While the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado remains powered by a family of V-6 and V-8 engines--in the same sizes/displacements as last year--don't let that mislead you. GM has developed a new generation of co-called EcoTec3 V-6 and V-8 engines to power these all-new trucks.
All three engines are a pushrod design (GM boasts of the packaging advantage these ‘small block’ engines usually have versus overhead-cam designs), but they have aluminum blocks and heads and incorporate direct injection, as well as cylinder deactivation and continuously variable engine timing.
The base 90-degree, 4.3-liter V-6 is essentially a V-8 with two cylinders lopped off, but it has a balance-shaft design for smoothness. And with 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft, the V-6 is now strong enough to power crew-cab models or trailer-tow. In fact, we think that for all the full-size buyers who never tow more than a modest pleasure boat or a trailer of snowmobiles or ATVs, this V-6 has more than enough muscle for the job. We towed a 4.700-pound camper-trailer with the V-6 and had no problem merging into rapidly moving traffic or maintaining speed on rather steep hills.
Meanwhile, the 5.3-liter V-8 remains the mainstream pick. It makes 355 hp and 383 pound-feet of torque and allows the Silverado to, when properly equipped, tow up to 11,500 pounds. We've found performance with this engine to be confident and quick, even with a load.
Meanwhile, the top 6.2-liter V-8 truly the way to go for the most power, torque, and capability. This engine makes 420 hp and 450 lb-ft and can tow up to 12,000 pounds.
All three engines also have cylinder deactivation technology, which allows the engine to smoothly transition to running on four cylinders (for the V-6 or the V-8s) when coasting or decelerating. There’s even an active exhaust system to fine-tune back pressure and keep out the odd pulsation that such a system can produce.
You can indeed get eight-speed automatic transmission in some competing trucks, but the six-speed automatics in these GM rigs still not only do the job, but do it without ever missing a step. Ratios seem right for these engines, which have torque sweet spots as wide as the rack of a Texas steer. Upshifts are never jarring, even when pulling a load, and they're right there with a downshift when you need it.
The outgoing generation of GM’s trucks has been lauded from the start for its well-tuned ride and responsive handling, and the new 2014 models do it even better—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 we can actually say is an improvement (both in on-center feel and off-center weighting) over the outgoing hydraulic setup, while four-wheel disc brakes are standard across the model line, and a Duralife rotor design offers a longer service life.