2003 Chevrolet S-10 ZR5

2003 Chevrolet S-10 ZR5

A sporty package for the compact Crew Cab

The Chevrolet S-10 Crew Cab is a pickup truck that melds sedan seating and four doors with a pickup truck bed. Add the ZR5 package to the mix and you get a sporty look, giving compact-truck owners nearly everything they could want and need in one vehicle.

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Although the S-10's basic styling and design has been around for several years in its present form, it still looks modern and, as sales figures attest, is a more-than-able competitor. Until the vehicle gets its next redesign, though, the ZR5 should help lure potential 4x4 mini-truck owners into Chevy stores.

The Crew Cab (only available as a 4x4) and the cargo bed make this truck a stretched version of the Extended Cab S-10. Unlike most vehicles, the longer wheelbase here seems to amplify, instead of absorb, the freeway expansion joints. That said, the refinements Chevrolet engineers have performed to the suspension system make this and other GM trucks ride with a greater car-like comfort than ever before.

This truck surprised us with its on-road handling and ride. True to form, the body-on-frame architecture and 4x4 utilitarianism make it harsher than the new breed of car-based crossover vehicles, so don't look for sports car handling on mountain roads. Still, this hardy truck does offer several sedan-like features.

Compared to the Extended Cab S-10, the ZR5's four-door configuration makes much easier access to the rear seats. It also adds much-needed legroom for those passengers who get elected to sit there. The rear seat, while comfortable, is designed with a fairly straight backrest because of its proximity to the rear of the cab.

The interiors on all GM products are improving exponentially. The dull, cheap-looking controls of yore are quickly becoming distant memories. The dash in our S-10 was a classic black, and all gauges, switches and controls are easy to reach and operate.

Power is delivered through a 4.3-liter V-6 and a 4-speed automatic. At 190 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, this S-10 isn't going to break any speed records, but the performance is on par with its competitors. (Chevy would be well served to use its 275-hp 4.2-liter inline six engine in the next-generation S-10.)

The ZR5 Sport Appearance Package, available only on the Crew Cab model, is (as its name spells out) cosmetic. Features of this $1,500 option include contrasting gray wheel flares and bumpers, a black roof rack and bed rails and special decals. Cast-aluminum, 5-spoke wheels fitted with P235/75R15 Goodyear Wrangler tires help improve the truck's handling. Our test truck was also equipped with a trick tonneau cover ($395 option) that folds open, accordion-style, to facilitate easy loading and unloading. Closed, this cover gives this Chevy the complete street-truck look.

Is the S-10 ZR5 just another manufacturer's attempt at making much ado about nothing? Or, does this version of the Chevy S-10 fulfill a need for a visually satisfying vehicle that may not have the competitive punch to equal its looks? Quenching buyers' desires sometimes outweighs function, and a certain segment will always prioritize a vehicle's visual statement. If a manufacturer can combine sporty looks with segment-leading performance at the right price, it's done its job. In the auto industry, however, this job is never done. What will be the next trend? That's a question buyers will have to answer. More than likely, GM will listen with great interest. (www.chevrolet.com)

2003 Chevrolet S-10 ZR5 pickup truck rear
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