2003 Chevrolet Silverado C1500 QuadrasteerCar-like nimbleness in a full-size truck
Chevy's Silverado full-size pickup truck line offers an astounding array of equipment and configurations for 2003. One of the roster's standout packages is the 1500 (1/2-ton) model with the Quadrasteer four-wheel-steering system.
This setup is a blessing for anyone who regularly tows 8,600 pounds or less. In fact, four-wheel steering just might be the most important technological breakthrough since electronic fuel injection, at least in the full-size truck/SUV market. The concept isn't new, though: Heavy equipment and even exhibition monster trucks have had rear-wheel steering for years. But for passenger vehicles, rear steering is in its infancy. (Early exercises in four-wheel steering included the '94 Honda Prelude. Unfortunately, the car's short wheelbase minimized the benefits of a tighter turning radius.)
Computer-technology advances made foolproof rear steering a reality for the new millennium. Following 10 years of R&D, GM and Delphi launched the Quadrasteer system on the 2002 GMC Sierra Denali pickup, then made it available for 1/2-ton Silverados later in the '02 model year.
Quadrasteer is an electromechanical system. Its componentry includes a front steering-wheel position sensor, a steerable rear axle, and an electric motor-drive actuator and control unit. The system allows the rear wheels to turn up to 12 degrees, yielding about a 20% tighter turning diameter (46.6 feet for the C1500 Extended Cab in front-steer mode compared to 37.4 feet with Quadrasteer activated).
The system offers three driver-selectable modes: 2WS, 4WS and 4WS Tow. Normal front-steer operation is achieved in 2WS. In 4WS, Quadrasteer's computer senses vehicle speed and steering-wheel position to automatically turn the rear wheels. At slow speeds, the rears turn the opposite direction of the fronts for squeezing into tight parking spaces or making U-turns that might otherwise be multi-pointers. The rear wheels remain straight at moderate speeds. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn the same direction as the fronts to reduce yaw, which increases stability.
Real-world benefits are jaw-dropping. Quadrasteer makes a full-size truck's turning diameter comparable to some compact coupes'. Also, parallel parking can actually be a back-in-and-straighten process instead of the too-prevalent trial-and-error ordeal.
However, one of the most telling benefits is when towing on the highway. With a 25-foot travel trailer behind, abrupt lane-change maneuvers using standard front steering causes the unsettling "tail wagging the dog" phenomenon. In 4WS Tow mode, Quadrasteer increases the amount of rear steering as vehicle speed increases. The result is improved maneuverability and impressive stability-most noticeably in heavy crosswinds and when being passed by big rigs. Quadrasteer's failsafe mechanism straightens the rear wheels and defaults to front steering if any malfunction is detected.
For 2003, Silverados get a mild makeover. The hood and grille are bolder, more Avalanche-like. New power-extending side mirrors are available for safer towing and added convenience. Features include turn-signal indicators on the mirror, a power fold-in capability and optional oversized (60 square-inch) "camper" models.
The bulk of the rest of Silverado's improvements relate to greater computer capabilities and multiplexing electrical advancements. The instrument panel was redesigned to accommodate a driver information center, which monitors and reports on 34 vehicle functions. Speaking of the IP, an engine hour gauge is now available. OnStar is still offered, complete with voice-recognition capabilities.
Other gizmos include available XM satellite radio and a premium Bose audio system that was designed specifically for the truck. Crew Cab models enjoy an optional DVD entertainment center with flip-down monitor. Other new creature comforts include a dual-zone climate-control system and a redesigned console that includes rear climate vents for Extended and Crew Cab Silverados. The console also has three 12-volt power outlets.
Interior safety has also been addressed. The front-passenger's seat has a sensor that deactivates the airbag depending on weight and position of the occupant. (The passenger-side bag can also be manually switched on certain models.) Air bags themselves are dual-stage, matching the deployment rate to the severity of the impact. Another safety plus is redundant steering-wheel controls for the audio system as well as some of the driver information center's functions. The three previous trim levels (Base, LS and LT) remain.
Powertrain-wise, half-ton Silverados carry over the existing line-up of Vortec engines, each of which get more-efficient oxygen sensors for 2003. Base powerplant is the 200-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6, mid-level is the 270-horse 4.8-liter V-8 and those who tow and haul regularly will want to opt for the 285-hp 5.3-liter V-8. (1500HD buyers can choose the 300-horsepower 6.0-liter V-8.) The V-8s are now drive-by-wire, which improves response and efficiency by eliminating the mechanical throttle linkage. Also, the 5.3 can be ordered in a multi-fuel ethanol/gasoline configuration. Another underhood upgrade is a 145-amp alternator on Silverados equipped with Quadrasteer or the snowplow package.
Two other powertrain refinements result from electrical improvements. First, the Autotrac four-wheel-drive system in K1500 models now activates and deactivates quicker, yielding better fuel economy. Also, the anti-lock brake system is enhanced to require less pedal pressure during panic stops. (Quadrasteer adds twin-piston rear calipers to further enhance braking.)
Our experiences in a 2WD Silverado Extended Cab 1500 revealed that Quadrasteer overshadows the new-for-'03 refinements. Although we didn't experience the improved handling and agility off-road or attempt backing maneuvers with trailer attached, the four-wheel steering system seems to enhance every conceivable driving situation. The only drawback we can see is that first-time fulll-sized pickup drivers might forget where the vehicle's corners are because the truck feels so nimble and car-like.
Currently, Quadrasteer is available on Silverado 1500 and 1500HD Extended and Crew Cab shortbeds (as well as on their GMC Sierra fraternal twins), in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. (The system is also scheduled to appear on 2003 Suburbans/Yukon XLs.) Hopefully, Quadrasteer will be available throughout the GM light-truck line at some point, offering pickup shoppers their pick of the hard-parts litter: Vortec 8.1-liter V-8 or Duramax diesel, Allison 5-speed automatic trans, two- or four-wheel drive, two- or four-wheel steering.
For now, anyone who tows a light trailer regularly and is in the market for a new truck owes it to themselves (and those of us who drive alongside them on the freeway) to take a Quadrasteer Silverado for a spin. Just as manual "armstrong" steering seems laborious in this day and age, Quadrasteer will make everyone wonder why full-sized trucks haven't had four-wheel steering until now. (www.chevrolet.com)
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