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Should you buy a used Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra truck?

2007-13 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 were a big step forward in GM truck design

Published: December 15, 2016, 4:15 AM
Updated: December 20, 2016, 4:27 AM

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Whether they’re bound for the farm, the parks department or your neighbour’s driveway, pickup trucks sell in big, big numbers. Well over two million full-size pickups are sold in the U.S. annually, and about 300,000 find homes (and businesses) in Canada.

Of course, there’s never one available to borrow when you need it. So for an increasing number of families, the pickup truck has supplanted the minivan as the go-to conveyance.

Survey the parking lot during a minor-league hockey game and take note of what parents are using to lug those giant duffle bags to the arena. What was once the domain of the Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon became the purview of the Dodge Grand Caravan – until the four-door “crew cab” pickup found a ready audience over the past decade. Families haven’t looked back.

With kids come certain demands, such as a bevy of cupholders, big comfy seats and entertainment systems with DVD players and Wi-Fi hotspots. Every truck maker had to up their game to fulfill those needs – and Detroit stepped up to the challenge admirably.

2007-13 CHEVROLET SILVERADO/GMC SIERRA 1500

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General Motors’ response to that market shift came with the all-new, full-size Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra pickup twins in 2007 – their first major overhaul since 1999. That generation of pickups continued with minor change through 2013, differing from each other primarily in grille, headlamps and minor trim variations.

So are they good buys for those shopping used rather than new? Let’s find out.

Features and powertrains

GM sweat the details to make its all-new-for-2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups ooze refinement inside and out, along with better driving dynamics. It toiled to remove the “truckiness,” no small feat when you’re dealing with body-on-frame construction.

Engineers started with a hydroformed, fully boxed frame with 49% better torsional stiffness compared to the outgoing models. Working from the granite-like GMT900 platform, which debuted under the Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade full-size SUVs in 2006 (model year 2007), the coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering provided a linear, planted ride and confident handling. Traditional leaf springs cushioned the rear axle.

Like the Tahoe/Yukon twins, the Silverado and Sierra pickups featured steeply raked windshields and tighter body panel gaps for better aerodynamics, which improved fuel economy at highway speeds.

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The cabin offered two configurations: a traditional work-spec layout with a 40/20/40-split bench, and a plush bucket-seat setup that retained the column gear shifter. The upscale furnishings included the slick instrument panel from the Yukon Denali luxury sport-ute.

Two-door, extended and four-door crew cabs continued to be offered, although they were soon eclipsed by more voluminous cabs offered by rivals Ford, Dodge and Toyota. The rear bench was roundly criticized for being tight for three adults and offering few storage nooks.

In its enthusiasm to recast the American truck, General Motors spent a lot of time getting the interior right. Too bad they forgot to invite Chuck Norris to the focus group. “No cigarette lighter, but it has a vanity mirror on the driver side,” grumbles an online post. “Guys don’t use a vanity mirror, we use the rear-view.”

Some noted the standard upholstery acted as a lint collector and possibly a generator: “The seats attracts lint to the point where all the lint attaches to your clothes, even if you didn’t have any to began with,” griped one owner online.

The short or long beds in back offered a cargo management system consisting of aluminum rails that allowed the attachment of optional utility racks, dividers and toolboxes. Maximum towing capacity was rated at 10,500 lbs (4763 kg).

Available engines included a 195-hp 4.3 L V-6, a 295-hp 4.8 L V-8, a 315-hp 5.3 L V-8 with cylinder deactivation, and a 367-hp 6.0 L V-8 – all pushrod designs. The manual transmission was dropped after 2007, with GM’s familiar four-speed autobox going it alone. Full-time four-wheel drive was a popular option; an Eaton automatic locking rear axle was newly available.

The 2009 Silverado/Sierra lineup gained a 332-hp gasoline-electric hybrid model, a new six-speed automatic transmission and some fresh options, including a Bluetooth link. A 403-hp 6.2 L V-8 became the top-dog engine.

For 2010 the 5.3 L was tweaked to yield incrementally better fuel economy, thanks to variable valve timing and the newly standard six-speed transmission. Side curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags and stability control were standard on all models. The 6.0 L V-8 was dropped.

Restyled front grille/bumper fascias graced 2012 LS and LT models, along with an updated navigation system (now hard-drive-based) and the inclusion of trailer sway control as part of the stability control system.

Driving the Silverado/Sierra

The popular 5.3 L V-8 could propel a 2009 4WD Silverado Crew Cab to 97 km/h in a reasonably fleet 7.6 seconds working through the six-speed automatic. The 367-hp 6.0 L V-8 was barely quicker in the 2007 model, hobbled by the old four-speed slushbox.

With their rack-and-pinion steering and wider track, the GM pair provided excellent directional stability, and the ride quality was top-notch. A washboard country road failed to unnerve the suspension, and standard electronic stability control kept the truck in line.

Fuel consumption was merely average for the class, despite the General’s complex cylinder deactivation system. The Silverado won a magazine comparison test in 2007, but in an illustration of just how quickly things change in the truck market, it finished third in a 2009 rematch with archrivals Ford and Dodge. The GM trucks coasted for another four years before being replaced.

Owner chatter

GM truck owners are a loyal bunch, but even they were overcome by the 2007’s redesign, citing the great interiors, smooth ride and quiet demeanor. One smitten owner dubbed his a “Truckillac.”

Still, pickups are purchased to perform the drudgery of the daily grind, and the GM twins have largely met owners’ expectations, although mechanical glitches rarely go unnoticed in these mostly U.S.- and Mexico-built trucks. They were also built in Canada until June 2009, when GM Canada’s Oshawa truck plant was shut down for good.

Plenty of drivers reported heavy oil consumption by the 5.3 L V-8: “I found no oil on the dipstick – this was within 5,000 km of an oil change,” reads a grim post. Reportedly, GM considers one litre lost every 1,600 km normal usage.

The single-most commonly cited deficiency involves the instrument panel cover, which can crack, especially around the front passenger airbag. It’s a source of anxiety for some.

“In an impact situation, the structural integrity of the dash may be compromised, allowing pieces of plastic to become projectiles, possibly damaging occupants or deflating the airbags thereby reducing their effectiveness in a crash,” one owner wrote online. Interestingly, both GM and NHTSA don’t consider it worthy of a safety recall.

A faulty relay may keep the fuel pump running with the key off, rendering the battery prematurely dead. A steering-column clunk can be addressed with an improved upper-intermediate steering shaft.

Other issues documented by owners include harsh-shifting transmissions, noisy lifters (a recall item) and differentials, broken door handles and locks, faulty speakers, and plenty of rattles as the trucks age.

Despite the significant list of gripes, the Silverado/Sierra amassed fewer mechanical complaints than the Ford F-150 and the Dodge Ram 1500, which makes the GM twins solid used truck buys.

2007-13 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500

Typical price range: $14,000-$27,000

Pros:

  • Refined ride and moves
  • Good powertrain options
  • Better than average reliability

Cons:

  • Not the biggest back seat
  • Rattle-prone
  • 3 L V-8 fond of oil

Things to Watch Out For:

  • Cracked instrument panel cover
  • Jerky or hesitating automatic transmission
  • Noisy valve lifters
  • Door handles that fall apart
  • Broken power seats
  • Oil consumption in the 5.3 and 6.2 V-8s

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