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General Motors has been turning out pickup trucks for more than 70 years. GM bought Chevrolet in 1918 and raced down a road that would replace horse-drawn wagons with engine-driven horsepower right after World War I.
Following some tough financial years that included a government takeover and shaky customer confidence, GM has come out fighting in recent months, including an aggressive push into the hybrid market, with its Chevy Volt electric plug-in and hybrid versions of some of its most red-blooded pickup models. Not to mention a fiercely debated commercial at the Super Bowl that featured Chevy Silverado besting a Ford F-150 in a post-apocalyptic showdown.
In other words, GM seems to have straightened its Chevy bow-tie badging, polished GMC’s professional-grade image and broadened its lineup to appeal to a new generation of buyers.
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Big choices for 2012
As many pickup aficionados already know, the size choices, powertrains, premium add-ons and towing capacities of a workhorse lineup can be bewildering. This year’s GM stable is no different. But we’ll do our best to help you navigate this powerful, diverse set of trucks.
First things first: the General’s lineup includes fourteen models spread across two brands: Chevrolet and GMC. For 2012, Chevy trucks include the SUV-like Avalanche, the compact 2012 Colorado, and four editions of the rugged, mid-sized Silverado 1500, which is also available as a hybrid. GMC’s offerings include the compact Canyon and the Sierra 1500, including a top-of-the-line Sierra Denali edition and a hybrid powertrain.
Heavy-duty models, including Silverado 1500, 2500 and 3500 HD and Sierra HD versions with the same numbering system, are also available.
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The Compact Collection
The General offers its compact Chevy and GMC pickups in a choice of three engines: a 2.9L inline 4-cylinder making 185 hp and 190 lb.-ft. of torque; a 3.7L 5-cylinder delivering 242 hp and 242 lb.-ft.; and a 5.3L V8 that puts out 300 horses and 320 lb.-ft of torque. Chevy says the 5-cylinder is more fuel efficient than comparable pickups with a V6; the V8 in GM’s compact pickups is more efficient than that of the Dodge Dakota, says The General.
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 4-speed automatic tranny available. Standard drivetrains on the base model are 4x2, with 4x4 available as an option and standard with certain trim levels. Fuel economy ranges from 18/25 city/highway for the 4x2 manual version with the 4-cylinder motor, to 14/19 city/highway for the V8 with 4x4 and manual transmission.
These small haulers can carry 2-3 passengers with the regular cab, 4-5 passengers with an extended cab, and 5-6 people with the crew cab version.
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The 2012 Chevrolet Colorado
The compact 2012 Chevrolet Colorado starts at $17,475 and can be ordered with the 4- 5- or 8-cylinder motors; it’s also available in either 4x2 or 4x4. Colorado comes with two or four doors and in short or standard cargo bed versions; it can tow up to 6,000 lbs. The InstaTrac transfer case provides dashboard-mounted, pushbutton transition between 2WD and 4WD on 4x4 models.
Every Colorado is equipped with four-wheel antilock brakes, daytime running lamps, and StabiliTrak, GM’s stability and traction control system. Front and rear airbags, including curtain bags, are standard equipment.
For creature comforts, all Colorados come with single-zone air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo, as well as Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, with fancier versions of the 16-inchers available as options. All trim lines include a standard drop-in bed liner.
Available in three trim lines – the 1LT, 2LT and 3LT – Colorado offers a variety of higher end features, as well. An AM/FM/CD stereo is available, as are cloth or leather seats (base models are trimmed with vinyl upholstery). For exterior add-ons, buyers can choose tonneau covers, toolboxes, assist steps and other features. A Z71 Off-road Package is available on extended and crew cabs.
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The 2012 GMC Canyon
Starting at $17,490, the 2012 GMC Canyon provides up to 6,000 pounds of towing capacity and seating for up to six adults. Like its Chevy Colorado cousin, the truck can be fitted with the 185 hp. 4-cylinder, 242-hp. 5-cylinder or the 300-horse V8. It also includes regular cab, extended cab and crew cab body styles in 2WD and 4WD as well as two pickup bed lengths and three available suspensions.
