2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ pickup truck road test: Robust, refined and comfortable for the long haul

2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ pickup truck

2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ pickup truck

It’s not likely that you will see a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ pickup truck anytime soon with an old refrigerator strapped to the bed or or a mattress and box spring hanging out the back.

That is not at all what this luxurious workhorse – completed with crew cab, standard bed and four-wheel drive – is about.

Instead, this is the vehicle a construction company boss might use as a rolling office, a well-to-do owner might use to pull a horse trailer to the weekend competition, or a retired couple might use to see the U.S. A. in their Chevrolet with a travel trailer in tow.

Let the lower level Silverado work trucks do the dirty jobs. The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ is all about getting the job done in style.

And, at an as-tested price of $48,419, it should be.

But, let’s begin with the basics.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado instrument panel

2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ instrument panel

There are some, but not a whole lot of cosmetic changes from 2011 to 2012. The newest Silverado LTZ comes with a bolder chrome mesh grille and body-color surround. In addition, chromed, optional 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels add a classy touch to the Silverado’s profile. That’ s about it.

The Chevrolet Silverado LTZ test truck was powered by the second strongest available gasoline engine, a 5.3-liter V-8 that produces 315 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Combined with heavy-duty trailering equipment, that’s enough to haul a trailer up to a maximum of 9,500  pounds.

The engine is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-wheel-drive system can be adjusted for 2wd, 4wd, 4wd low range and auto, which automatically engages the front wheels when slippage is detected on slick roads.

Should you need to go slogging through the marshes and back woods to that special duck blind, the Chevy is more than willing. But do you really want to risk those handsome chrome wheels or have a branch gouge the Silverado’s shiny flanks?

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is communicative and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes can bring the 5,410-pound truck with reasonable alacrity.

The suspension has coil-over shocks in front and multi-leaf springs at the rear.

And, in addition to room for five passengers in two rows, the Chevy can handle 53.2 cubic feet of cargo in the standard bed.

Chevrolet Silverado rear seat

Chevrolet Silverado rear seat

Powerful trucks and fuel efficiency never mix well, so it’s not surprising that this 2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ is rated at 15 mpg city/21 highway —  and that appears to be a generous assessment. With nothing more in the truck than 185 pounds of me, the Chevy averaged 15.5 mpg over 200 miles of mostly level suburban and highway roads.

But, the raw data really don’t tell the story.

Chevy engineers have tuned the suspension to provide a surprisingly comfortable ride on normal roads. The engine runs smoothly and quietly with just the right touch of anger under heavy acceleration. That automatic transmission slips through its six gears nearly seamlessly.