Deer Lake, Newfoundland – One of the more noticeable things in this part of The Rock, after the blackflies and the moose collision warning signs, is how many Chevy Silverados are out here.
So it’s a logical place for the Canadian launch of the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, the first time it’s had a complete overhaul since 2007.
The mechanically-identical GMC Sierra is likewise updated, but this time around, the focus was on Chevy.
Disclosure: Travel, accommodations, meals, and a predetermined route were provided to the author by the automaker.
From its original low-volume status as a work-only model, the crew cab is now the top-selling configuration, and so that’s what was available exclusively on this launch. The two-door regular cab remains the same, but there’s a major change to the double (extended) cab model: instead of being hinged at the rear, the back doors are now hinged at the front.
Whether that’s better or worse will be a matter of personal preference. You no longer have to open the front door in order to open a rear one, and the new B-pillar makes the cab stronger, but you don’t get that wide-open space for loading when the two doors are open.
The top-level High Country trim is just as nice inside as any Cadillac
I’m very impressed with its accessibility. All of the full-size trucks have bulked up to a ridiculous size, and even tall drivers have to crawl up into them, or slide off the seat out of them, which wears thin pretty quickly (both the patience, and the seat fabric). Chevy’s engineers brought down the “hip point” of the seat. So while the truck is still unnecessarily large, it’s relatively easy to climb in and out of it.
At the rear, most models include an integrated step in the bumper, similar to that found on the defunct Avalanche, with a corresponding hand-hold in the box rail. It’s brilliantly simple: put your foot in the step, grab the hand-hold, and pull yourself up to access the bed.
Ford uses a pull-out step and lift-up handle in the tailgate, which also works well, but is more complicated. Ram provides nothing but a sliver of bumper when the gate’s down, and I’m always terrified to climb up, since I can see slipping off it and smashing my knee on the way down.
While the 2014 truck doesn’t look radically different from the 2013 at the first quick glance, the changes are there, including a bolder grille, sculpted sides, projector headlamps, and more differentiation between the trim levels. The crew cab also offers a 6-foot-6 box, as well as the 5-foot-8 box previously offered.
The interior is the biggest change, and Chevy has taken its old, dated cabin and has turned it into one that, in the upper trim levels, may be the best in the segment. Even the base level is well-finished, while the upper LTZ line includes metallic inserts, dash panel stitching, and soft-touch materials. There’s a new High Country trim line coming later this year, designed to compete with Ford’s King Ranch and Ram’s Laramie Longhorn, although the GMC Sierra Denali will still offer a bit more luxury.
Controls are grouped by purpose, and are extremely well-positioned
Little things in the cabin impress, such as controls that are grouped by purpose: the four-wheel dial selector and the trailer brake controller are close together, for example. If there’s an option you didn’t order, there will be a different dash panel inserted, rather than a cheap-looking blank button that tells the world you didn’t spring for the extra goodies.
Go the other way with your wallet, and you’ll be able to add such items as air-conditioned seats, a heated steering wheel, LED lights in the bed rails (handy if you’re adding a cap or tonneau), MyLink connectivity system with eight-inch touch screen and voice recognition, and forward collision and lane departure nannies that can warn you through a vibrating seat, a feature first seen on Cadillac.
Thanks to some interior design tricks, such as thinner seats, there’s more legroom in the rear of the crew cab. However, there’s still a transmission hump. Ford’s the only one of the domestics with a flat rear floor, which you really appreciate when you’re trying to slide large boxes inside.
Fuel economy misers will opt for the capable and all-new 4.3-litre V6, specifically tuned for great mileage
Three engines are offered: a 5.3-litre V8 that will be the first available (355 horsepower/383 lb-ft of torque); followed by a 4.3-litre V6 (285 horsepower/305 torque); and later in the year, a 6.2-litre V8 (specs to be announced). All come exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. Properly equipped, the 5.3-litre has a maximum towing capacity of 11,500 lbs, while the V6 will pull up to 7,200 lbs.
Those are the same displacements as in the outgoing model, but they’re completely new, to the point that an engineer told me that the carry-over parts will “fit in a sandwich bag.” They’re now called EcoTec3 engines, thanks to three new-for-2014 technologies designed to improve fuel economy: direct gasoline injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation that shuts off some of the cylinders when full power isn’t needed.
All three will drop to four-cylinder operation when the system activates, which is unusual on a V6. The switch is seamless and you can really only tell by looking at a small indicator in the instrument cluster. It’s primarily a coaching tool, and a good one, since I found myself continually trying to lighten my foot to bring up that green-ringed “V4.”
The Silverado rides and handles very well, and I think it’s the quietest truck on the market right now, thanks to such things as aerodynamic styling (despite its flat-face appearance, there are a lot of wind-cheating tricks designed into it), considerable sound-deadening material, and doors that are now inset rather than wrapped into the roof.
While full pricing hasn’t yet been announced, the base 5.3-litre V8 models will be $25,540 for regular cab, $29,435 for double cab, and $30,995 for the crew cab.
Overall, for as well-done as this new Silverado is, General Motors has basically just caught up to its competition, making the updates that have been long overdue on this model. It doesn’t leapfrog the other trucks, but it’s essential that you put it on the test-drive list when you’re doing your comparison shopping.