The verdict: The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck is refined, capable and offers an impressive turbo-diesel engine option, but its primary competitors offer more luxury and innovation.
Versus the competition: Certain trim levels of the Ram 1500 are more luxurious than the Silverado 1500, and the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 has more powertrain choices, including a hybrid that can also run high-draw power tools, but the Silverado nails the fundamentals with an unruffled driving experience and functional interior.
The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was last redesigned for the 2019 model year, and the 2021 model offers a choice of three cabs, three bed lengths, five engines and eight trim levels. Now available is a new Multi-Flex Tailgate similar to the GMC Sierra’s MultiPro Tailgate, which can transform into a bed extender, assist step and more. Also available are additional camera technology for safer trailering and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Our test truck was a crew-cab, short-bed LTZ trim with the optional turbo-diesel 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six engine. With optional features and packages, the as-tested price was $60,265, including destination.
Related: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Vs. 2020 Silverado 1500 Trail Boss Z71: How They Compare
The Silverado 1500’s available diesel engine is an impressive performer, delivering smooth power that moves the truck with ease. The engine is rated at 277 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, and it works with a responsive 10-speed automatic transmission that quickly kicks down when you need more power. Acceleration from a stop is smooth and predictable, and the diesel has adequate power reserves for high-speed passing.
While diesels have a reputation for being loud and unrefined, the Silverado’s diesel engine is nothing like that. There are some characteristic diesel noises, but they’re more of an underlying soundtrack rather than an overwhelming racket. There’s also no excess vibration; it’s as smooth as a gas engine in everyday driving.
The diesel engine also makes the rear-wheel-drive 2021 Silverado 1500 the most efficient full-size truck you can buy; 4×2 versions are EPA-rated at 23/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined, while four-wheel-drive models are rated 22/26/24 mpg. The next closest competitors are the 2021 Ram 1500 diesel and 2021 Ford F-150 hybrid (see their estimated gas mileage).
The Silverado’s focus on refinement extends to other aspects of the driving experience. Steering response and precision are good, making it easy to place the truck where you want, and the Silverado cruises comfortably at highway speeds with the truck’s tall ride height providing commanding forward views. Unladen ride quality can get a bit bumpy on rougher roads, but the truck’s lack of squeaks or rattles on broken pavement is a testament to its stiff chassis.
Brake-pedal feel isn’t typically a full-size truck highlight, and the Silverado is no exception; the pedal has a numb, spongy feel that makes it seem like you’re stepping on a block of foam.
A Functional but Spartan Interior
Chevrolet took an evolutionary approach when it redesigned the Silverado’s interior a few years back. Ram, meanwhile, chose to create “wow”-inducing cabins in uplevel versions of its 1500, and this dichotomy is evident in the LTZ trim we tested. The LTZ is one of the Silverado’s higher trims, but with average-looking materials and design details, it lacks the level of luxury you get in the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and Limited. Even the Silverado’s top-of-the-line trim, the High Country, isn’t as nice as a high-end Ram.
That said, the Silverado LTZ interior is functional overall with easy-to-use controls and an intuitive 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (corded CarPlay and Android Auto are standard). Some buttons, though — such as those for the driver’s memory feature and heated and ventilated front seats — are unnecessarily small.
The driver and front passenger are separated by a wide center console with two cupholders and a bin with an available wireless charging pad. There’s also a big storage bin under the front center armrest.
Like crew-cab versions of the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, the Silverado’s rear seating area is spacious. Three passengers can ride comfortably thanks to stretch-out levels of legroom, plenty of headroom and large side windows that provide good outward views. Unlike certain Ram 1500 trims, however, the Silverado’s rear bench seat doesn’t recline. The Chevy’s seat cushion flips up for extra in-cab storage, revealing a mostly flat floor, and there are also available concealed storage compartments in the backrest.
Crew-cab Silverados come with a 5-foot-8-inch or 6-foot-6-inch cargo box. The tall stance of our LTZ test truck resulted in a nearly waist-high box floor, which made the standard integrated bumper steps all the more useful for getting in and out of the bed. A power tailgate is available, but the tailgate is easy to close manually.
A base regular-cab Silverado with the standard 4.3-liter V-6 engine can tow 7,900 pounds when properly equipped, but certain more expensive models are actually rated to tow less; the V-6-powered crew-cab Trail Boss with a regular cargo box has a 7,200-pound towing capacity, the Silverado’s lowest.
The truck’s highest, 13,300-pound towing capacity is achieved with a double-cab RST trim level with the optional 6.2-liter V-8 and the Max Trailering Package. Towing capacities vary significantly between these extremes — our diesel test truck, for instance, was rated to tow 9,000 pounds — but each Silverado includes a sticker with truck-specific ratings so it’s easier to know its limits.
The Silverado’s optional camera technology also lets you monitor a connected trailer from the truck’s dashboard touchscreen. The system uses auxiliary cameras to show what’s behind a connected trailer when driving or reversing as well as conditions inside the trailer. You can also use truck-mounted cameras to monitor the cargo box or make hitching a trailer easier. There’s also a new view for 2021 trucks that shows whether there’s enough space to change lanes when towing.
Crash Tests, Safety and Assist Features
The crew-cab Silverado 1500 received good ratings (on a scale of good, acceptable, marginal or poor) in all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashworthiness tests except the passenger-side small overlap test, where the truck rated marginal. All other large pickups evaluated by the IIHS performed better than the Silverado and its GMC Sierra sibling in this test except for the 2021 Toyota Tundra, which is soon to be replaced by a redesign. (Notably, the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 had not been tested as of publication, but its results will appear on the organization’s Large Pickups page once completed.) The Silverado’s optional automatic emergency braking system earned a superior score (on a scale of superior, advanced or basic), but the available LED reflector headlights, which go in LTZ models, received a poor rating.
Other optional safety features include blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, a 360-degree camera system, and front and rear parking sensors.
Value in Its Class
You can spend luxury-vehicle money on a Silverado, as the as-tested price of our truck attests, but the same is true for high-end versions of the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150. However, the things that separate the Silverado from its competitors — precise steering and impressive overall driving refinement — don’t require a top trim if one of those isn’t in your price range. The nicest Silverado isn’t in the same league as a top-of-the-line Ram 1500 or Ford F-150, though, so if luxury is what you want, one of those trucks might better meet your needs.