2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 7, 2011

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2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Buying Advice

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado is the best full-size pickup for you if you’re a bow-tie diehard immune to the lure of newer, fancier Ford and Dodge rivals.

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 gets subtle styling changes and is available with heated and cooled front seats and a pair of new trim packages, including the upscale White Diamond Edition. Cruise control and trailer sway control are now standard on all models. Silverado’s near twin, the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500, gets similar updates. Silverado is the perennial No. 2 best-selling vehicle in America behind the archrival Ford F-150 pickup. That’s testament to the all-around appeal of a basic Chevy design with origins in model-year 2007. The 2012 F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 designs date from 2009, leaving the 2012 Silverado 1500 with a staler overall shape and older-feeling cabins. Still, proven powertrains and a wealth of body and bed choices demonstrate that the Silverado 1500’s beauty is more than skin deep.  

Should you buy a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 or wait for the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500? Buy a 2012 Silverado if you need a new full-size Chevy pickup in the near-term. The 2013 Silverado probably won’t change in ways worth waiting for and it’ll be a lame duck, too. GM’s readying extensively re-engineered Silverado and Sierra 1500s for model-year 2014. So the 2013 Silverado 1500’s styling and features would have a relatively short shelf life. It would likely cost more than comparable 2012 Silverados, and as the final edition of an outgoing design generation, would take a hit on resale value.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Silverado 1500’s styling changes are minor and amount mostly to a chrome-mesh grille insert in place of a black plastic affair. The shape of the grille is unaltered, as is its bold horizontal bar with gold bow-tie emblem.

Even with new color choices and added trim editions (details below), the 2012 Silverado 1500 is difficult to distinguish from its immediate predecessors. Indeed, this Chevy’s clean lines are perhaps too familiar by now. But they are less flamboyant that those of the F-150 and Ram 1500, and that pleases lots of pickup buyers.

So does a selection of cab and cargo-bed configurations well-suited to a range of casual-use and work-hard requirements. The 2012 Silverado 1500 returns three cab choices: a regular-cab with two doors; the Extended Cab with small, rear-hinged back doors; and the Crew Cab with four conventional doors. The regular-cab seats two or three. The Extended and Crews have full-width rear bench seats and carry up to six passengers.

The 2012 Silverado 1500 regular-cabs again come with a choice of 5-foot-8-inch and 8-foot-long cargo beds. Extended Cabs offer those beds, plus a 6-foot-6-inch box. Crew Cabs use the 5-8 bed. Depending on model, wheel and tire sizes range from 17-20 inches standard to up to 22 inches optional.

The 2012 Silverado 1500 model line begins again with the basic Work Truck (WT) and ascends through LS, LT, and luxury LTZ trim levels. Exterior styling continues to dress up as you climb the model line and the new mesh grille insert is accompanied on LS and LT models by chromed surrounding trim and on LTZ models by a body-colored surround. LS and LT models also receive new 20-inch chromed alloy wheels and a silver-painted lower bumper fascia shaped to improve aerodynamics on two-wheel-drive models without tow hooks.

The 2012 Silverado 1500 also returns a gas-electric Hybrid model, which again lends its own aerodynamic front fascia to the 2012 Silverado 1500 XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) model. Both the Hybrid and XFE continue only as Crew Cabs.

The new 2012 Silverado 1500 White Diamond Edition is available on LT or LTZ models. It includes a unique White Diamond Tricoat exterior color, chrome mirrors and door handles, and on LT models, chrome-accented body-side moldings. White Diamond LTZ versions add Chevy’s Z60 handling-tuned suspension package, 20-inch chromed alloy wheels, and a chromed tow hook and exhaust tip.

Four new exterior colors are on tap for 2012 – Graystone and three metallic hues called Silver Ice, Mocha Steel, and Carbon Flash. Returning among popular option groups that blend function and styling is the Z71 Off-Road Appearance Package. Available on LT and LTZ Extended and Crew cabs equipped with the Z71 off-road suspension, the package includes prominent “Z71” exterior graphics, Rancho-brand shock absorbers, body-colored front-end appearance, fog lamps, and off-road-oriented tires on 18-inch alloy wheels.

