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Chevrolet Silverado Through the Years

Art Michalik

From its launch in 1999 to 2021, there have been four Chevrolet Silverado generations, each building upon the last to today’s most advanced one yet.

1916 Chevrolet Model 490 - chevrolet.com
1916 Chevrolet Model 490 - chevrolet.com

Chevrolet started in the light truck business with the half-ton 1916 Model 490. Sold as a chassis only, the Model 490 required the owner to install the truck cab and body. Powering the first Chevy light truck was a 224 CID (3.7 L) OHV four-cylinder engine that developed just 36 horsepower.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com

2021 Chevrolet Silverado – chevrolet.com  |  Shop new Chevrolet Silverado on Carsforsale.com

Compare that to the 310 horsepower 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder available in the 2021 Silverado 1500. You can get a sense of the advancements that have occurred over the years, as the new engine’s output is almost nine times the power from about 70% of the displacement versus that offered in 1918 (It’s also cleaner running and more fuel-efficient as well).

Advancements in the state of the truck art have been a hallmark for the Chevrolet Silverado line since its launch in 1998 as a 1999 model. Let’s check out how those advancements across all these Silverado generations have led to today’s rugged and sophisticated 2021 Silverado 1500.

First Generation (1999 – 2007)

1999 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com

1999 Chevrolet Silverado – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Silverado on Carsforsale.com

  • The first-generation Silverado 1500 was based on the GMT800 platform, which was designed as a more robust, larger, and more aerodynamic replacement of the outgoing C/K truck (though it was sold side-by-side for another year).
  • These Silverado trucks were offered in three cab styles: regular cab with two doors, extended cabs with four doors for the first time (passenger-side rear door made standard and the driver’s side optional), and the crew cab; which came standard with four front-hinged doors.
  • First generation Silverado buyers could choose from three cargo beds: a 69.2-inch short bed (only available with the crew cab), a 78.7 in. standard box, and a 97.6 in. long bed.
  • Underneath was an all-new frame comprised of hydroformed sections, which significantly increased strength and rigidity.
  • The first generation’s available engines were a 195hp 4.3 L V6 carried over from the previous model, along with two new V8 engines from the Vortec family. One V8 displacing 4.8L that developed 255-285hp and the other a 5.3L making 270-310hp.
  • Chevrolet offered several special versions of the Silverado 1500 during its first generation, including the 2003 high-performance SS model equipped with a 345hp 6.0 L V8 engine, Z60 performance suspension, (initially) four-wheel disc brakes, and exterior and interior upgrades.
  • Available in the 2000 through 2007 model years, the Silverado 1500HD offered a towing capacity of 10,300 pounds with a load capacity of 3,129 pounds (just over 1.5 tons).
  • The 1999—2007 Silverado 1500 was the first pickup truck with standard four-wheel disc brakes, an automatic transmission with a Tow/Haul mode, and a four-wheel-drive system that could be driven both on slippery or dry roads.

Second Generation (2007 – 2014)

2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - chevrolet.com
2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - chevrolet.com
  • In 2007, Chevrolet introduced the second-generation GMT900 Silverado. It came with new styling, increased power, and more advanced technology. By closing body gaps and raking the windshield, Chevrolet improved the Silverado’s aerodynamics resulting in gains to fuel economy.
  • The GMT900 Silverado 1500 was a completely new design right down to a more substantial frame that accommodated a rack-and-pinion steering system for the first time on a full-size Chevy pickup.
  • The new Silverado earned the North American Truck of the Year award for 2007
  • The GMT900 Silverado offered buyers the choice of two-door regular cabs, four-door extended cabs and four-door crew cabs. Now hinged at the front, the rear doors on the extended cab provided easier access and increased body strength through the new pillar found behind the front doors from which the rear doors were hung.
  • The entire engine lineup received a boost in power output as well. Now powering the Silverado 1500 was the Generation IV small block V8 engine family, designed for displacement on-demand and variable valve timing in mind. These technologies were implemented as Active Fuel Management on the 5.3L and 6.0L V8s.
  • Unlike the first generation, which was only available in three trim levels, the second generation featured five trims, ranging from the base and the high-level LS trim. The LS models featured all available power accessories, cruise control, and keyless entry.
2007 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 - chevrolet.com

2007 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Silverado 3500 on Carsforsale.com

  • As the Silverado was all-new in 2007, the 2008 model went unchanged, except for the addition of satellite radio as standard equipment and an optional integrated trailer brake controller.
  • A new 403hp 6.2L V8 was introduced in the Silverado 1500 for 2009, along with a new six-speed automatic transmission
  • The Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, which would now be considered a light hybrid, was available from 2009 through 2013. The Hybrid came equipped with a Two-Mode Hybrid transmission and a rated fuel economy of 22 mpg on the highway (high for the time).
  • Other new options for the 2009 model year included Bluetooth connectivity, access to XM traffic reporting, and a backup camera.
  • 2010 saw the addition of side curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags, and stability control, which were all standard that year.
  • In 2011, the OnStar 9.0 system was introduced as a feature.
  • In 2012, the Silverado featured a restyled front grille and bumper, an updated navigation system, and trailer sway control.

