1996 CHEVROLET C/K1500 4X4
Used Truck - 1996 Chevrolet C/K1500 4x4 in Spokane, Wa
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1996 Chevrolet C/K1500 ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
GM's big haulers power up for '96.
Thanks to the tough-guy look of the new Dodge Ram pickup and the rounded mod-squad shape of the even-newer Ford F-Series pickup, the Chevrolet--and cousin GMC--C/K full-size pickups are suddenly looking like the old kids on the block. Yet, in truck years, the General Motors full-size pickups aren't really that old. The design was first introduced in 1988 as a completely new offering inside and out, and even today it looks clean, crisp and contemporary.
Stylistically, it offers truck buyers an alternative to the newer Dodge and Ford models, an alternative that is traditional without necessarily being out of fashion. And in a market segment where product cycles are often measured in decades, eight years tallies up as just getting started.
In 1992 the line was rounded out with the addition of a Crew Cab model and a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8. In 1995 the interior was redone, including the addition of a driver's airbag.
For 1996 there is really big news under the hood. The so-called 'Vortec' technology, which was used to such positive effect on GM's 4.3-liter V6 truck engines, has been extended to all the C/K's gasoline V8 engine offerings. The 5.0, 5.7- and 7.4-liter V8s all deliver a lot more power and a lot more torque. In horsepower, the 4.3 V6 has more than the previous 5.0 V8, the 5.0 has more than the previous 5.7, and the 5.7 has more than the previous 7.4. Across the board, torque figures are up between 20 to 25 lb.-ft., depending upon the specific engine.
Flanked by the Dodge Ram and Ford's new F-Series, GM's C/K pickups seem to sit squarely and comfortably in the great traditional middleground.
As with all full-size pickups, the C/K, from either Chevrolet or GMC, is available in more combinations and configurations than most of us can probably count. There are three cab selections; regular, extended and the 4-door Crew Cab. There are two body styles, the traditional, straight-sided version and the Sportside, which offers a narrower cargo bed and fender flares. There are four wheelbases, from 117.5 in. to 168.5 in., and choices of single or dual rear wheels.
There are three of what we can call duty ranges; the lighter-duty 1500-Series, the harder-working 2500, and the 3500 heavy-duty. You can take your pick of the four gasoline engines previously mentioned, or one of two 6.5-liter turbodiesels--normal and a 'heavy-duty,' matched with a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic.
All C/K pickups are fitted with 4-wheel antilock brakes, a big plus in the safety department. The optional 4-wheel drive is a shift-on-the-fly type that allows for easy changes between 2wd and 4wd high. Like all truck systems, it's designed for occasional use rather than full-time, and engaging low-range 4wd, for really tough going, requires stopping the vehicle first.
The Chevy we sampled was about in the middle of all this, a Silverado 1500 with extended cab, 2wd, 5.7-liter Vortec V8 and a 5-speed manual transmission. It had a gross vehicle weight rating of 6800 lbs. and a maximum trailer-towing capacity of 7500 lbs.
This certainly isn't the biggest truck you can find, but only a few owners would likely think it not big enough. For the record, everything said about the Chevy pickups also applies to the equivalent GMC versions, as well. Aside from their grillework, the two lines are identical.
The 5.7-liter Vortec V8 makes 250 hp at 4600 rpm (last year, the 7.4-liter 'big block' V8 made only 230), and 335 lb.-ft. of torque at 2800 rpm (last year the big block was rated at 385 lb.-ft.). This means practically the same hauling power as previous versions of the big-block, but without that monster's penalty in fuel economy.
The example we drove was EPA-rated at 14 mpg city, 18 highway; more than acceptable, considering the Chevy's capabilities.
The new 5.7 V8 gets the job done. It pulls willingly to its 5500 rpm redline and makes power all the way. More remarkably, our truck, equipped with the manual transmission, could be lugged down to 1000 rpm in 5th gear, even on a slight upgrade, and from there would take full throttle with no bucking or stumbling. If this engine is running, it's making useable torque, which is what truck engines are all about.