The 4x4 Canyon comes with an Eaton auto-locking rear differential that evenly distributes power to both rear wheels, locks the rear axle, and transfers torque to the wheel with the most power. New for 2012 is a Bodyguard package with molded splash guards and bed rail protection and an optional chrome fuel door and exhaust tip.
For rough terrain, this small-sized pickup can be ordered with an optional High-Stance Z71 off-road suspension package.
Trims include Work Truck, SLE and SLT. An AM/FM stereo, air conditioning and cruise control are standard, as is OnStar. Higher-end trim lines can be equipped with a CD and MP3-playback stereo, remote keyless entry and heated seats (standard on SLT).
The Z71 Off Road package includes exterior and interior badging to set it apart; it is available on 2WD and 4WD models. A ZQ8 sport suspension, paired with the 5.3L V-8 and 18-inch wheels, also is available.
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The 2012 Chevrolet Avalanche
The Avalanche (starting at $36,800) can flip-flop between truck and SUV configuration due to GM’s Midgate technology, which transforms the cargo bed from 5 feet, 3 inches to 8 feet, 2 inches. Those needing even more room can remove the rear window and three-piece tonneau cargo cover, too.
Equipped with a 5.3L V8 engine, Avalanche delivers 320 horses and 335 lb.-ft. of torque; EPA fuel economy estimates are 14/20 mpg city/highway. The motor, programmed to switch to four cylinders at cruising speeds, is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and can be ordered with either 2- or 4-wheel drive.
Stability/traction control is standard; trailer sway control and Hill Start Assist are new for 2012. With 4x2, Avalanche tows up to 8100 lbs.; the 4WD system drops the tow weight slightly to 7900 lbs.
Outside, 17-inch wheels and tires are standard equipment on LS and LT versions; 20-inchers are optional on those trim levels and standard on the upscale LTZ. An offroad Z71 package puts 18-inch machines aluminum wheels on the truck.
Inside, air conditioning is standard, with automatic climate control standard on LT and LTZ models. An AM/FM/CD stereo system with rear headphone jacks is standard, and Bluetooth for phone is built in. LS comes with cloth seats, and LT and LTZ versions have heated front seats and leather on all seating positions.
Key options include touch-screen navigation/entertainment, with features like a 30-GB hard drive, 2D or 3D full-color map displays and a rear-view camera. The system includes USB ports and OnStar satellite radio.
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GM’s Full-Sized Models: The 1500 Series
Pickups in GM’s 1500, half-ton series combine comfort and dependability with increased power and payload. The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado and 2012 GMC Sierra Hybrids bring greater fuel-efficiency, while the 2012 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 offers top-of-the-line performance and luxury accoutrements.
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The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
With an MSRP starting at $22,195, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 has an updated exterior and refreshed interior. The standard motor is a 4.3L V6 that makes 195 hp. and 260 lb. ft. of torque. Also available are a 4.8-L V8 that delivers 302 horses and 305 lb.-ft. of torque and a 5.3L V8 (315 hp., 325 lb.-ft.).
The standard StabiliTrak Electronic Control System adds Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist; the Silverado’s hydro-formed and boxed front frame offers strength and durability.
The Silverado 1500 comes in 2WD and 4WD, five trim lines (WT, LS, LT, XFE, LTZ), and with an optional Z71 Off-Road Appearance Package. Regular, crew and extended cab configurations are available – maximum towing capacity is 10,700 lbs. with the Max Trailering Package.
For 2012, Silverado gets a revised front fascia; LS and LT models wear a mesh grille with chrome surround and a silver-painted lower bumper; LZTs sport body-colored surrounds in the grille. A new White Diamond edition gets White Diamond paint, with exterior chrome trim on the truck body and special 20-in. chrome-clad wheels; a Z60 performance suspension is available on this special edition model.
Inside, high-tech appointments include vehicle diagnostics, a new navigation and entertainment system, and rear-view camera. A dealer-installed WiFi system also is available.