Third Generation (2014 – 2018)

2014 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com
2014 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com
  • For the third generation, Chevrolet lowered the Silverado’s weight and improved its fuel efficiency by using more structural and body components manufactured from aluminum and high-strength steel.
  • The cab was constructed from high-strength steel, and the bed was manufactured from more robust roll-formed steel (versus the stamped steel used previously and by competitors).
  • GM chose to drop the previous GMT nomenclature. The third generation Silverado 1500 models adopted the K2XX naming convention.
  • Third generation trucks featured full-width bumpers and sculpted fenders, with an upgraded interior featuring a new octagonal center stack housing Chevrolet’s MyLink touchscreen multimedia interface system.
  • These Silverado truck models featured a revised steering system that included electric assist to improve the ease of turning and refined suspension systems to increase handling responsiveness and enhance ride comfort.
  • Third-generation models also benefited from increased power output across the board. For example, the new all-aluminum 4.3L EcoTec3 V6 featured direct fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing, among other improvements. Following these updates, the engine saw power rise from 195 to 285hp.
  • In addition to the V6 engines, Chevrolet also gave buyers the option of more powerful 5.3L and 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 engines. The 6.2L V8 developed 420hp.
  • A six-speed transmission, which became the new models’ standard, replaced the four-speed unit used in the second generation.
  • No longer limited to higher-level trims, four-wheel drive was now available on most trim levels.
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2016 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com
2016 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com
  • For 2016, the Silverado 1500 received a mid-cycle refresh. The truck received a new grille, new headlights and new front fascia, replacing the traditional stacked headlight design.
  • Special editions of the third-generation Silverado 1500 included: Rally Edition 1 and 2, Midnight Edition, Centennial Edition, Custom Sport Edition, Custom Sport Plus Edition, Custom Sport HD Edition, Black Out Edition, Texas Edition, Realtree Edition, Midnight Edition, Alaskan Edition, Redline Edition and Special Ops Edition, among others.
  • The Silverado SSV (Special Service Vehicle) was offered to law enforcement and featured upgraded brake rotors, an upsized oil cooler, a high output alternator, auxiliary battery, and an interior easily converted for police use.

Fourth Generation (2019 – Present)

2019 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com

2019 Chevrolet Silverado – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Silverado on Carsforsale.com

  • Chevrolet shared an advanced look at the 2019 Silverado 1500 at its Chevy Truck Centennial Celebration Weekend in December of 2017. A prototype fourth-generation Silverado 1500 was delivered to the stage by helicopter to the delight of the gathered Chevrolet truck enthusiasts and members of the media.
  • The fourth-generation Chevrolet Silverado 1500 design features a more sculpted exterior with curvy edges, swoopy lines, and headlights that integrate into the front grille (also incorporating LED daytime running lights).
  • The formal introduction of the Silverado 1500 occurred at the 2018 North American International (Detroit) Auto Show on January 13, 2018, the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet’s delivery of its first trucks.
  • The hood, doors, and tailgate of the fourth generation Silverado 1500 are aluminum, while the body and frame feature increased use of high-strength steel. These material changes resulted in up to 450 pounds of weight savings versus competitors’ comparable models.
  • In addition to the carryover 5.3L and 6.2L V8 engines, Chevrolet added a turbo-diesel 3.0L I6 engine to the fourth generation’s powertrain options. Both the 6.2L V8 engine and diesel engine are paired with a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
  • Crew-cab models have been stretched to give rear passengers three additional inches of legroom. Internal storage has been increased with 24L bins under the rear seats and 10L bins in the rear seatbacks.
  • All fourth-generation trim levels include a newly-developed touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity; wireless audio streaming via A2DP is also standard.
  • Other standard equipment includes air conditioning and a rearview backup camera system.
2019 Chevrolet Silverado Lt Trail Boss - chevrolet.com
2019 Chevrolet Silverado Lt Trail Boss - chevrolet.com
  • For 2019, Chevy added an optional 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 310hp, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
  • Chevrolet entered a nearly stock 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss in off-road racing to assist engineers in developing the high-performance Silverado ZRX, a new Ford Raptor competitor slated for a 2022 release.
  • For the 2020 model year, Chevy included the 10-speed automatic transmission and 6.2L V8 engine option on some lower trim levels. Both had previously only been available on higher trim levels.
  • For 2021, the Silverado 1500 is now available with the new Multiflex six-position tailgate, along with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto projection for a listening experience outside of the vehicle.
  • Also, for 2021, both the 2.7L four-cylinder and 3.0L Duramax diesel equipped Silverado 1500 trucks feature increased tow ratings, along with new towing technology that includes a jack-knife trailer alert and trailer length indicator.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado - chevrolet.com

2021 Chevrolet Silverado – chevrolet.com  |  Shop  new Chevrolet Silverado on Carsforsale.com

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Art Michalik
Art Michalik

Art Michalik brings a career full of experience in the automotive industry to his writing. He has guided marketing at two major tire companies, represented some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket at an ad agency, built the enthusiast social media presence at a major online retailer and even managed one of the most famous racing schools in the world.

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