Most buyers will probably choose the automatic transmission, but those who prefer shifting for themselves will be pleased to know this one shifts smoothly and easily. And all that torque means you don't even have to shift very much, if that's your preference.
The interior redesign for 1995 was a welcome change. Gone are the flat surfaces and square corners, replaced by flowing curves and a significant increase in function.
The new instruments and controls are well located and easy to see, reach and operate. Not to mention far more attractive. Multi-direction face-level vents for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning are spread across the dash. A nifty cupholder pops out of the instrument panel and holds two drink containers without blocking any control functions. In front of the passenger seat the instrument panel includes a recessed top, with two more recesses for drinks; plenty of room for food-on-the-go. There are storage spots all around, and three power outlets for running a radar detector, phone, fax or whatever other electronic necessity your travels require.
In the back of the extended cab there's a bench seat with room for three, but it's really best suited for shorter trips; the seatback is pretty upright and the bench itself is short.
On the plus side there's lots of versatility. The rear seat easily flips up and out of the way revealing, on one side, a covered compartment for tire-changing tools and, on the other, a conveniently flat floor surface for stowing luggage, a tool box or ice chest. Not all extended cab pickups have flat floors in the rear so if you plan on carrying things inside you may want to check this out.
The C/K pickups are also available with an optional third door on the passenger's side, which allows easier access to the rear for piling in people, pets or cargo.
This is a pickup truck with a long wheelbase and should not be expected to ride or drive like a car. Unloaded, the ride is mixed; in most places it's acceptable, but on concrete freeways with a periodic irregularity it can become pretty tiresome as it hops in frequency with the pavement. But that can be said for just about any pickup truck, especially unloaded. Loaded, however, the ride will be better, and even the 1500-Series Chevy will take more than a ton of bricks in its bed.
On balance, the ride is good, particularly for the long haul. The front seats are comfy and there's plenty of room, and roomy comfort is one of the big reasons people buy full-size pickup trucks.
There's good steering feel, directional stability is relentless, and the Chevy goes where it's pointed and stays headed there. The long wheelbase of the extended cab detracts from nimbleness, and maneuvering in tight quarters might require some planning. But it will take a mighty big monsoon direct on the beam to cause this thing to start drifting to leeward.
The bottom line on the Chevy C/K pickup is the power of the new gasoline engine lineup, one area where GM's full-size trucks hold a distinct edge over the new Ford F-Series.
For a long time, truck buyers planning to haul big loads were almost forced to reckon with the expense--both initially and in fuel consumption--of a big-block. But no more; the 5.7-liter Vortec V8 offers a very real alternative, with plenty of power for all but the most outrageously heavy work, yet decent fuel economy (by pickup truck standards) for daily use.
In case you'll be dealing with only medium loads, the 5.0-liter Vortec V8 offers performance comparable to or better than last year's 5.7. If your needs dictate you go the other way, the 7.4-liter V8 churns out 290 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque. For diehard diesel fans the HD version of the 6.5-liter turbo-diesel offers 190 horsepower and 385 lb.-ft of torque, and is smoother and quieter than the Cummins turbodiesel offered in the Dodge Ram. Chevy gives you a lot of choices.
While the competition has gone off on stylistic frontier-busting, the Chevy (and GMC) pickups have retained the high middle ground. Eight years down the road, they still look clean and modern. They're definitely a proven commodity with hundreds of thousands of satisfied owners. And the addition of the Vortec engine technology across the gasoline powerplant line makes them more attractive than ever before.
Pontiac, MI; Ft. Wayne, IN; Oshawa, Ont., Can.
Options As Tested
Air conditioning, Silverado decor, 5.7-liter V8, power seat, remote entry, electrochromic interior mirror with compass, rear defogger, locking rear axle, alloy wheels, AM/FM/cassette sound system, P235/75R-15 WL tires, power mirrors.
C 1500 Silverado Extended Cab.
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