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The 2012 GMC Sierra 1500
Starting at $22,195, the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 is available in 2WD and 4WD models with regular, extended, and crew cab configurations. Buyers can choose from three engines: a 4.8L V8 rated at 302 hp. and 305 lb.-ft. of torque; a 5.3L V8 making 315 hp. and 335 lb.-ft. of torque and a 6.2L V8 that delivers 403 hp. and 417 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine is available in crew cab and extended cab models and is standard on Sierra Denali.
The 4.8-liter motor with 2WD comes with an EPA rating of 15/20 mpg city/highway; the next biggest motor slides in at 14/19 mpg and the biggest motor is rated at 15/21 mpg.
With Work Truck, SL, SLE and SLT trim levels, the 2012 Sierra 1500 pickup comes standard with six airbags, air conditioning, dual 12-volt power outlets as well as StabiliTrak, featuring Proactive Roll Avoidance.; XM satellite radio, a rearview camera, Universal Home Remote and a selection of 20-inch aluminum wheels are available.
Sierra also offers Power Tech and Chrome Essential packages. The Power Tech package bundles a Vortec 5.3L V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission along with dual-zone automatic climate control and Bluetooth connectivity. The Chrome Essential package brings amenities like chrome door handles and chrome-clad aluminum wheels.
Another GMC Sierra 1500 package, the Sierra XFE, provides extra fuel economy, reduced vehicle mass, and aerodynamic features such as a lowered suspension.
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The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid
Priced starting at $39,640, the Chevy Silverado Hybrid features revised styling, new colors, and upgraded technology for 2012. It is available in either 2WD or 4WD and can tow up to 6,100 pounds.
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid promises greater fuel efficiency than the competition, says Chevy. At 20-mpg city/23 mpg highway, the truck boasts nearly 20 percent better city fuel economy than the Ford F-150 and over 40 percent better city fuel economy than the Dodge Ram 1500.
StabiliTrak stability and traction control system, standard on last year’s model, gains standard Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway Control features for 2012.
Two trim levels include 1HY and 2HY. A reversing camera is standard on the top trim level, along with a new navigation and radio system with a 30-gig hard drive, touchscreen display, voice command, a USB port, and more. OnStar offers a Remote Link mobile application; the truck can also be turned into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot compatible with multiple devices located within 150 feet of the vehicle.
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.
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2012 GMC Sierra Hybrid
This truck, starting at $40,010, comes in 2WD and 4WD, with 3HA and 3HB trim levels.
Changes for the 2012 model year include a chrome three-bar grille and an available hard-drive navigation radio with AM/FM/SiriusXM stereo with CD/DVD player, MP3 compatibility and USB port. A rear vision camera is now standard on the 3HB trim level.
To save cargo space, the Sierra Hybrid’s 300-volt, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery is located under the rear seat – a reminder that this GMC truck is ready for stow-and-go. In addition to increased fuel economy, the Sierra’s electrically-variable transmission offers a maximum trailer capacity of 6,100 lbs. When towing trailers or climbing steep grades, the Hybrid Sierra uses the electric assist in addition to four- or eight-cylinder power from the engine.
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2012 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali
Top of the line in the 1500 series is the Sierra 1500 Denali. Starting at $45,460, Denali comes with a 6.2L V8 engine, rated at 403 horsepower and 417 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is paired with the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission and available in either 2WD or 4WD. The 2WD version can tow up to 9,600 lbs.; the 4WD model hauls up to 9,400 lbs.
Denali includes either a 9.5-inch rear axle (2WD) or 8.6-inch rear axle (4WD) with 3.42 gears and an automatic locking rear differential. The specially-tuned Z60 suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, StabiliTrak, skid plates and recovery hooks are standard, as are 20-inch aluminum wheels (unique to the Sierra lineup), heated and cooled front seats and a rear-vision camera.
This high-end truck has a special grille, chrome trim and body-color bumpers; inside are leather-appointed seats and 12-way power-adjustable front seats. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and heated; wood grain-appearance accents and auxiliary controls are built in to the wheel, as well.
The GMC 1500 Denali has an optional touch-screen navigation system, along with a DVD entertainment center and Sirius XM radio. A Bose sound system is standard.
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