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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 Crew Cab - Long Term Report: Part 1 of 4

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 16, 2014
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This is our 2014 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year award winner, and as always, we requested an example for further testing and evaluation during a full year of real-world use. You can find the full story on the shootout in the Feb. ’14 issue or at fourwheeler.com, but to summarize, the all-new Silverado edged out a win over the Tundra TRD and Ram 2500 after a week of brutal testing both on- and off-road in the SoCal mountains and deserts. What’s interesting about the results is that the Toyota, because of its suspension tuning, was more suited to driving in the rough stuff, but couldn’t get the top accolade. The Chevy’s powerful new engine, interior comfort, and high build quality were strong enough to convince the judges for the win, even though our testing is heavily weighted towards off-road prowess.

We ordered this truck in essentially the same level of trim as the one we tested back in October—a Z71 package, LTZ trim, and the new 5.3L gasoline V-8. While we did consider ordering the bigger 6.2L, our policy is to conduct long-term evaluations with the same version of the truck that won the award. Checking the LTZ Plus and other options brought the final price up to $53,210 from a base of $45,050. Skip the 20-inch chrome wheels, sunroof, and chrome assist steps, and you’ll be just fine for far less money.

The new engine is fantastic. Access for maintenance is great, with plenty of room to reach around, and everything is well marked.

Our previous experience with a 5.3L GM V-8 left us wanting a little more grunt. That was in a long-term ‘07 Avalanche (also a Pickup Truck of the Year winner). The 2014 engine is all new, besides sharing a few small parts with the previous 5.3L, and features direct injection, continuously variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust valves, and cylinder deactivation. Now making 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, we’re no longer feeling any lack of acceleration. Both in everyday driving and towing, the power comes on early and moves the truck effortlessly, requiring much less engine speed to develop enough power than the old 5.3L. The noises emitted are just as glorious as you’d expect a small-block Chevy to be, especially when you manually downshift the six-speed automatic and the engine rev-matches the spinning drivetrain perfectly. Upshifts are quick, smooth, and mostly transparent, although six cogs don’t feel like enough anymore compared to some of the competition. The transmission can be confused sometimes, however, when rolling back into the throttle after lifting at low speeds, especially in traffic. This results in a slight stumble and a “clunk” sound from the drivetrain.

After receiving the truck at our Irvine, California, office in June, and after a short break-in period, we headed off to Nebraska to support the start of our sister magazine 4-Wheel & Off-Road’s Ultimate Adventure. The trip was an experience in extreme summer tornado weather in the Midwest, with high winds and heavy rain squalls with near zero visibility crossing Nebraska. All the while, we were impressed with the truck’s safe feeling of comfort and refinement, no matter how angry Mother Nature got. Fortunately, we ordered the dealer-installed soft-folding tonneau cover, which kept our full load of supplies dry. One the way back, we made the entire 1,400-mile trip home to California in one session. That wasn’t the original plan, but the cab is so quiet and comfortable that 191⁄2 hours of driving in one day didn’t seem very onerous. Finally, the trip average of over 19 mpg is very impressive when you consider an engine with very low miles and speeds of 80 mph, which is the speed limit for much of Interstate 15 in Utah.

Requires full stop before driving over speed bumps; seems like a Z71 should float over bumps.

Otherwise, since delivery, the truck has experienced almost 6,500 miles of commuting, light off-road weekend trips, and some towing of a 6,600-pound 22-foot toy hauler trailer up and down the California coastline. The truck feels surprisingly spry towing such a heavy trailer with the small V-8, and the only time a little more power would be welcome is on long very steep grades on the highway. In fact, we’re wondering if the 6.2L wouldn’t be overkill for most situations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So far there have been no issues with the entire vehicle, besides a recall from GM that requires a re-flash of the ECU that we haven’t addressed yet. Apparently some trucks have shifted their transfer cases into Neutral by themselves, and we’ve been told to always use the parking brake to avoid a runaway truck. Makes us wonder if some disgruntled code writer put that in on purpose as an Easter egg. We’ll handle the recall during the first service visit to the dealer, which will be due in the next few weeks.

The interior is large, plush, and whisper-quiet in all situations. We’ve heard BMW-driving coworkers mention that it’s quieter than their cars.

The biggest drawback to this truck is the front suspension, or lack thereof. Speed bumps require almost a full stop before summiting, which is silly for what GM considers an off-road package. Large undulations on freeway interchanges occasionally toss the driver into the ceiling, and trips into the backcountry on dirt roads are more punishing than relaxing. Since we haven’t driven a non-Z71 version, we don’t know if this is confined to this version of the truck, but it seems that the off-road trim level should soak up bumps with aplomb, not shy away from them. Rancho-branded Tenneco monotube shocks are standard and a nice choice, but it appears they were tuned by engineers who prefer a very firm ride. The payoff is on twisting backroads, where the combined firm suspension, low stance, and big sticky 275/55R20 Goodyears provide a surprisingly sporty experience.

We’re looking forward to our remaining time with this truck. The build quality is excellent, the interior is plush, the fuel economy is good, and rattles are nonexistent. Need a bunch of stuff hauled to Nebraska? No problem.

Report: 1 Of 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $45,050
Price as tested: $53,210
Four-wheel-drive system: Part time, electronically controlled, two-speed

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 6,345
Miles since last report: 0

Average mpg (this report): 15.9
Test best tank (mpg): 19.6 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.6 (towing 6,600-pound trailer)

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: Software recall

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Endless gobs of torque down low, super quiet cab
Not: Suspension tuned for highway, not dirt

Logbook Quotes
“The styling is so conservative that I have to look for the steps in the ends of the rear bumper to know it’s a new Chevy.”
“Love this engine—never needs to rev to the redline to make power.”

Options as tested
LTZ Plus package: power adjustable pedals, Bose audio system, front and rear park assist, heated steering wheel ($1,165), 20-inch chrome wheels ($1,395), power sunroof ($995), Chevrolet MyLink Audio system with 8-inch diagonal color touch navigation ($795), 8-inch chrome assist steps ($700), heated & cooled seats—driver and front passenger ($650), dealer-installed soft folding tonneau cover ($590), full-feature leather appointed buckets ($325), trailer-brake controller ($230), tilt/telescoping steering column ($100), movable upper tie downs ($60), LED bed lighting ($60).

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