Chevy’s had good success offering Silverado with a choice of plain and fancy cabin décor and the 2012 follows suit. WT, LS, and LT models get a basic design Chevy calls “pure pickup.” The 2012 LTZ continues with a “luxury inspired” interior that shares its dashboard design with the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, which are built off the Silverado. Dark and light blends of gray and cashmere are new interior color combinations for model-year 2012.

Mechanical: The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 gets some strategic mechanical enhancements but stays with the five-engine, three-transmission powertrain selection that’s served its loyal buyers well -- even if it doesn’t offer a high-tech headline-grabber like the F-150’s twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6.

The 2012 Silverado 1500 is available with a base 4.3-liter V-6 engine and a choice of four V-8s, including a gas-electric hybrid.

The most popular engine choice is the versatile 5.3-liter V-8, which continues at 315 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. (Associate torque with muscle and horsepower with momentum; torque is the pickup driver’s main concern.) The 5.3 is available on all Silverado 1500 body styles and saves gas by employing GM’s Active Fuel Management system to automatically switch between eight and four cylinders, depending on power demands.

The 2012 Silverado’s V-6 continues at 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Also returning are V-8s of 4.8 liters (302 horsepower/305 pound-feet) and 6.2 liters (403 horsepower, 417 pound-feet).

With rare exception, rival pickups offer a selection of five- and six-speed automatic transmissions, but the 2012 Silverado 1500 sticks with a four-speed automatic as the sole gearbox available with the V-6 and 4.8-liter V-8. Silverado’s other engines come with a more efficient six-speed automatic.

Both Silverado transmissions give the driver a button that optimizes gear selection to create a Tow/Haul mode. For model-year 2012, the six-speed is enhanced so that in normal mode, the transmission downshifts during deceleration to exploit engine braking and reduce brake wear; Chevy calls it Cruise Grade Braking.

The 2012 Silverado 1500 doesn’t offer anything to counter the F-150’s EcoBoost V-6, which delivers a V-8-like 365 horsepower and 420-pound feet of torque with six-cylinder-style fuel economy. But Chevy (and GMC) can claim a class exclusive with their hybrid pickups. The 2012 Silverado Hybrid returns with an Active Fuel Management 6.0-liter V-8 in combination with electric motors housed in the transmission casing. Total horsepower is 332 (Chevy doesn’t list a torque figure), and fuel economy is 20/23 mpg city/highway, 21 mpg city/highway combined.

The hybrid system self-charges its nickel-metal hydride battery pack and can propel the truck up to 30 mph on electricity alone. The electric motors allow the V-8 to more frequently take advantage of four-cylinder mode; they also assist during acceleration. Silverado Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the duties of a conventional automatic transmission but with a belt/pulley system that transmits a flow of power rather than stepping up and down through a finite set of gear ratios.

Chevy’s big pickup also targets maximum fuel economy with the 2012 Silverado 1500 XFE model, which incorporates optimized aerodynamics and powertrain programming. The XFE is a Crew Cab model with the 5.3-liter V-8 and is available only with rear-wheel drive (2wd).

Other 2012 Silverado 1500s, including the Hybrid, are available with 2wd or a choice of two four-wheel-drive (4wd) systems. Four-wheel-drive models account for roughly 70 percent of full-size pickup sales. Silverado’s basic 4wd system is a traditional part-time setup not designed to be left engaged on dry pavement without risking drivetrain wear.

Offered on select trim levels is GM’s Autotrac 4wd, a full-time system designed to remain engaged on all surfaces. That’s an advantage on damp pavement, when pickups with empty or lightly laden beds can suffer poor rear-tire grip. Like Silverado’s basic part-time 4WD system, Autotrac has low-range gearing. Among direct rivals, only the Ram 1500 is available with full-time 4wd.  

Speaking of direct rivals, the Silverado 1500 belongs to the so-called half-ton class of pickups, which makes up the bulk of pickup sales. The term half-ton loosely defines payload capacity, which is the maximum weight in cargo and passengers a particular truck is designed to carry. In the Silverado line, maximum payload is a class-competitive 1,937 pounds, found on the 2wd Crew Cab. Heavier-duty three-quarter-ton and one-ton variants are designed for commercial and specialty use. In the Chevy line, the latter two payload categories are represented by the Silverado 2500 and Silverado 3500, respectively.

