Chevrolet Silverado — Solid improvement

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Our first look at the all-new Chevrolet Silverado full-sized pickup came 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 the announcement that it would be powered by a 4.3-liter V-6 or a 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V-8, the same engine displacements that have been found under the hood for years. It left us wondering, "what was General Motors thinking?"

After the unveiling we got a look at the new interior and perked up — a definite if not revolutionary advancement, something the Silverado desperately needed. And we thought, 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 the 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. After spending time in a 2014 truck 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 compared to 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 on road and in mild off-road driving. Brakes proved 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 5.3-liter V-8 makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, an increase of 40 horses and 48 pound-feet over the outgoing engine. All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Although the Silverado as noted doesn't stray far from its traditional look there are clear differences, noticeable when the 2013 and 2014 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, provided clear and easy-to-read gauges, and provided a myriad of plugs (in top trim models) including five USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, one 110-volt outlet, a cord management system for cellphones, and an SD card slot. Also included is a huge center bin that will accommodate a laptop computer. All controls, Chevrolet says, can be operated with gloved hands.

Buyers will have a choice of bench or bucket seats up front. We found the front seats in our crew cab test truck to be extremely comfortable and should provide long-haul comfort. The rear seats are equally comfortable but the very well-outfitted $49,890 LTZ test truck had no rear air conditioning vents. That was a big deal in a 90-degree summer afternoon for those riding in the back.

Chevrolet for the most part has held the price on the 2014 models with the base crew cab work truck starting at $32,710. Prices for the crew cab go through several trims and numerous configurations to the top-line Z71 LTZ starting at $40,990.

Crew cabs with the 5.3-liter engine were the first to reach showrooms this summer. The regular cab and double cab configurations are now reaching dealers. The new, more powerful V-6 and the 6.2-liter V-8 will also soon be available.

Base price (crew cab): $32,710; as driven, $49,890
Engine: 3.5-liter V-8
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 383 foot-pounds @ 4,100 rpm
Drive: four-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 153 inches
Length: 239.6 inches
Curb weight: 5,229 pounds
Turning circle: 48.6 feet
Towing capacity: 11,100 pounds
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 highway, 16 city
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra

The Good
• More powerful engines
• New competitive V-6
• Quiet, well-outfitted interior
• Smooth highway ride

The bad
• No rear air conditioning vents in LTZ crew

The Ugly
• Are improvements enough?