The market is awash with off-road trucks – most mild, some wild – but seemingly absent of the sport trucks that were hot through the early part of this century.
Despite their disappearance from dealers, sport trucks still make a lot of sense as far as everyday usability is concerned. Rather than chunky tires and raised suspension, a street-focused setup is simply going to be more agreeable in more situations while still offering up some fun, and all the while retaining the utility of a truck.
Alas, getting your hands on one isn’t as easy as it once was – or as it probably should be. Specced the right way, however, the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado RST Rally Edition fills the void with a big-displacement engine and slick styling that makes it look the part of its predecessors. It also manages to undo some of the ugly that’s saddled the Silverado in recent years.
While most pickups lean toward fairly inoffensive styling, Chevy took the latest Silverado in a decidedly different direction. To call it controversial is putting it politely, and it’s not necessarily for the right reasons that this truck turns heads.
Consider your humble author firmly entrenched in the camp of the critical, which is why the way this particular tester was put together proved to be something of a pleasant surprise. Rather than the all-black or chrome-heavy fascias found elsewhere in the lineup, the body-colour bar that spans the width of the RST trim’s grille is a little less jarring to look at. A coat of red paint like this also disguises the Lego-brick taillights bolted to the back. Suddenly, this Silverado isn’t looking so bad.
Making it look even better is the Rally Edition package that adds all kinds of black accents to the outside, helping to hide some of the truck’s more awkward styling cues, like the split headlights or the cut-outs in the corners of the front bumper. While stopping short of overwhelming, the black badging, hood and tailgate stripes, side steps, and 22-inch wheels provide the tasteful look of a proper sport truck.
Unfortunately, the cabin is about as bland as they come, with plenty of black plastic and upholstery, and only the occasional piece of silver or faux-wood trim that gets lost in the understated space. The interior could easily be spiced up a bit by replacing the silver that surrounds the HVAC vents and infotainment system with red that would work regardless of exterior hue.
Still, there’s no denying that this Silverado looks the part of a sport truck. For it to play the part, too, takes a few thousand dollars to swap the RST’s standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine for the 6.2L V8 that’s nestled under the hood of this tester. While a smaller eight-cylinder is offered, this engine truly is the only way to turn this truck into a pseudo hot rod, with all kinds of output to work (or play) with.
Yes, you can get the 6.2L under the hood of the Trail Boss, or just about any other trim. But it seems ideally suited to the sporty RST. Officially, it generates 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, the former of which is more than any gas-fired F-150 in Ford’s stable this side of the Raptor. It’s enough to move heaven and earth when asked to – or simply whoever’s inside the spacious confines of this crew cab configuration.
When cruising casually, there’s something of a sense that there’s more bark than bite here, the hulking engine sounding far more ferocious than its even-tempered performance might suggest. That all changes with the drive dial set to sport, however, the Silverado surging ahead with a serious turn of speed when prodded.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Bearing in mind that this isn’t a genuine sport truck like the gone-but-not-forgotten Ford F-150 SVT Lightning or, better still, the Dodge Ram SRT10, the way in which the 6.2L-powered pickup manages its sort of split-personality act is impressive nonetheless. It’s a sultry and smooth performer regardless of which drive mode it’s in, with the kind of satisfying linear torque delivery that large displacement naturally aspirated engines are known for.
With all that torque heading to the rear wheels, steady throttle modulation is required to avoid the kind of wheelspin that can send the back end in unintended directions – particularly on slick roads in wintertime. There is, however, an auto setting for the four-wheel drive system that chips in with extra traction when required, while the 10-speed automatic transmission does well to provide plenty of usable torque when it’s requested. The column shifter, meanwhile, features simple buttons for manual manipulation of gears, which is a handy trick when hauling (there’s a tow/haul mode, too).
The suspension setup is the same as just about any other Silverado in the lineup, though it still adds up to a firmly planted feel on the open road. There’s a bit of body roll, sure, but this truck remains well composed in just about any situation it might find itself. The steering is a touch on the light side as far as resistance is concerned, though that has its merits when manoeuvring in tight spaces or aligning with a trailer.
If this suspension damping was to find its way under a car or crossover, it would be lauded for its on-road comfort. This is a full-size truck, however, and is prone to providing reminders of its ladder-frame construction on occasion. Driving along a highway made of concrete slabs, the Silverado subtly – but constantly – pitches forward and back like a rocking horse, while large cracks and potholes can be quite jarring as they reverberate through the vehicle. The massive 22-inch wheels that come with the rally pack certainly don’t help in that regard, their extra unsprung weight shaking noticeably on their suspenders over big bumps.
While the same seats in the diesel-powered GMC Sierra proved uncomfortable after just a couple hours behind the wheel, no such problems presented themselves during testing of the Silverado. The fabric upholstery they’re covered in isn’t especially satisfying (leather’s offered as a $995 upgrade), though the driver’s seat was adequately supportive during the course of an initial five-hour evaluation drive that included only one short stop, and remained so over the course of a week-long test.
This version of the Silverado also features a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, all of which are quick to warm up, while the heat can be isolated to just the seatbacks on those buckets. There’s also a dual-zone automatic climate control system that got a workout during an especially cold week of testing, though it proved up to the task, pumping plenty of warm air into the cabin.
Aside from those comfort functions, the Silverado RST is relatively bereft of features for its mid-pack status. The quality of materials inside isn’t particularly impressive, and while the driver’s seat features 10-way power adjustability, the passenger seat must be adjusted manually. There is an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – both connections can be wireless with the addition of the $1,655 Convenience II package – but expect to add considerably to the price tag for desirable features like a sunroof.
