In North America, the full-size truck market is the never-ending dogfight of the automotive world. Both among owners and the teams developing these beasts, allegiances run deep and one-upping the others is the name of the game. Chevrolet is attempting to one-up their stiff competition with the 2014 Silverado 1500 – a fresh take on a nameplate that has remained largely unchanged for a staggering seven years.
The bones of any good pickup start with the frame it rides on. For 2014, the Silverado frame is similar to the fully boxed frame on the current trucks, though even it received a host of updates necessary for both the truck’s increased capabilities and to enhance ride quality. Cross members throughout the frame have been enhanced with the use of high-strength steel to increase rigidity and prevent energy from crushing the cab during side impacts. All frame mounts have been modified as well, with the rear cab mounts changing to a hydraulic type that absorbs up/down movement to prevent the “hop” pickups sometimes exhibit at highway speeds on rough surfaces.
While most buyers will not appreciate the structural updates to the frame, they will appreciate their effects. The new Silverado feels noticeably stiffer than its predecessor and the cab projects a vault-like feel often associated with the Silverado’s cross-town rivals from Ford and Ram. There is virtually no chassis flex, even during light off-roading, with the cab always well isolated from the work effort the frame has to endure.
The passenger cab has also seen structural enhancements that add to that vault-like feel. Engineers have increased use of high-strength steel throughout the cab, including mandating a B-pillar in the new Double Cab; the replacement for the former pillar-less extended cab. GM has switched back to inlaid doors on all 2014 truck models. This reduces wind noise in the cab and removes the noises that are often associated with the outgoing GMT-900 truck doors. From a visual perspective, the inlaid doors also give the truck a more significant presence.
Rounding out the structural changes is a long list of new hardware to assist in noise isolation, both environmental and engine noise. Use of sound insulation material is up across the board, including a new material lining the wheel wells (similar to that found on luxury sedans) to isolate the “sizzle” noise rainwater makes when splashing off the tire tread. GM also switched to hydraulic engine mounts to reduce noise and vibration associated with Active Fuel Management, the use of which has increased on 2014 trucks.
All three engines are entirely new from the block up. In fact, GM engineers assure us that the amount of carryover parts between today’s engines and these new EcoTec3 engines will fit in a quart-sized storage bag and after driving them, that’s entirely believable. Instead of trying to beat the competition with a twin-turbo V-6, GM has built a 5.3-liter V-8 that is truly a worthy competitor to the F-150 EcoBoost – this coming from a reviewer who thinks very highly of the twin-turbo F-150. Take any assumptions you have about GM’s 5.3-liter V-8 and throw them out. The new engine boasts 355 horsepower and a healthy 383 pounds-feet of torque – on a flatter torque curve, no less. But figures really don’t do this engine justice.
Whereas today’s engine power delivery is smooth and robust, almost like GM cut out a lot of the torque management that today’s trucks have. At no point does the engine feel taxed and refinement both in engine sound and power delivery is, yes, superior to the F-150 EcoBoost.
The Silverado 4X4 with the 5.3-liter wears EPA fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg city and 22 highway. GM engineers also say they expect buyers will see better real world fuel economy than the outgoing trucks and our short time with the Silverado suggested that will likely be the case. While the 5.3-liter launches first, the all-new 4.3-liter V-6 will launch shortly after. Rated at 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque, the highest torque rating of a naturally aspirated V-6 in the truck segment. Like the 5.3-liter it is based on, the new 4.3-liter is impressive both in refinement and power delivery. Fuel economy ratings for the V-6 have not been announced. All three engines feature three core technologies from which their EcoTec3 name was derived – variable valve timing, GM’s Active Fuel Management and direct fuel injection.
While Active Fuel Management has been a staple of GM trucks for several years, the system has been greatly enhanced in the EcoTec3 lineup. In V-8 applications, the engines noticeably run in V-4 mode more often, thanks to the increased torque across the power band. While driving 5.3-liter testers, the trucks routinely stayed in V-4 mode even during some acceleration. GM engineers have also spent much time assuring that the transition from V-8 to V-4 (or V-6 to V-4) mode is undetectable by passengers and they were successful.
The new interior design is, as Chevy says, “tailored for truck buyers.” It does look like an evolution of today’s truck interior. Material quality on higher trim levels is a mixed bag, too. The quality of dash plastics is a huge improvement over today’s models and better than what you’ll find in most of the competition.
The front center console is also larger, to the point that buyers will never lack storage space. Younger buyers will enjoy the connectivity of the new Silverado. Most trim levels are equipped with a staggering five USB ports, ensuring rejoice amongst our connected society. Those five USB ports come in conjunction with Chevrolet MyLink, the brand’s latest infotainment system. The system includes an eight-inch touchscreen in the center stack, with natural voice control and an excellent navigation system.
Aside from MyLink, Chevrolet has tapped the GM technology bin extensively with the new Silverado. The company’s lane departure warning, forward collision alert and patented Safety Alert Seat are all optional on the new truck. Engineers have also developed a new Hill Descent control feature exclusive to Silverado Z71. By pressing a button on the center stack, the truck will hold its current speed on a hill by using the ABS and stability control sensors. The feature even works in reverse. The Z71 also adds Rancho shocks, revised suspension tuning and all-terrain tires. And of course, the iconic Z71 badging shows on the exterior sides of the bed.
Outside the 2014 Silverado looks like a Silverado and the exterior design is evolutionary. The truck’s track is 10 millimeters wider than today’s, allowing designers to align the sheet metal and wheels to give the truck a more balanced look. The door panels also feature more sculpting than photos suggest. Overall, the more time we spent with the Silverado, the more we liked the exterior design. From a mechanical perspective, which is typically the most important on a pickup, the 2014 Silverado is a fantastic truck. It feels stronger and more refined and some fantastic new engines power it.
Repost from GM Inside News