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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ Crew Pickup Truck of the Year Report

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 14, 2016
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Here in California, most people don’t realize how good a fullsize truck is when used on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s a land ruled by the Prius, and most people think pickups are just for cowboys and plumbers—stiff riding with dismal fuel economy. They’re missing out because our year with the big Chevy 1500 has proven that a 1/2-ton pickup is the perfect way to get around California with a family and toys and still achieve respectable economy. We’ve learned a lot about the truck during our time together, and to sum it up, we’re not happy to have to give it back.

The perfect bookend to this truck’s year with us was another trip partway across the country to support our sister brand’s (Diesel Power) event, Diesel Power Challenge in Denver, Colorado. Long-distance cruising is this truck’s forte, and there’s no better jaunt to stretch a vehicle’s legs than the mostly empty stretch between Los Angeles and Colorado. It’s just over 1,000 miles from our offices in Southern California to the normally sunny mile-high city, and most travelers make the trip in two days. However, making the trip in one day with this truck is completely comfortable and effortless, regardless of weather. In fact, the cab is so quiet and relaxed at 80 mph speeds that it’s possible to join conference calls via the onboard Bluetooth system without anyone noticing you’re mobile. During a week of running around Denver, it never stopped raining, and the trip home involved snow and slush around the Continental Divide on I-70, but none of that was able to slow the big Silverado from its appointed rounds. The only regret during long-distance travel is the size of the fuel tank. Range is typically just shy of 400 miles on the highway, which is good, but 500-plus miles would make this an ever better long-distance traveler. Otherwise, it’s hard to even explain how comfortable and fatigue-free it is to drive the Silverado for even 13 hours at a time.

Our third and last service was requested by the onboard diagnostics at 23,500 miles and was again handled expertly at Guaranty Chevrolet in Santa Ana, California. Service again consisted of oil and filter change and tire rotation. Thankfully it fell just within the truck’s no-charge service for 2 years or 24,000 miles. Aside from the initial recall last year involving a necessary computer reflash to correct a transfer case issue, there have been no other technical service bulletins or recalls during our year of testing. Nothing has fallen off or wiggled loose, and there are no rattles or unexplained noises emanating from anywhere.

There’s some wear showing on the driver seat bottom cushion leather from ingress and egress, which appears attributable to the light color. Otherwise the truck appears and feels the same as when delivered. The big Goodyears on 20-inch wheels show very little wear and have remained extremely smooth and balanced, but we’d skip the 20-inch wheel option if we bought this truck. A little more sidewall would help the ride greatly, and any degradation in handling would be minimal. The brakes are strong, smooth, and easy to modulate and show no drop in stopping ability or warping after 24,000 hard miles of commuting and towing in LA traffic. As noted in previous quarterly updates, we’ve heard of vibration complaints from other owners, but we’re still impressed by how supremely smooth and quiet this truck is, even at high speeds. In fact, it’s very easy to sneak way up past the posted speed limit without noticing. Good thing there’s a speed alarm that can be set by the user.

The 5.3L EcoTech3 V-8 engine has a great balance of power and economy, and the average mileage figure is up slightly by a margin of 0.4 mpg from the previous test period. The transmission tuning gives the truck a split personality because it’s always seeking to upshift and get into the highest gear immediately for economy. That’s all fine and dandy, but what typically happens when merging into freeway traffic is that the transmission has already grabbed Sixth gear about the time you call for more power, and you’re forced to wait while all the computers talk and decide it’s OK to downshift a few cogs and open the throttle for you. Sometimes it feels like you’re operating an old ship’s telegraph. However, once everything goes back into go-fast mode and lets all 355 hp loose, this truck really sings. Real-world fuel economy has ranged from 14s in stop-and-go driving, to high 19s on the highway.

Nothing’s perfect, and our complaints are mostly regarding electronics. The navigation system displays traffic on the map, but data acquisition is agonizingly slow at start up. That means the info comes on too late to make any decisions about your route to work. By the time you’re alerted to a traffic tie-up, you’re in it. There’s a voice-activated function, but we were never able to get it to understand our commands. At least for now phones are way better for that. Also, the backup camera is a little low resolution and fuzzy, making trailer connections harder than they should be. We found the forward park assist to be not very useful and mostly giving off false alarms by seeing items in its periphery that were not really a concern. Finally, Bluetooth connectivity is a fantastic feature but seemed to be in a transition phase where the audio play function only worked most of the time.

Overall, the build quality, fit-and-finish, and the way this truck has held up during our year of testing are what have impressed us the most. The competition in this segment has forced everyone to build a better product, and the consumer is benefitting from it. The new Silverado has come a very long way in terms of quality, comfort, performance, braking, and fuel economy from just a few years ago. We’d like to see a more off-road-themed version of this truck, but if you’re looking for a competent tow rig that’s also supremely comfortable hauling the family across the country, Chevy has built it.

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 – w/8-inch diagonal color touch navigation ($795), 8-inch chrome assist steps ($700), heated & cooled seats – driver and front passenger ($650), soft folding tonneau cover, dealer installed ($590), seats, full leather appointed buckets ($325), trailer brake controller ($230), steering column, tilt and telescoping ($100), movable upper tie downs ($60), LED bed lighting ($60).

Report: 4 of 4
Previous reports: Three
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: 23,870
Miles since last report: 6,270
Average mpg (this report): 16.4
Test best tank (mpg): 18.8 (Highway between 70-80 MPH)
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.4 (Around town, short trips)


This period: Oil and filter change, tire rotation, software re-flash, $0 (Service included for 2 years / 24,000 miles)
Problem areas: None

What’s hot, what’s not:

Hot: Build quality, fit-and-finish, quiet cab.
Not: Separate key fob, highway-tuned ride.

Logbook quotes:

“Front parking assist is great at crying wolf, but not actually useful for parking”

“Traffic data takes so long to appear on screen that I’m usually where I need to go before I know what the traffic is like”

“Best truck for LA to Denver nonstop ever”

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