Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GMs on steroids

SC540 SportTruck Callaway's latest awesome creation

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At the end of a day careening through the canyons in the Callaway SC540 SportTruck, I stopped to refill my tank, expecting little more than to drop a boatload of bills. Instead, I saw eyes. A young man in a Cadillac Escalade was staring.

"Those are some nice wheels," he said, taking in the nine-spoke alloys wrapped in 22-inch Michelins and letting his gaze wander from grille to tailgate. There was a pause that made me think his Caddy no longer made the cut.

"What's a Callaway?"

"Fast" would have been a good answer, but ultimately it's insufficient. Callaway, according to its tag line, is a company that makes "powerfully engineered automobiles." Specifically, it's a highfalutin mom-and-pop that supercharges General Motors vehicles, upping the giddy-up and the "wow" factor with a system that forces more air into the engine's cylinders.

In the case of the SC540, the vehicle is a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 whose stock 302 horsepower is radicalized to a thrilling 540, its torque to a satisfying 522 pound-feet. Launching a 5,100-pound truck has never felt so effortless.

Company namesake and race car driver Reeves Callaway started the business 36 years ago in Connecticut, and expanded with a Santa Ana, Calif., assembly centre in 2011. It's best known for supercharging Corvettes. But, recognizing GM pickups and SUVs use the same 6.2-litre V-8 as the Chevy C6, and that trucks are GM's largest-volume segment, Callaway is importing its souped-up powertrain to the Silverado, Avalanche and Suburban.

I had a day with the US$68,000 Silverado, and I intended to make the most of it, so I headed for the hills to see if the SC540 felt more like a 'Vette or the truck it really is.

Transplanting the heart of a Corvette into the muscular body of a pickup is an intriguing proposition.

Pressing the accelerator pedal, the power was instantaneous as I accelerated through its six gears to cruising speed on the highway, then maneuvered into the twisties. On other pickups I've tested, there's a significant lag between pressing pedal to metal and getting the truck to actually go.

The SC540 handles like a very tall sports car, even though the front end and back ends are both lowered to make it level and keep its fanny in line. The version I tested had a US$2,990 suspension package that swaps the stock shocks, sway bars and springs for more sports-like performance, allowing it to flatten in the corners and preventing it from squatting under hard acceleration or diving too much when braking hard.

Lowering the truck erodes some of the stock truck's 4,700 pounds of towing capacity, but the additional power actually helps its ability to pull -- not that I used it to haul anything. Demographically, I'm unlike the SportTruck's core buyer, who's more likely to have a stable of elite vehicles than a herd of cattle. In terms of how I used the truck, though, I was similar. I carried nothing but my purse.

The SC540 may have started its life as a Silverado, but its birthright is well-disguised. There is no Silverado nameplate. In its place is Callaway badging, which appears no fewer than eight places on the truck's exterior, including the driver and passenger doors, tailgate and grille. It's also chiselled into each $1,000 wheel.

Inside, it's embroidered into the front-row headrests and floor mats, but that's pretty much where the interior alteration ends. This is, after all, a truck. Even if the SC540's rarefied buyer isn't likely to track any mud, he still wants off-road cred.

Inside the six-passenger crew cab, the SC540 is largely the same as the base model, which, in this case, is the most premium LTZ trim, with heated and cooled perforated leather seats for the driver and front-seat passenger, built-in navigation and a backup camera.

Still, it's the extra power that will inspire buyers to fork out the US$24,000 for the Callaway treatment.

Even supercharged, the SC540 meets California emissions standards, though its fuel economy is slightly compromised. Stock, the Silverado Crew Cab 4x2 with the 6.2-litre V-8 has an EPA fuel-economy rating of 15 L/100 km city, 11 highway. In the 190 kilometres I drove the SC540, I averaged 18, using the recommended 91-octane gas. As with all GM trucks, the SC540 can take less-expensive E85 flex fuel, but you get what you pay for. E85 makes less power.

Callaway Cars are available through any GM dealer, which sells the vehicles stock, then ships them to Callaway for supercharging. Because the vehicles are new, they're covered by the same three-year, 58,000-kilometre manufacturer's warranty as the stock vehicle. An extended five-year, 160,000-kilometre warranty is available for an additional $3,000.

With its SportTruck, Callaway continues its lineage of marrying status with power and builds upon it in a vehicle that is both sporty and utilitarian. It's a satisfying meat-and-potatoes machine for the Ruth's Chris crowd.

-- Orange County Register


-- POWERTRAIN: Supercharged 6.2-litre V-8 with air/liquid intercooler, high-flow intake, low-restriction exhaust, six-speed automatic transmission

-- MAXIMUM HORSEPOWER: 540 @ 6,200 r.p.m.

-- MAXIMUM TORQUE: 522 ft.-lb. @ 3,800 r.p.m.

-- REAL WORLD FUEL ECONOMY: 18 L/100 km (based on 190 kilometres of driving)

-- BASE PRICE: $43,700

-- PRICE AS TESTED: $68,080

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 F1

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