When we last spoke, we were singing – at the top of our constricted lungs – the praises of Dodge’s Grand Caravan. Appropriated for our first residential move in some fifteen years – which is roughly 750 shopping days if you assume (conservatively) one shopping day per week – we were blown away by the Grand Caravan’s comfort and utility. As a follow-up, we reserved Chevy’s 2014 Silverado, in the very likely event we’d be shuffling bigger articles from the new digs (where they might not fit) to the storage facility (where everything fits). To that end, a ‘Victory Red’ Silverado, accented by Cocoa/Dune leather (its real name), showed up in the expansive drive of the new casa.
Our first encounter with the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Z71 was at Knibbe Ranch, a history-laden acreage just north of San Antonio. There, off-road opps combined with short, asphalt-laced laps provided an overview of what the new Silverado can do, but without the day-in/day-out interplay of what the Silverado (for most owners) will do. So with boxes in the bed (and maybe a bed in a box) we began a 10-day process of getting to know – inside and out – this all-new Chevy.
Stylistically, the new Silverado’s sheetmetal follows the pattern established by its predecessor, albeit butched up. Those recent purchasers of the old Silverado – and in North Texas that’s a bunch – won’t be made to feel as if they’re driving something obsolete, but those liking the more macho appeal of Dodge’s Ram will get an appropriate dose of testosterone from Chevy’s heavier metal. The Chevy’s grille is more prominent and sides more angular, all the better to reflect the Silverado’s bulk (our test Crew Cab weighs some 5,000+ pounds) and capability.
Under the new sheetmetal is high-strength steel, making frames and cabs both stronger and lighter. And under the hood, while retaining the same displacements (4.3 liter V6, 5.3 liter V8 and 6.2 liter V8), all of the Chevy powerplants have been extensively reengineered for both enhanced capability and economy.
Inside, new interiors feature ample storage, along with multiple (too many, presumably, to count…) power and USB connections. And if you feel socially isolated (perhaps while trying to park a big-ass pickup in Manhattan) Chevrolet’s MyLink will keep you connected with ‘simple, intuitive’ controls. We, of course, wouldn’t take a pickup thru Manhattan, unless our storage unit happened to be there.
Behind the wheel, you’re most impressed by the new Silverado’s level of refinement. Although full-size trucks, at least in ½-ton, light duty form, have long ceased to be ‘truck-like’, this newest Chevy makes Cadillac’s current Escalade seem so ‘last century’. The Chevy’s seats are supportive, while instrumentation and (most) controls are intuitive. In short, at least in the LTZ Plus trim tested, you and your passengers will not lack for much, given the package’s power adjustable pedals, Bose audio, and heated steering wheel. This, of course, is on top of the LTZ itself, with leather-appointed split bench, 60/40 folding bench, soft IP top pad accent stitch(!), Mylink audio system and Sirius XM.
As a truck, we were impressed by the cargo capacity of the rear passenger compartment for things other than passengers. With the split bench folding ‘up’ with no effort beyond light lifting (something even a coddled journalist can do…), there’s nothing to keep it from being the go-to storage area for safe, secure loading. If you gotta’ bike or a large box, this is where it could/should/would go. And given the relatively wide rear door width and wide-opening aperture, access is as easy as the actual storage.
We were less impressed by the 5’8” box. Of course, I like the symmetry, having at one time claimed to be 5’8”. (Now, that observation is still good for a laugh…). The EZ Lift tailgate lowers and lifts, um, easily, and tie-downs are relatively convenient to access. But the bed liner had a flimsy feel, almost as if it had been spec’d by Chevrolet’s Korean affiliate, GM Daewoo. We’d opt out of the factory liner, and make provision for someone’s spray-in application if the bed was to be used as something other than a bed. And we’re still not sure why more manufacturers don’t opt for Nissan’s Utili-track system of tie-downs. The system is a no-brainer, and so is the decision not to use either it or an adaptation.
On the Silverado’s opposite end is one of the better arguments for continuation of a V8: Chevy’s 5.3 liter with variable valve timing, direct injection and active fuel management. The powertrain, when connected to GM’s 6-speed automatic, is almost seamless in its power delivery. And – notably – its 345 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque move the Silverado’s 5,000 pounds pretty adroitly. We didn’t tow with it, or load it to the gunwales, but 9,600 pounds of towing capacity with a 3.42 axle ratio is nothing to sneeze at, nor is almost a ton of payload capacity.
Lacking the resources to actually fill the tank, we can’t confirm the Silverado’s EPA rating of 16 City/22 Highway/18 Combined, except to note GM has been at the forefront of pickup efficiency from their V8 lineup. A check of the calendar, however, would suggest that in the last half of 2013 it’s high time the Big Three debut light duty diesels in their light duty trucks. Ram, but I don’t begin to understand the reluctance of other truck makers to join them. GM has an inventory of powertrains to draw from, along withthe financial wherewithal (now) to pull the trigger. We’d say pull it.
In sum, the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado (and its GMC stablemate) will go a long way to maintaining the General’s competitive position in this oh-so-important segment. We’ll wait, however, for the new midsize Colorado and Canyon, where – we think – GM has a legitimate chance to actually move the competitive needle. For as competent as the new Silverado would seem, it’s not a revolution; it is, instead, only a very competent evolution of what has gone before. Hot dogs, apple pie…and a bigger, better Chevrolet.
Specifications continue on next page…