While Ford’s F-150 claims the unofficial class towing crown with a rating of 11,300 pounds (with the EcoBoost V-6), the Silverado 1500’s trailer ceiling of 10,700 pounds is well within the range most half-ton users would ever demand. That maximum is found on the 2012 Silverado 1500 Extended Cab 2wd with the 6.2-liter-V-8 and the optional trailering package. Among other Silverado towing limits, the regular-cab tops out at 10,000 pounds with the 5.3-liter V-8, the Crew at 10,600 with the 6.2 V-8, and the Hybrid at 6,100 pounds.

All 2012 Silverado 1500s come with four-wheel disc brakes with antilock control to enhance emergency stops. Also standard is GM’s antiskid StabiliTrack electronic stability control to reduce chances of sideways slides. For model-year 2012, the StabiliTrack system on all Silverado 1500s with the exception of Hybrid models is programmed to quell wayward trailer motions with trailer sway control and to prevent rolling back on steep inclines via hill start assist.

Features: The F-150 and Ram 1500 trump Silverado for gee-whiz features, such as Ford’s Tool Link on-board equipment-tracking device and Dodge’s RamBox cargo-bed storage system. But Chevy’s done an admirable job keeping Silverado’s equipment list stocked with useful items.

All 2012 Silverado 1500s come with GM’s OnStar emergency-communications and assistance system, and each audio system except the most basic setup includes USB iPod connectivity. A rearview backup camera is available, as is leather upholstery, rear-seat DVD entertainment, 12-way heated power front seats, remote engine start, power sliding rear window, and Bluetooth cell-phone link. Available through Chevy dealers is a WiFi system that turns the Silverado into a rolling Internet hot spot providing multiple users full Web access inside the truck or up to 150 feet from the exterior.

Among additions for the 2012 model year, cruise control and a spare tire lock are now standard on all Silverado 1500s. Heated and cooled seats are newly available on LTZ models. The available navigation system upgrades to a better screen and to an integrated hard drive that eliminates discs as a map-data-storage medium.

Also new for model-year 2012 is the Custom Sport Truck package celebrating the 45th anniversary of a trim offered on the 1967 Chevy pickup. It’s available on Extended Cab Silverado 1500s and in selected regions of the country on Crew Cabs, too. The package includes the 5.3 V-8 and the trailering package, 20-inch alloy wheels, power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and specific chrome trim details.    

No half-ton beats Chevy for its array of available suspension choices. Each setup on the 2012 Silverado has a clear purpose and has developed a following that identifies the Z83 and Z85 with comfort-oriented tuning, the Z71 for its off-road hardware, and  the Z60 as the sporty-handling package.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is $22,940-$43,435 for conventional-powertrain models and $38,100-$50,190 for the 2012 Silverado Hybrid. That’s entirely competitive with half-ton rivals and represents a pickup priced for virtually every purse and purpose. Note that base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Chevy’s fee for the 2012 Silverado is $995.

Regular-cab 2012 Silverado 1500s are available in Work Truck and LT trim. Short-bed versions start at $22,940 with 2wd and $25,085 with 4wd. Regular-cab long-bed versions start at $23,330 with 2wd and $26,480 with 4wd.

Extended Cab 2012 Silverado 1500s are available in WT, LS, LT, and LTZ versions -- as well as in the abovementioned special editions. Short-bed versions start at $27,335 with 2wd and $31,415 with 4wd. Extended-Cab long-bed are priced from $29,375 with 2wd and from $32,525 with 4wd.

Crew Cab Silverado 1500s come in all trim levels, plus the XFE. Two-wheel-drive versions start at $31,315, 4wd versions at $34,465. The XFE has a base price of $35,145.

The Crew Cab is the best-selling Silverado 1500 configuration and among its most popular variants is the LT model. It’s priced from $33,390 with 2wd and from $36,450 with 4wd. At $43,435, the Crew Cab LTZ has the highest starting price among conventional-powertrain 2012 Silverado 1500s and can top $50,000 with a full array of options.

The 2012 Silverado Hybrid comes as a Crew Cab only and is priced from $38,100 with 2wd and from $43,410 with 4wd. The top-trim Hybrid model with 4wd and standard leather upholstery, navigation, and other amenities has a base price of $50,190.

