Patience is a virtue. Sometimes I like to wait for the dust to settle after driving a newly launched vehicle. You can equate it to swirling a fine wine around in your mouth before declaring it’s best attributes. I decided to do that with the 2014Chevy Silverado 1500 which I recently had an chance to put through its paces — on-road, off-road, with a range of trailers and payloads. Every truck journalist on the planet took directly to their computers, and now I will give you my first driving impressions.
The truck world has been waiting for the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup. No, really. There are few people more loyal to a brand than those who drive Chevy trucks. Even through the years when other truck makers were upping the ante with new architecture,styling, engines, technology and features, those loyal owners continued to keep the brand a strong number two in the marketplace.
Now it is the Chevy lovers’ turn. Is all the hype true? It is. The Silverado looks good, still retaining its Chevy truck DNA. while bringing the design and styling up to marketplace standards. It is quieter than any other Silverado that I have seen. It effortlessly tows up to 11,500-lbs. (we towed everything from a boat to a Bobcat) and performed extremely well. Ditto on load hauling.
Writing about the Silverado not so long ago was a chore; now, it’s a pleasure. There is more than can be covered in a single article so expect to see a few between now and the truck’s full introduction this fall. The trucks we drove were very early-build units.
This week, I am driving the 2014 GMC Sierra which shares many of the same attributes as the Silverado, but I will keep my review of that separate. Just two words until then: luxe truck.
For the Silverado first drive event, Chevy chose a familiar venue, the Knibbe century ranch near San Antonio. This is the home of the Texas Auto Writers Truck Rodeo where the Truck of Texas is anointed annually. Less common is its use for a national introduction, but truck writers from around the US and Canada were impressed with the driving facilities. They love to be invited to Texas. And we love to have them come, then leave wanting more.
GM had a variety of vehicles for test driving including the LT and LTZ trim packages on 2WD and 4WD models. Most had crew cabs and short boxes, the most popular market combinations. (In 2001, there was no such thing as a crew cab — today they account for 59% of truck sales.) On some vehicles there were Z71 packages for looks and performance upgrades.
The WT1 (work truck), most basic of the new vehicles is not in production yet. We got a good look — but no drive — in the impressive High Country edition designed to compete against top-of-the-line entries by the competition. Chevy is quick to admit that they did not have a competitive entry in this segment before, and that the High Country, which is beautiful, is designed to bring them fully up to speed in a single step.
Most of the trucks that were provided featured the completely redesigned 5.3L, Ecotec V-8 engine which has 355-hp and 282 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy numbers for the 5.3L are 16/23 for the 2WD, and 16/22 for the 4WD. There were also a few which had the new 4.3L V-6 which delivers 28hp and a segment-leading 305 ft.-lb. of torque. No EPA numbers have been released for these as yet, but they should be available very soon. All of the engines were mated to the same 6-speed automatic transmission.
Standard on the Ecotec engines is Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation system to increase efficient operation and fuel economy when not under load. This engine shifts from 8 to 4 or 6 to 4 cylinders seamlessly. On the driver information panel, there is a lighted symbol that lets you know when the transition is made.
We have yet to drive the new 6.2 V-8 for which no info has been released as yet. It will be available in the fall, and I expect the wise folks at Chevy will give truck writers a chance to get into those babies as soon as they are available.
Enormous improvements inside and outside and under the hood
When you take such a long break before introducing a new truck or car, persistent rumors run wild. Are they having trouble meeting their mpg goals? Are focus groups dissing styling notes? Is there something specific they need to change prior to launch? Are cost estimates way off base?
In this case, GM has made changes from grill to rear bumper and side to side. The new exterior styling is stronger and bolder from every angle. In presentation, a Chevy guy described it as a “fist in the wind”. Good analogy. There are changes to the twin-port grille, full-width bumper and dual power dome hood echoed in the body sides and fender flares. Many of the changes are for both appearance and performance. The front end design allows for more sealing to improve cooling and the spoiler and roof are aerodynamically designed to smooth airflow for reduce drag. Inlaid doors which hug recesses in the body sides reduce wind noise for a quieter cab. And it is considerably more quiet.
GM says that the new interior is developed entirely around flexibility. I beg to differ. That was the old Silverado interior which languished for years. The 2014 interior is both comfortable and attractive. (For the High Country, I would have to say GORGEOUS.)
There are completely new front seats and cabin space has been modified for an excellent competitive flash. There is substantially more leg room in the second row on Crew Cab models. Double cab doors for the second row are now front hinged — a major improvement that truck owners have complained about for years. On crew cab models, the doors are larger for easier access.
Most of the new Silverados are equipped with MyLink with a 4.2″ OR 8″ color screen. The smaller-screen is standard on 2WT and LT models and includes Bluetooth for phone streaming, two USB ports, an SD card slot and natural voice recognition. The LTZ and High Country have the 8″ hi-def menu driven touch screen. Both have been enabled with with easy to handle controls — something that Ford had to deal with when customer complaints were a frequent (now solved) problem.
Now that you have accepted that driver aids are not a wimp-out, feel free to embrace available forward collision alert, lane departure warning with an active safety driver’s seat, and front and rear park assist. StabiliTrak with trailer sway control and hill start assist are standard on all Silverados.
True to its promise a new, the Silverado truck (at all levels) features an innovative step to the bed. Fully integrated and skid resistant, it ranks as an excellent solution for bed access.
The Texas Edition
Chevy also acknowledged that one-in-six trucks are sold in Texas. We got a good chance to preview the 2014 Texas Edition at this event. For the LT, features such as 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, trailing package with locking rear differential, body-color outside mirror caps and door handles and Texas Edition badging are standard. Added for the LTZ, wheels, door handles and mirror caps are chrome and a Bose premium audio system is added.
In case you ever wondered if a Texas Edition was sold outside of the state, the answer is no…and yes. The badges are only for Texas truck buyers, but a custom sport version with all of the other features will be available for your friends in the U.S. of A.