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Completely redesigned and updated for the first time in a long seven years, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck line follows a new and tougher design that looks closer than ever to Chevy's even larger heavy-duty pickup models. The look is chiseled and upright--both inside and out--but an engine lineup that manages to be stronger and more fuel-efficient at the same time keeps the Silverado up to date technically despite the lack of turbochargers or aluminum bodywork.
The cabins are far quieter and more refined on all models, and the infotainment options and safety technology are fully modern, with a feature set available at the top of the lineup that's much closer to what you'd expect of a large luxury sedan than that of an old-school pickup truck.
Pickup design and styling is always a balancing act between the new and the traditional, with most truck buyers firmly hewing to a preference for evolutionary rather than revolutionary design. One challenge for Chevrolet may be that the new Silverado's styling is too evolutionary; you may have to look twice to realize that it's a new model at all. Plus, the new heavy-duty look applied to these trucks carries with it some pros and cons.
From the front, the look erases complaints that the Silverado trucks were formerly wallflowers in the corral. Their wall-of-chrome grille designs and chopped-off snouts—arguably building on the look of the latest Silverado 2500 and 3500 HD models—combine with a heightened stance to keep the tall-and-imposing rivalry going.
Inside, GM has resisted the urge to make the interior of its trucks either more complex, or even lower and more carlike. The new instrument panel is upright and simplified, with controls clustered either just to the left of the steering wheel or in a large, upright center-console cluster, and GM has aimed to make all the knobs, buttons, and interfaces easy to read and operate even with work gloves on. In upscale High Country package trucks, the look of the interior is upgraded with high-quality but durable-seeming leather, wood trim, and a larger eight-inch touchscreen display.
GM has developed a new generation of co-called EcoTec3 V-6 and V-8 engines to power these all-new trucks. The base 4.3-liter V-6 makes 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft, and it's now torquey enough to power crew-cab models or trailer-tow, and we think it has enough power for all but those with the most serious towing and hauling needs. Nevertheless the 5.3-liter V-8 remains the mainstream pick, now up to 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, and the top 6.2-liter V-8 is the way to go for the most power, torque, and capability. It makes 420 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, and can tow up to 12,000 pounds. All of them have direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and continuously variable valve timing—with aluminum blocks and heads—and a six-speed automatic transmission will be fitted to each. There’s even an active exhaust system to fine-tune back pressure and eliminate any pulsation due to the fuel-saving cylinder deactivation that's also standard. The V-6 nets up to 18 mpg city, 24 highway by the EPA, but V-8 models range up to 16/23.
The outgoing generation of GM’s trucks has been lauded from the start for its well-tuned ride and responsive handling, and the new versions promise even more advancements—while also making big gains in quietness and refinement. Front springs are stiffer in the new models, while in back GM uses two-stage leaf springs but adds new spring damping, as well as twin-tube valving to front and rear shocks. All Silverado 1500 models get electric power steering that loads up confidently, and four-wheel disc brakes are standard across the model line, with a Duralife rotor design offering a longer service life.
Three different cargo-bed lengths are offered: 5’8”, 6’6”, and 8’. And for the first time, Crew Cab models will be available with the longest 6’6” cargo box. GM has put a lot of effort into the pickup box design, adding a CornerStep bumper plus hand-grip pockets, both of which make climbing up to access cargo easier. A couple of particularly trick features are that the tailgate is now rotary damped, and LED lamps are tucked under the bed rails.
Vinyl, cloth, and leather seats are all on offer, but in each case they've been upgraded, with higher-class cabin trims used throughout. Ride quality is much quieter, thanks to more sound-isolating materials in the floor and near the firewall. Crew Cab models’ rear doors are larger, for easier entry and exit, and the B-pillar has been moved forward, which helps get feet in more easily. Meanwhile, the rear doors on extended-cab versions now hinge from the front—offering entry and exit ease that’s close to that offered in former Crew Cab models. The front seatbacks are thinner, which adds about two inches of rear legroom and also eases entry and exit. For a more luxurious take--roughly equivalent to GMC's Denali line--there's the new High Country package for the 2014 Silverado. Bringing quality leather upholstery and wood trim, along with other upgrades, the High Country package gives the Silverado the premium feel its highest-end trucks have missed in previous generations.
Safety-wise, the Silverado should provide much better occupant protection than the outgoing model, as the cab structure is all-new, with about two-thirds of it built from high-strength steels. The NHTSA says crew cabs earn its highest five-star rating overall, and the IIHS has given the Silverado top 'good' ratings in all categories of testing so far (small overlap frontal results are yet to come). Standard equipment includes StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control, plus Hill Start Assist, as well as head-curtain side airbags with rollover protection. An available Lane Departure Warning system keeps the driver alert of lane drifts via a chime or optional Safety Alert Seat—much like what’s offered now on the Cadillac XTS and ATS sedans. Bigger spotter mirrors help with visibility in blind spots, while other safety features on offer include a camera-based Forward Collision Alert system. front and rear park assist, and a rear tailgate camera.
The Chevrolet MyLink system is available on the Silverado, offering connectivity for up to ten devices, natural-language voice recognition, and an eight-inch touch screen. The system allows up to 60 favorites for contacts, destinations, radio stations, or other media. All models now include multiple USB ports plus both 12-volt and 110-volt power outlets, and most models include a 4.2-inch color Driver Information Center.