Various trim levels come with features that are otherwise options, but among key 2012 Silverado 1500 extra-cost items, the upgraded audio system with navigation is priced at $2,250 and the trailering package is $405. Similarly, prices of various options are affected by the model to which they are added. Examples include $1,245 to add the Z71 package to an Extended Cab LT Silverado and $1,995 to put the White Diamond Edition package on a Crew Cab LTZ.

Extended and Crew cabs are available with a power sunroof priced at $995 and with front power front bucket seats, also priced at $995 and accompanied by a center floor console. The LTZ’s heated and cooled front seats cost $650.  

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Fuel Economy back to top

Pitting comparable engines, EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 match up well with those of the 2012 Ram 1500 but generally trail the 2012 F-150 by 1-2 mpg in both city and highway driving.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the V-6 engine and its mandatory four-speed automatic transmission are 15/20 mpg city/highway and 17 mpg combined city/highway with 2wd and 14/18/15 with 4wd.

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the 4.8-liter V-8 and its mandatory four-speed automatic rates 14/19 mpg city/highway and 16 combined with 2wd and 14/18/15 with 4wd.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the 5.3-liter V-8 and its six-speed automatic are 15/21 mpg city/highway and 17 combined with 2wd, 14/18/15 with 4wd. The XFE model, which uses the 5.3 V-8 and six-speed automatic but is available only in 2wd is rated at 15/22 mpg city/highway, 18 mpg combined.

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the 6.2-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic rates 13/18 mpg city/highway, 18 mpg combined with 2wd and 12/18/14 with 4wd.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and are 20/23 mpg city/highway and 21 mpg combined with both 2wd and 4wd.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Release Date back to top

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado went on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 back to top

Don’t expect any major changes for model-year 2013, which likely will be the final season for the Silverado 1500 in its current specification. Chevy probably will again field a specialty trim level or two, perhaps one that marks the end of this Silverado generation.

Looking ahead to model-year 2014, expect GM to thoroughly revamp both its Chevy and GMC half-ton pickups with fresh styling, lighter-weight materials, and new powertrain combinations. The emphasis will be two-fold: improve fuel economy and expand infotainment opportunities.

The general size of these trucks probably won’t change, but every modern technique that’s price-effective will be employed to find materials and components that save weight and cut fuel consumption. Expect the next-generation Silverado 1500s to again offer V-8s but in revamped form to improve economy.  GM also could turn to a turbocharged six-cylinder engine in combination with an eight-speed automatic transmission to furnish eight-cylinder power with V-6 fuel economy.

Cutting-edge technology that taps the owner’s smartphone to provide access to a world of Web apps is the new standard in infotainment. The next-generation Silverado 1500 would likely offer it, as well as any other innovative connectivity tricks the happy scientists at GM can conjure up.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Competition back to top

Ford F-150: Fresh off a revamped engine lineup for 2011, the 2012 F-150 continues as formidable competition for any big pickup. Among its strengths are a base V-6 with 302 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, two highly capable V-8s, and a version of Ford’s EcoBoost V-6. As detailed above, the EcoBoost boasts a stunning combo of power and 16/22 mpg city/highway, 18 mpg combined city/highway fuel-economy ratings. It’s been a surprise sales hit. Among the F-150 other assets are contemporary styling and a strong but relatively lightweight frame. It beats Silverado for passenger room and in-cab storage space, too. No major changes expected until model-year 2015 or 2016.

Dodge Ram 1500: Also redesigned for model-year 2009 with roomier cabs, the innovative RamBox storage system, and even more aggressive styling. The current Ram also introduced to the full-size-pickup category a coil-spring rear suspension for class-leading ride comfort. The base V-6 is as lackluster as the Silverado’s but Ram’s 4.7-liter V-8 holds its own with 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. And the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 packs a punch with 390 horsepower and 407-pound-feet of torque. Like Silverado’s 5.3 V-8, the Hemi has cylinder deactivation. Top-line Ram 1500s are available with full-time 4wd. A styling refresh is expected for model-year 2013.      

Toyota Tundra: Like the GM half-tons, its basic design dates to model-year 2007, when it became the first import-brand pickup to match the full-size domestics for size and power. But with little demand among commercial users and trades people, Tundra has been a sales disappointment. Nonetheless, this U.S.-built pickup is an attractive choice for a variety of chores, with strong, smooth V-8s supplement by an adequate V-6. Towing capacity is about 10,800 pounds. No major changes are expected before model-year 2014.

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Next Steps