Imagine a grinning face with a smile so big it put dimples on my cheeks. It was an August Wednesday -- my change day for press drive vehicles -- and I learned it would be a double week. And not just two polar-opposites; this week would be a head-to-head battle between a bright blue 2015 F-150 and a Diamond White Silverado.
You might think you know what to expect of a different trim level of a car you've driven before. A Camry is a Camry is a Camry, right?
But these trucks are different. Exponentially large configuration choices in the pickup class mean that no two are exactly alike.
As such, upon arrival the Ford seemed like a clear step forward for pickups in general. I thought it would blow away the Chevy Silverado, even with just its XLT trim line and seriously nerdy 17-inch wheels. No LEDS whatsoever on that Ford, which leveled the playing field visually with the Chevy. At least tech-wise.
In terms of actual truck style, the Custom Sport Edition Silverado with its body-color bumpers and grille is one of the best-looking bowtie trucks in decades. Even without LEDs ahead of the 2016 Silverado update, the Chevy really looked the part in bright white with 20-inch wheels.
Surely the Ford would drive better, smoother, lighter, though? We'll see!
Please forgive so much direct comparison between these two rivals. But truck week here quickly proved the winner among this dynamic duo. Spoiler alert. It was a blowout.
Let's detail why the Silverado earned a driveway parking spot, while the Ford stayed street-parked. Or why the Silverado put on twice as many miles in our hands than the Ford. And how the Chevy even got some playtime at a muddy construction site -- loving and roaring its V8 all the way.
Headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary here. 66 all-new -- and quite beautiful! -- photos of this dapper Silverado along the way.
As you may have seen, the Chevy Silverado for 2016 will be updated with a fresh nose and smoother, more techy lights.
This is great news, of course, to address some concerns that the Like A Rock grille might not be modern enough for some shoppers.
With this body-color styling package, though, we really love the look of the Silverado. This optional Diamond White is the gorgeous and super-metallic white shade best known from its days on the Escalade.
On the Chevy, it works wonders at ratcheting up the Silverado's premium appeal. Second from the top High Country trimline, the LTZ Z71 here is the top of the pops for Chevy 1500 models. That also creates scary-premium pricing, yes?
Actually, not like you might think. Versus the $42k F-150 XLT, the $49k Silverado here is only a modest jump up the payment ladder.
Yet in person, the Silverado Custom Sport Edition easily looks worth almost double the baseline Ford. This is a classy machine -- with the CrewCab/Short Box configuration both visually balanced and extra fresh. Painting up the whole exterior for this $2300 option is well worth it. Where the Silverado is somewhat forgettable with chrome outside, this white/white brute is very appealing.
Of note: $2300 for body-colored bumpers? The Custom Sport Edition includes 20-inch alloy wheels as park of the package. These would normally run you $1500 over the standard 18's. It also includes a quicker final drive ratio.
Five styles of 22-inch wheels are always just a box-check away... and are very tempting.
Projector-beam headlights from the LTZ pack are very sexy in their squared-off upper light box -- even if they are just halogen units and not HID bulbs. Same for the fairly dull foglamps and incandescent taillamps. The parking lights in a double stack of amber up front are the coolest lighting look for the OEM machine. (A $50 HID kit and 20 minutes would do wonders for the looks as a DIY project, though.)
The only issue we see on the Custom Sport Edition is the very limited color selection. It looks like this monochrome pack is just available in black or white. (See list of included upgrades below). Summit white or black for the standard and double cab, while just Diamond White for the CrewCab four-doors.
So the style battle was black and white. The Chevy wins versus the incredibly underwhelming F-150 XLT exterior.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado - Custom Sport Edition - Includes:
Body-color grille with chrome accents
Body-color front bumper
Body-color rear bumper
Chrome mirror caps
Chrome door handles
Unique hard badge on Z71 models
20" chrome wheels
Requires exterior colors Black, Summit White on Double Cabs or White Diamond Tricoat on Crew Cab models.
Trucks should be like happy doggies when you first meet them. The best ones do not take much of a learning curve. They make you feel confident about going anywhere in any weather, and should always be wagging a Hello as you greet them.
By this instant-love puppy tally, the Silverado interior came out far ahead of the Ford. Yes, the better-equipped F-150 Platinum or King Ranch would be a more direct match for this LTZ Z71 Silverado. And if that were the competitor, it would have been a closer fight.
As it was, the Silverado felt 10X smoother and quieter than the Ford on the road. The cabin is comfier and wears premium fittings all around. You really feel like this is the nicest Silverado out there. (Even though there are pricier trims/options...). Just an inherent feeling of luxury in the Silverado that was entirely missing from the Ford.
The F-150 XLT ran a four-inch dot matrix central screen and bright tan plastics and cloth throughout the interior.
The Chevy in soft grey leather just felt better to every fingertip. Ford leather steering wheel wrap? Scary cheap. Elephant-skin pattern of plasticy 'leather.' Felt icky.
Chevy wheel wrap? The new quad-stitched semi-aniline leathers out of the Caddy portfolio. Subtle, perhaps, but leaves a lasting impression.
The Chevy's seats also feel wider and much comfier. The Ford feels narrow in the butt region versus these lounge chairs in the Chevy. A strong tug of the tilt/telescoping column in the Chevy is something we appreciated this time to get the wheel more in hand. Two separate handles control rake and reach -- and we did not find the reach one during our last Chevy truck test.
The Chevy is a bit more of a hop/scoot to enter and get situated in the seat. The Ford is more step-in/sit affair with a lower floor feeling. The Ford's objective drive position is more adjustable than the Chevy and also lets you get lower and closer to the pedals comfortably.
