2014 Chevrolet Silverado

SAN ANTONIO — Our first look at the all-new Chevrolet Silverado full-sized pickup left us scratching our head last December when it was unveiled to the press a few weeks before the Detroit Auto Show. At first glance, it appeared devoid of styling changes. And then came the announcement that it would be motivated by a 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s, the same engine displacements that have been found under the hood for years. It left us wondering, "what was General Motors thinking?"

After the initial unveiling in December we got our first look at the new interior, and we perked up — a definite if not revolutionary advancement, something the Silverado desperately needed. Maybe the best in the segment.

But even with the handsome, well-designed living space, we were still wondering if the general had gone far enough to compete against the new products in the segment and those coming just over the horizon.

All that changed in Texas hill country this spring when we got the chance to drive a crew cab model with a 5.3-liter V-8 and had the opportunity to do side-by-side comparisons with the outgoing model. Advancements are many and impressive. Many of the changes and upgrades are not readily apparent until you get behind the wheel. The 2014 Silverado is, indeed, ready to do battle in the evolving full-sized pickup segment against the Ram, F-150 and Tundra.

After spending 45 minutes in a 2014 truck driving to a ranch where the introduction was staged, we jumped into a 2013 model for 30 miles on a blacktop road including 15 miles in a 70 mph zone. The differences in the two pickups were immediately obvious. The new Silverado is amazingly quiet. Road and wind noise have been commendably muted making the new pickup perhaps the quietest in the industry. The new-found cabin solitude gives the truck a feeling of refinement that it previously lacked. The 2013 is what you expect in a pickup — engine, road and wind  noise that although at "acceptable pickup levels" is considerably elevated over the new model.

The new Silverado exhibited excellent road manners with well-weighted power steering, easy to drive and maneuver. And the 5.3-liter engine in our 4X4 test truck provided ample, smooth performance. Brakes were firm and consistent.

Don't be deceived like we initially were by the carryover engine displacements. All-new direct injection engines have aluminum blocks, variable valve timing and active fuel management cylinder deactivation that swaps between V-8 and V-4 modes. The changeover is transparent and we had to consult a gauge to determine what mode we were in.

The engines are more powerful and fuel efficient. The 4.3-liter V-6 develops 285 horsepower and the 3.5-liter V-8 makes 355 horsepower 383 pound-feet of torque, that's an increase of 40 horses and 48 pound-feet over the outgoing engine. Output numbers have not yet been released for the 6.2-liter engine. All three are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 5.3-liter is now rated at 23 mpg in rear-wheel drive, 22 mpg in 4WD. Ratings for the V-6 and the larger V-8 have not yet been released.

Although the Silverado as noted doesn't stray far from its traditional look there are clear differences, noticeable when the '13 and '14 are parked side-by-side. A new large in-your-face Chevrolet-style twin-grille and sculpted fenders and sides give the truck a modern, more rugged look. One big change — the extended cab (now called a double cab) does away with the rear-hinged half doors in favor of standard front-hinged doors with outside handles that can be opened with the front doors closed.

Inside, Chevrolet has upgraded the upholstery, dash and door panel materials, added an eight-inch touchscreen display with Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment interface, included a huge center bin that will accommodate a large laptop computer, provided clear and easy-to-read gauges, and provided a myriad of plugs including five USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, one 110-volt outlet, a cord management system for cellphones, and an SD card slot. All controls, Chevrolet says, can be operated with gloved hands.

Crew cabs with the 5.3-liter engine will be the first to reach dealer showrooms early this summer. The regular cab and double cab configurations will follow, along with the new, more powerful V-6 and the 6.2-liter V-8.
Whether the new Silverado, as good as it is, is enough to garner significant conquest buyers remains to be seen. But we think the best way to sell returning Silverado customers the new truck against "discounted" 2013 models is to entice them into back-to-back test drives. We'd bet on most occasions, the reduced-price 2013 will be left sitting on the lot.

— Jim Meachen