Don’t expect much in the way of advanced safety features, either – standard or otherwise. While the basics are covered with stuff like six airbags throughout the cabin, a government-mandated back-up camera, tire pressure monitoring, LED lighting all around, and stability control with trailer sway functionality, the only available upgrades are front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert that come together in a $1,095 package. Extras like lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are only offered in the LTZ and High Country trims.
It’s disappointing that such features can’t be added to the RST trim, which isn’t exactly inexpensive. It starts at $55,098 for this crew cab configuration with the short bed bolted to the back and four-wheel drive. But don’t forget that’s for a pickup powered by a tiny turbo four-cylinder; to swap it for the 6.2L adds $3,135 to the asking price for a pre-tax total of $58,233.
Opting for the Rally Edition package that includes stripes on the hood and tailgate, badging, side steps, and 22-inch wheels, all of which are finished in black, as well as a spray-in bedliner, bumps the price to $65,203, while the Convenience pack with its high-definition camera and infotainment screen, satellite radio, 120-volt outlets on the dash and in the bed, and power-sliding rear window adds $1,655 for a total of $66,858 before the government’s share.
This tester also included the package of parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring ($1,095) and power sunroof ($1,325), the upgraded bucket seats and centre console ($685), and trailer brake controller ($350), resulting in a truck that’s $70,313 before tax. Of course, like any Detroit automaker, Chevy has the Silverado on what seems like a permanent price rollback à la Walmart, meaning it’s more than possible to come across some incentive-laden offers out there.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Of all the upgrades here, the 6.2L engine provides the best bang for your buck – and it doesn’t come with much of a penalty at the pumps. Officially, it’s rated to burn 15.0 L/100 km around town, 12.0 on the highway, and 13.7 combined, which isn’t much worse than the workhorse 5.3L V8 (12.6 combined) or even the base four-cylinder (11.7 combined). Edging even closer to those numbers wasn’t difficult with some highway-heavy driving either, with that initial evaluation loop of 260 km ringing in at 12.5 L/100 km. The final tally skewed closer to what’s advertised, which was reasonable considering the cold and snowy conditions and massive winter tires this tester was wearing.
Opting for either V8 is the only way to go for those with plans to tow. (And after all, isn’t that one of the reasons for buying a truck in the first place?) While the 2.7L turbo is rated to pull 4,128 kg (9,100 lb), according to Chevrolet, towing with a four-cylinder – at least with any frequency – is a strenuous affair. A motor with more pistons simply doesn’t have to work as hard to move mass, period.
Besides, either of those bigger engine offered under the RST’s hood (as well as the accompanying max tow package that adds additional engine and transmission cooling, an increased rear axle ratio, upgraded suspension, and that built in brake controller) boosts the towing capacity above 5,000 kg (11,023 lb). Not that autoTRADER.ca would recommend pulling anything that heavy with a half-ton truck, but it means most conventional camper and boat trailers won’t pose any problems.
It’s also noteworthy if nothing else that the max tow package isn’t available with the rally pack – probably because it doesn’t pair with the massive wheels – but in that configuration this truck can still tow 4,173 kg (9,200 lb). Still, standalone options like the trailer brake controller can be added.
In this short bed configuration, the Silverado’s cargo hold measures 1,776 mm (70 in) from tip to tail and 1,286 mm (50.6 in) between the wheel tubs, enough to fit a sheet of plywood, while payload is rated at about 1,043 kg (2,300 lb). The cabin is sizable, too, with more than enough room for four or five adults to stretch out inside. In fact, rear seat legroom is simply spectacular, and easily bests that of the Chevrolet Suburban with which the Silverado shares a platform.
User Friendliness: 9/10
All of that adds up to a truck that should handle just about any weekend or work plans with ease, though the Silverado RST employs a few tricks that only add to its usefulness. Outside, there are clever corner steps in the back bumper that make accessing the bed a breeze. There are also tie-downs and LED lights in the cargo area, and a hitch with seven- and four-pin connectors, while the rally package adds the bedliner and those side steps (without splash guards, however, they do create something of a slipping hazard in wintertime).
Climbing inside a full-size truck such as this takes some additional effort, though the doors are generously sized and feature grab handles all around. On top of that, there’s storage galore inside, with big door pockets, two gloveboxes, and bins in the rear seatbacks and under the bench to keep personal items away from prying eyes.
For all the cabin lacks in style it makes up for with an incredible ease of use, with straightforward switchgear for just about everything imaginable. There are rubberized knobs for climate and audio controls, and all kinds of easy-to-identify buttons everywhere. Toggles beneath the HVAC system handle everything from the hazard lights to the parking sensors, while buttons and a dial to the left of the gauge cluster take care of truck stuff like tow/haul model, cargo lighting, and the four-wheel drive system.
The Chevrolet Silverado Rally Edition might not be a full-fledged sport truck, but that means it delivers a great kind of duality. It’s more practical than performance, but with that 6.2L under the hood it’s happy to tap into the latter at a moment’s notice should the mood strike.
The days of the sport truck might well be gone for good, but put together the right way this 6.2L-powered Silverado RST has just enough attitude to play the role in a package that’s drivable every day.
|Peak Horsepower||420 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||15.0 / 12.0 / 13.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||1,781 L|
|Model Tested||2021 Chevrolet Silverado RST|
|Price as Tested||$70,313|
$15,215 – Rally Edition, $6,970; 6.2L V8, $3,135; Convenience Package II, $1,655; Power Sunroof, $1,325; Safety Package, $1,095; Convenience Package w/Bucket Seats, $685; Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, $350