But the Chevy is better in every other way. The headrests also epitomize the differences between the two seats: the Ford's are narrow and hard Fusion-style units. They fit the narrower shoulder support of the Ford seat, and seem fine, if scratchy.
The Chevy has giant tubes of padded leather roll that is a full ten inches wide. No tilt adjustment on the Chevy, but more comfy at all times than the Ford.
As you shut the doors and get moving, the Chevy feels more like a reliable Labrador as its doors thunk shut with confidence. The ultra-light doors of the F-150 are odd under hand and, in SuperCab vs SuperCrew, regularly did not shut right. Thick seals on the Ford. Yet so much louder and tinnier on the move than the well-damped and isolated Chevrolet.
As we guffawed at the relative lack of equipment in the XLT F-150, the Silverado's cooled seats were on blast. Its moonroof shade retracted. And V8 burbling in a way no turbo V6 ever will.
So, a big cuddly dog of a machine?
This Silverado fires up with a gurgle up front and burble from the giant pipe out back. Hard to beat for ambiance versus the much busier idle zing of the 2.7L EcoBoost V6TT in the Ford.
Running the trusty 5.3-liter V8 engine through a six-speed automatic, the Silverado powertrain here is well-known and well-loved. This EcoTec3 unit is enormously flexible and delivers a giant slug of torque whenever you want.
Around the same corner then flooring the throttle, the F-150 felt fine and fairly energetic. A good midrange but largely flat on top and bottom. It works! Definitely hustles the Ford along, befitting its mid-spec pricing among the Ford's four engines.
Hitting the same stretch of open road in the Chevy instantly resets expectations. Or perhaps just sets a clear bar for pickup pace. The Chevy takes a deep breath as it kicks down a few gears, then surges into the sunset on a wave of easy torque. With the same full throttle used in the Ford, the Chevy is suddenly flying forward. It is much, much quicker in gear than the EcoBoost. All this with an empty bed and cabin. With people and cargo/trailers, these differences will be even more pronounced. The Ford has to work much harder to make the same pace.
We did not observe fuel economy scientifically. But neither truck cleared 20-mpg in overall averages. Using premium fuel in the Ford is a MUST for advertised power levels. Regular gas makes it asthmatic versus the deep breaths of the Chevy.
One place the Ford does a bit better in this fast street handling scenario? A bit more front-end control in the Ford. The Chevy feels heavier and less nimble. A bit less precise, if you will.
But this coin has two sides. The Ford rarely calms down on country roads. In 4x2, its steering is all over the place following ruts and jiggling through bumpy sections. (In 4x4, the F-150 is more controlled and determined with its steering and tracking. But then it has issues parking...)
The Chevy just charges forward like a tank. You could drive this Silverado at 100-mph with one hand.
So the Chevy feels quieter, faster, more relaxed and more confidence-inspiring.
Here is what really sealed this third win in a row for Chevy, though. The 4x4 system is twice as good as the Ford F-150 XLT's. Shockingly, the XLT 4x4 offers just the old-school 4x4-High, 4x4 Low and 4x2.
Chevy includes all these but also a full 4 Auto mode the Ford lacks. So despite the Chevy having a wider turning circle and more cumbersome parking manners, it never ground its front axle like the Ford. As the F-150 churns and grinds its front diff on steering lock in 4x4-High, the Chevy is smooth lock to lock. This is a HUGE advantage for the Silverado.
We just left the Silverado in 4 Auto -- like you will -- and never thought about it again. The F-150 twister game of 4x4 for hard driving, plus 4x2 when parking got tiring. Instantly.
So bizarre for the Ford to have such a low-tech 4x4 option on the main XLT trim level. Upline Platinum trims have auto 4WD, but the blue tester did not.
Lastly, the ride.
The Ford F-150 tester had the 6500 GVWR option pack for heavy towing. It road miserably. The latest test Chevy Silverado, by contrast, was a chill and smooth operator.
[Note: our previous test Z71 rode H.A.R.D. It may have had a tow option pack. For any pickup, that stiff-spring option is a must-skip. Towing once a year will be fine on regular springs. And the other 364 days will be much, much more enjoyable.
Neither truck rides as calmly as the Ram EcoDiesel with its air suspension. But among these two, the Chevy cruised while the Ford bruised.
From a base price for the Crew Cab/Short Box 4x4 of $36,165, the test truck in LTZ Z71 form came in with a base price of $44,495.
Custom Sport Edition for $2300 and a few other goodies took the price to $51,000 and change. A $2250 cash back on the configurator today takes us to the $49k bottom line.
We misplaced the actual window sticker, but have done the Silverado builder a few times to price out the test truck.
As noted previously, the Chevy feels like it is much, much more special than the depressed/depressing lack of cool features in the $43k F-150 XLT rival.
So both machines were here for a week. But we'd really made up our minds after just a day or so.
The final vote in the Silverado's favor?
As we ambled out to the cul-de-sac with GoPro and Nikons for a drive shoot in the F-150, the truck's battery was flat. Must have left the lights on or a door open? It had been so many days since we'd driven anything but the Silverado.... the poor F-150 just exhausted itself.
A quick jumpstart via the Chevrolet was the last proof we needed: even without the advanced aluminum body of the Ford, the Chevy is a better truck.
So. Your decision now? Get an amazing deal on a 2015 model-year, or wait a few months to snag the hot new LED-rich Silverado look for 2016.
It is a win/win.
Happy as a box of puppies, the Silverado Z71 LTZ Custom Sport Edition was love at first drive.
If they were doggies, the Ford craves more engineer love and attention. By contrast, the Silverado has love to give and is all sloppy puppy kisses.
Price out and visualize your Silverado over at the Chevy website. Just skip the towing packages -- and this big truck will be your new Man's Best Friend. =]