wonder why Chevy trucks sell so well? It could be because of the wide range of available models - everything from a 2-wheel-drive V6-powered C1500 to a mammoth 4-wheel drive, six- passenger crew cab K3500 with a big-block 454 cubic inch V8 or 6.5-liter turbo-diesel engine. There is a Chevy pickup for just about any pickup need. And the pickup truck is one of the most useful, versatile vehicles made. It can be used for personal transportation, work, or play. Modern trucks have all of the comfort and safety features of cars. They can do anything a car can do and plenty that a car can't do. They can be configured as a basic work vehicle, luxury transportation, or anything in between. A lot of things for work or play can fit in a pickup bed. With a camper shell over the bed, a pickup can be a great alternative to a sport-utility or even recreational vehicle. For the traditionalist, a pickup is one of the few ways to still get a vehicle with a big V8 engine and rear-wheel drive.

We recently spent a week with a extended-cab K1500 Silverado 4x4 with the Z71 off-road package. Equipped with a short, stylish "sportside" bed and classic small block V8, it is a muscle car for the 'Nineties.

APPEARANCE: With 4-wheel drive and big 265/75 R16 Goodyear Wrangler tires, the K1500 is high, wide, and handsome from the square, chrome-trimmed grille to the chrome-plated trailer hitch on the rear bumper. No "aerodynamically-rounded" egg-car shape here, just good old "form follows function" truck. Well, there is some concession to fashion. Our example had the optional retro-styled "sportside" cargo box. And it had the extended cab which features a new second passenger-side door for easier access. With the Z71 graphics all that makes for one stylin' truck. Useful, too.

COMFORT: It's a long climb up to the cab - just like a truck, come to think of it. Once inside, it could be a car, though. A very good contoured split bench seat provides most of the comfort and support advantages of bucket seats and all of the 3-passenger usefulness of a bench. The shifter is column-mounted and the 4-wheel drive lever is on the floor, so that third person can fit. The Silverado trim level includes power-operated windows, door locks, and mirrors, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and extra soundproofing. Remote keyless entry is an option, as is leather upholstery. The extended-cab Chevy trucks have a new feature this year - the "easy-access system", a rear-opening extra door on the passenger side. It makes loading and unloading of rear seat passengers or cargo much easier.

SAFETY: The K1500 has a full complement of safety equipment with a driver-side air bag, safety- cage body construction with front and rear crush zones, 4-wheel antilock brakes, and daytime running lights.

ROADABILITY: Pickup trucks have come a long way over the years, and the Chevy is a good example of a modern pickup. The phrase "rides like a truck" is no longer relevant. Suspension damping and control borrow from modern automotive technology to give a good, comfortable, and secure ride. Of course, since a pickup is designed to carry a load, compromises for that fact are unavoidable. As a result, pickups are a little bouncy unloaded. The K1500 is no exception. Just put a couple of haybales, or a motorcycle, or a camper shell in the back - whatever fits your lifestyle - and the ride quality will improve. With the aggressive tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, and a skid plate, the Z71 is also a good poor-condition and off-road performer.

PERFORMANCE: Big news in the engine compartment for 1996. All gasoline engines available in the C/K line have been upgraded for 1996. More horsepower and torque, longer service intervals, and lower exhaust emissions are the orders of the day. The 5.7-liter Vortec V8 in our K1500 now has 250 horsepower and a stump-pulling 335 lb-ft of torque. Needless to say, there is no performance deficiency. Acceleration is good, load capacity is plentiful at 1600 pounds, and it can tow over 6000 pounds. With over 8 inches of ground clearance even urban potholes need not be feared.

CONCLUSIONS: Pickup trucks may be the most versatile motor vehicles made. The Chevrolet line shows this well, with a model for nearly every need.


       Base Price             $ 19,500 (est)
       Price As Tested        $ 26,975 (est)
       Engine Type            V-8, pushrod ohv, sfi*
       Engine Size            5.7-liter/350 cid   
       Horsepower             250 @ 4600
       Torque (lb/ft)         335 @ 2800
       Wheelbase/Length       142"/218"
       Transmission           four speed electronic automatic w/od
       Curb Weight            4300 lbs. (est)
       Pounds per Horsepower  17
       Fuel Capacity          25 gal.
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)
       Tires                  Goodyear Wrangler TD
                              LT265/75R16 M + S
       Brakes                 disc/drum, 4-wheel ABS standard
       Drive Train            front engine/rear and on-demand
                              4-wheel drive
       Towing Capacity        6000 lbs.
       * sfi - sequential fuel injection
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon
         city/highway/observed     12/16/12.9