The all-new 2014 GM ½-ton pickups have people talking. And why wouldn’t they? This is the first major redesign of the pickups in seven years. We all know that trucks are, and probably always will be, an extremely important facet of GM’s product line. Heck, trucks are an important part of almost all manufacturers’ product line, and competition is fierce.
Back in the month of December we traveled to Detroit, Michigan, for a sneak peek at the all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. During this visit, we had the chance to examine each truck and chat with engineers. You can read the details of that visit in “The General Has Spoken,” which published in the April 2013 issue of Four Wheeler. Recently, we had the opportunity to travel to Texas for some seat time behind the wheel of the new Silverado. The trip was brief, offering only 3-4 hours of actual driving time, but we did get to experience the truck on- and off-road, as well as towing. This allowed us to gather some observations and form a general opinion on the new truck.
When we slid into the driver seat of an LTZ-trimmed 4x4 Crew Cab model we quickly found that we’re big fans of the new six-gauge instrument cluster. It’s a no-nonsense design that places everything important in a tight grouping. The result of this is that less eye movement is required to scan the gauges. This means less time taking your eyes off the road or trail. And in that vein, we also like the location of the climate and radio controls. This new design places the aforementioned items high in the dash, and more at eye level, reminiscent of the Pure Pickup interior that was available in the previous generation Silverado. The upshot is that all it takes to view the aforementioned controls is a quick glance to the side instead of having to look to the side and down like on the standard previous generation dash layout. Fore and aft seating in the Crew Cab was comfortable, and it’s worth noting that the rear seating is easy to access (thanks to wider rear doors), roomy, and comfortable. The rear seating is definitely not a penalty box in the Silverado, due in part to the two-inch increase in legroom compared to the previous model. We were also impressed at the vast amount of technology that’s integrated into the interior. This includes, but is hardly limited to, two 12-volt power points, a 110-volt power outlet, five USB ports, and a 4.2-inch color driver information display located in the center of the instrument cluster. The truck we were driving also had the MyLink system with 8-inch color touch screen and navigation capabilities. The MyLink system capabilities are staggering, but interestingly, the system has a home screen that is similar to a smartphone or tablet, so we found that if you can navigate said devices you’ll probably have no problem operating the MyLink.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Ride, handling, power, mpg
Not: Approach angle
Our Take: A potent weapon in the ½-ton pickup truck war
On-road, the 355hp, 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8 (with direct injection and FlexFuel capability) was snappy, hauling the Crew Cab seemingly with ease. It also performed admirably while towing a trailer with skid-steer that had a total combined weight of 7,600 pounds. This was due partly to the engine’s decent 383 lb-ft of torque. The engine was also amazingly quiet at idle (due in part to a valved exhaust that decreases exhaust noise at idle) and it had a throaty growl but was non-intrusive under load. The engine and Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission seemed happy working together and they never seemed at odds with jerky or confused shifting. The truck will also be available with a 6.2L V-8 (late availability) and a 4.3L V-6, neither of which we had the opportunity to drive. The truck’s handling was outstanding, due in part to the revised front coil-over-shock front suspension, revised leaf-spring rear suspension, wider wheels, and electric variable-assist power steering system that tailors steering assist to vehicle speed. The suspension changes also contribute to vastly improved ride quality. We found that the improved ride and the changes to the body structure and body mounts make for a smooth, vault-like cabin experience. All these things combined to create a truck that doesn’t drive or ride like a truck.
Naturally, we were most interested in how the new Silverado performed in non-paved environments. When it came to off-road travel we belted into a Silverado equipped with the Z71 off-road package and we pointed the truck toward the trail loop that GM created for us on a Texas ranch. The Z71 package includes 46mm monotube Rancho shocks and they complimented the revised suspension in the rough stuff. We had no complaints regarding the Silverado’s ride or handling off-road. Hill descent control is a new feature included with the Z71 package and it’s designed to allow a smooth, controlled descent using the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system. We had a chance to test it on several steep downhill sections and we have to say that it works exactly as advertised. It’s worth noting that the hill descent feature can be disengaged. The Z71 package also includes an automatic locking rear differential, which also worked quite well in the hills, water, and dirt we experienced. As a bonus, this differential acts as a conventional light-bias limited-slip unit during normal driving conditions. We were able to scoot down a dirt trail at speed and at the first hairpin turn we noticed how the new brake pedal revisions and larger brake rotors help to improve the four-wheel disc brakes compared to the previous model. A firm pedal feel met our foot as a swift decrease in forward velocity followed. Off-road (and on-road) the standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control system is utterly amazing and provides precise and controlled ABS stops, greater traction, cornering stability, and rollover mitigation. If you’re like us, there are times when you don’t want it however, and for times like those it can be disengaged. The Crew Cab we were driving with the standard 5-foot, 8-inch cargo box has an approach angle of 17.9 degrees, a departure angle of 23.3 degrees, and a minimum ground clearance of 8.9 inches. Interestingly, that approach angle is 2.4 degrees better than the approach angle found on the previous generation Crew Cab 4x4 Silverado. We’d still like to see a better approach angle, but we get that a low front end is one of the design factors that helps to improve fuel mileage on the highway.
Our drive time with the Silverado may have been somewhat brief, but we’re left with the opinion that GM has trotted out a Silverado that is vastly improved over the previous version in regards to powertrains, fuel mileage, ride, handling, braking, technology, and yes, even offroadability. We’re hoping to get some more seat time in the Silverado soon, so stay tuned.
General (as tested)
Vehicle/model: 2014 Chevy Silverado Crew Cab 1500 LTZ 4x4 w/5-foot, 8-inch box
Base price: $42,385
As tested: $49,630
Engine(s): 5.3L EcoTec3 FlexFuel V-8 w/Active Fuel Management
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 355/383 (gasoline), 380/416 (E85)
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6L80
Transfer case: NV246 2-spd
4WD system(s): Part-time w/2WD, Auto, 4-Hi, 4-Lo
Low-range ratio: 2.72:1
Frame type: Hydroformed high-strength steel
Suspension, f/r: Independent coil-over-shock, twin-tube shock absorbers/semi-elliptic, variable-rate, two-stage multileaf springs, splayed
Axles, f/r: 8.25-in/9.5-in
Axle ratio(s): 3.42:1
Max crawl ratio(s): 37.5:1
Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13x1.18-in/13.6x0.79-in
Wheels (in): 18
Wheelbase (in): 143.5
Length (in): 230.0
Height (in): 74.0
Width (in): 80
Base curb weight (lb): 5,218
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 17.9/23.3
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.9
Payload (lb): 1,957
Cargo volume (cu ft): 53.4
Max towing capacity (lb): 9,600
Fuel capacity (gal): 26.0
Fuel economy (mpg): 16 city, 22 hwy