GM debuts first all new pickups since 2007

The long-anticipated debut of the 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickup trucks  came today with much flourish and excitement, as journalists enjoyed an unveiling long in the making.

Both GM truck traditionalists and those those looking for a different perspective on a workhorse truck or a sport vehicle will be pleased at the results.  If you like the robust appearance for which GM trucks have been known, these new vehicles will continue to satisfy.

Presented by Jeff Luke, executive chief engineer for full and mid-size trucks and Carl Hillenbrand, product manager for next-generation Silverado and Sierra, the new light-duty vehicles are providing a launch pad for heavy-duty, SUVs and mid-sized trucks.  These, they indicated would not be far behind, as sleeping-giant GM plays catch up with its competitors.

The pickup truck segment, which has rebounded to 1.6-million vehicles a year (up from 1.1-million in 2009), is the fourth largest business segment in the industry,” Luke explained.  “They average more than 10-years on the road; and crew cabs account for 70% of sales…more amazing when you consider that none were available as 2001.  There is huge pent-up demand for new pickup trucks.”

In describing the new trucks, he said, “On these new GM trucks, everything is better and some things are significantly better.”  Among these, he mentioned fuel economy, cost of ownership and long service life.   He also noted that there are a lot of affordable new features and vehicles designed to meet the uptick in upscale pickup trucks, a trend that has grown in recent years.

His comments set the stage for two sets of vehicles — one for Silverado and the other GMC Sierra enthusiasts.

New engines are at the heart of the 2014 trucks

Three engines will be available, all part of the fifth generation of small block aluminum engines for which the company is known.  Engines based on the small block architecture are typically smaller and lighter than competitive engines with overhead camshafts.  GM says that they typically have lower friction, and along with lighter weight, this can contribute to improved efficiency.

The three engines include ECOTEC3 engines in 4.3L V-6, 5.3 V-8 and 6.2L V-8. These feature all new engineering with key design changes and all are direct injection with enhanced combustion chamber technology.  They also feature Active Fuel Management for active cylinder deactivation.  Often called start-stop technology, this kind of system deactivates cylinders when the truck is at a stop.  The V-6 and V-8s operate like a four cylinder engine until the driver removes his foot from the break which activates all cylinders.  This is seamless and peripheral functions — HVAC, radio, infotainment, etc. — all continue to operate during active cylinder deactivation.  The system is designed to yield more horsepower, torque and fuel economy.

It was a bit of a disappointment that that horsepower and torque numbers, as well as fuel efficiency numbers were not released, either at the Texas backgrounder session or at the Detroit presentation.  Tow and load capabilities were also not provided, although GM did throw out the phrase “best-in-class” several times during the debut.

Since the trucks are not going to be available until some time in the second quarter, it could be that they are still being tested or that an effort is being made pre-production to increase these numbers by tweaking some of the elements of the engines, or the entire truck.  It could also be that GM is stretching out this introduction by having new information when the truck is first shown to the public at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in early January.

Other features include an advance oiling system which incorporates a new variable-displacement oil pump to enable more efficient oil delivery, based upon operating conditions.  Its dual-pressure control enables operation at a very efficient oil pressure at lower rpm and deliver higher oil pressure at higher speeds to provide more robust lubrication.

Oil capacity has been increased to 6-quarts for the 4.3L and to 8-quarts for the V-8 engines.  All trucks also feature GM’s oil life monitor which recommends oil changes based upon actual engine operating conditions rather than accrued miles.

To help reduce piston temperature, small jets spray oil on the underside of each piston.  This enables the engine to maintain maximum horsepower and torque while reducing engine noise.

PVC-integrated rocker covers are domed to house a patent-pending integrated positive crankcase ventilation system that enhances oil life, reduces oil consumption and reduces exhaust emissions.  The domed sections contain baffles that separate about three times the oil/air separation from crankcase gases.

Cast iron exhaust manifolds were developed to improve durability and sealing an reduce operating noise.  The architecture allows each section to move under extreme temperature fluctuations to eliminate movement of the gaskets.  Noise is reduced dramatically.

Other features include:

  • a new cooling system with an offset water pump and thermostat for better performance
  • air induction humidity sensor for optimal combustion efficiency
  • engine driven mechanical vacuum pump for better braking