In order to get the LM7, you must also opt for the 4L60E 4-speed automatic transmission ($1,095), which also gives you a 7,500-lb. towing capacity. We also discovered we could choose a high-capacity air cleaner ($25) on the chance it would free up the induction. A locking rear with 3.73 gears (GT4, $50) was also a no-brainer. Finally, we couldn't resist checking the box for dual 6-way adjustable electric bucket seats (A95, $905).
Now here's where things get a little tricky. If you're looking beyond stock performance to the day when you start sprinkling go-fast goodies on your 5.3-liter, you'll check the box for the L59 engine. The L59 engine is identical to the LM7 (it costs the same too), except for one crucial thing: it's compatible with E85 fuel (it can run off an 85-percent ethanol, 15-percent gasoline blend). Although you won't get any more power from the L59 engine (like the LM7, it's rated at 285 hp at 5200 rpm), you'll get bigger injectors and a bigger fuel pump. Just run it on pump gas and you'll never know the difference. Of course, if you do run it on E85 (relax, it's available practically nowhere) you'll get a 7-percent bump in hp up to 304 hp. Mainly, L59 gives you a better fuel system for later on.
One other key option is the PRO-TEC sportside body (RPO E62, $795). Here, the steel bed is replaced with a lightweight injected-molded composite bed. Owners of short wheelbase 1500-series trucks with this bed report it lowers overall vehicle weight to 3,800 lbs. (Vehicle weight for the E62 option was not posted on Chevy's web site.)
So what does all this cost? With all these options, our LS stickered at $26,474, which includes destination charges. In all likelihood, this truck could be purchased for $25,000, a far cry from the $35,000 we expect the Silverado SS to sell for. And while our special-order 1500 LS won't exactly make hay with the Lightning, it will have a far better weight-to-power ratio of 13.5 lbs./hp (compared to the SS's 15.3 lbs./hp). You'll also have about 10 grand left to shop for a few "goodies."
Yes, readers, you do have a performance alternative that keeps you in a Chevy!