It has been seven years since General Motors redesigned its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra ½-ton pickups and a lot has changed in the light-truck market during that time. Customers have a new list of demands including more functionality, comfort, and power. Oh, and with higher fuel prices, improved fuel economy. With that said, there was much speculation on how GM would respond with the new-for-2014 ½-ton trucks. Well, people aren’t speculating any longer because the General has spoken with vastly redesigned trucks that the company feels delivers the things buyers want.
We recently had the opportunity to travel to Detroit, Michigan, for an advanced look at the 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra ½-ton trucks. We weren’t allowed to drive the prototype vehicles, but we did get to inspect them and talk to the engineers that designed and tested ‘em. We’re told that these vehicles only carry over approximately 25 percent parts content from the previous generation trucks. So quite simply, just about everything you see is new.
We’re told that we should be able to get seat time in the vehicles in the spring, so naturally we’ll be bringing you our driving impressions shortly. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights of GMs latest and greatest.
There are exterior differences between the Silverado and the Sierra, but overall they have many basic commonalities. For example, both are designed with significant attention to aerodynamics. GM has integrated things like a roof spoiler, tailgate spoiler, special taillight lenses, more windshield rake, and even chassis-mounted items that improve airflow over and under the truck. The end result is a coefficient of drag that is five percent lower than current models. Naturally, this helps to improve fuel mileage. The new front ends are engineered to improve sealing for more efficient cooling and the inlaid doors that fit into recesses in the bodysides reduce wind noise for a quieter cab. The cab is stronger, with nearly two-thirds of the structure made from high-strength steel. The rear doors on Crew Cab models are larger and when combined with several other changes the result is easier entry and exit and a two-inch increase in rear legroom. Extended cab doors are now hinged at the front to make it easier to enter the rear seat in tight parking spaces. The cab is mated to a reengineered frame (made from hydroformed high-strength steel) using new shear-style body mounts that tune out both up-and-down and side-to-side movements for a quieter, more comfortable ride. Extended and Crew Cab models have a third set of hydraulic body mounts to further isolate the cab. Other exterior features include a roll-formed steel cargo box available in 5-foot, 8-inch; 6-foot, 6-inch; or 8-foot lengths (depending on model). For the first time a 5-foot, 8-inch or 6-foot, 6-inch box is available on Crew Cab models. These cargo boxes have available new upper tie downs (moveable and rated at 500 pounds each), under-bedrail LED lighting, and an EZ Lift and Lower tailgate (uses an integrated torsion bar to make lifting easier and a rotary damper that allows for controlled and quiet lowering). A new CornerStep rear bumper works in conjunction with built-in hand grip pockets in the new bedrail protectors to make it easier to step up into the bed whether the tailgate is up or down. Finally, all trim packages get new-design wheels.
The new Silverado and Sierra will be available with either a new 4.3L V-6, 5.3L V-8, or 6.2 L V-8 gasoline engine. This trio is referred to as the EcoTec3 family of engines. All of these engines use aluminum blocks and heads and are equipped with direct injection, cylinder deactivation (ability to run in four-cylinder mode), and continuously variable valve timing. GM says that this combination of advanced technologies is not found on other competitors’ trucks and they point out that you get GMs latest technology on even the base 4.3L V-6 engine. One of the engines many features is a design that mounts the fuel pump under the intake manifold to reduce noise. GM says the new engines feature improved power, torque, and fuel efficiency. SAE-certified horsepower and torque ratings and EPA fuel economy estimates weren’t available at press time.
All three engines are paired with the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission that has refined calibrations and algorithms to match up with the power curves of the new engines. The transmission features Auto Grade Braking, which downshifts on downgrades to help reduce brake wear. The 6L80 also includes a new torque converter that features a quicker lockup of the clutch. As found in the ’13 Silverado, the 6L80 has a new output carrier ring gear that reduces mass by about 2 pounds.
One transfer case serves all applications and it’s an NV246 two-speed unit with 2WD, Auto, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo settings. It’s shifted electronically via a dash-mounted rotary switch to the left of the driver. This transfer case is the type of unit used in the previous generation GM ½-ton trucks, but for the 2014 GM ½-ton trucks it has a new controller and some software enhancements for control.
New this year, there’s a different rear axle for each of the three engines. Trucks equipped with the 4.3L V-6 are fitted with the 8.6-inch rear axle. Vehicles equipped with the 5.3L V-8 get a redesigned 9.5-inch axle, which among other things has had its mass reduced by about 22 pounds in part through higher strength but lighter weight steel. Trucks equipped with the 6.2L V-8 are fitted with a new 9.76-inch rear axle. All of these axles are available with an rpm-sensing automatic locking rear differential. It’s also important to note that all of these axles are now fitted with disc brakes that use Duralife rotors. These rotors have a hardened and strengthened surface that resist rusting, potentially doubling the life of the rotors and improving vehicle appearance.
Located up front is an 8.25-inch axle, which is the same type of unit found in the previous generation trucks. Its enhancements include a new actuator to engage the passenger-side axleshaft.
Up front, the new trucks continue to use a coil-over-shock IFS setup with aluminum upper and lower control arms (on some models) that are both lighter and stiffer than those found on the previous generation trucks. The front springs are also 30 percent stiffer than those found on the previous generation trucks and among other things this helps improve the new trucks braking distance. Out back, the trucks continue to use two-stage multi-leaf springs and the bushings have been revised for an improved ride. The twin-tube front and rear shocks have new valving to improve damping at low speeds. Now is also a good time to note that both trucks use new all-electric, variable-assist power steering. Eliminating the engine-driven pump reduces fuel consumption and eliminates the maintenance associated with hydraulic power steering.
GM says that the new interior was designed to be quieter, roomier, more comfortable, and more functional. Important controls are located close to the driver and grouped functionally. GM made an effort to keep the instrument panel simple. Knobs, buttons and interfaces are large, easy to read, and easy to operate, even with gloves on. The sheer amount of interior storage is impressive, and includes some clever in-door cavities. There are also multiple USB ports, along with 12- and 110-volt power outlets. The material used for the cloth seats is a new high-wear product that is more durable and easy to clean. If you live in a cold climate you’ll be pleased to know that there is now a heated seat option for cloth seating. The base 40/20/40 front seats utilize a flip-down console/armrest, while the optional bucket seats feature a full console.
Of particular interest to those of us who travel off-road is the Z71 package that’s available on the Silverado (it’s called All-Terrain on the Sierra). The package includes the automatic locking rear differential, front tow hooks, a transfer case skidplate and unique wheels and tires. New for 2014, these two packages will include monotube Rancho shock absorbers and Hill Descent Control, which uses the anti-lock braking system to enable smooth and controlled descent in rough terrain.
It’s pretty clear that GM did its homework on the new ½-ton trucks. After spending a few hours crawling over and under them we left impressed by GMs efforts. We’re excited at the prospect of getting behind the wheel to see how all of the features work together.