Hold the frou frou – please.
The just-redesigned GM 1500 series trucks embrace that ethic – and are a sharp counterpoint to their (and every full-size truck’s) chief rival, the Ford F-150.
No overhead cam, “EcoBoosted” multi-turbocharged flapdoodle. Instead, rawboned and effective pushrod power (including a newly invigorated 4.3 V-6 that’s based on the optional V-8 and which makes almost 100 more hp than last year’s standard V-6) wrapped in a handsome hardhat package.
If you like it as much as I like it, the F-truck is in trouble.
The Silverado 1500 is Chevy’s version of GM’s full-size truck. It’s available in regular, extended and crew cab versions, and offers three different bed lengths as well as RWD or 4WD and V-6 or V-8 power.
Base price for a regular cab Work Truck with 4.3 liter V-6, 2WD and 6′ 6″ bed is $26,670. A top-of-the-line Crew Cab High Country with 5.3 liter V-8 and 4WD starts at $48,775.
Main rivals are the Ford F-150 and the Dodge Ram 1500.
The ’14 Silverado is completely redesigned, with new bodywork (including forward-hinged rear doors on extended and crew cab models) a much stronger base engine – and massively powerful optional engines (up to 420 hp).
GM is also tossing in free scheduled maintenance (oil changes and so on) for the first two years or 24,000 miles as part of the deal.
Newly muscled up base V-6 makes opting for the V-8 not necessarily necessary.
Forward hinged rear doors on extended/crew cabs allow them to be opened without opening the front doors first.
Pushrod/OHV engines are simple and take up less room in the engine bay than OHC and turbocharged engines. Probably fewer down the road repair debacles.
Much improved ride on uneven pavement/gravel/dirt roads.
Built-into-the-bumper foot steps so you can access the bed – and LED bed lighting under the bed rails, so you can see inside the bed on a dark night, even with a camper top installed.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Base price is $1,600 higher than base model F-150 ($25,065) and $1,375 more than base Ram 1500 ($25,295)
LCD display for the audio and GPS is not canted toward the driver.
Hemi-equipped Ram offers more hp – and an eight-speed automatic. Dodge also offers a diesel V-6, something no other full-size truck does.
Like all current 1500-series trucks, the Silverado’s bed walls are so high even tall people will need those foot steps built into the rear bumper.
GM has pulled the one loose tooth the old Silverado had – the preposterously under-powered 195 hp V-6 that was standard-issue last year. With Ford giving buyers of the base F-truck a 302 hp 3.7 liter V-6 and the base Ram 1500 packing 305 hp, the ’13 Chevy’s 195 hp base engine seemed downright pitiful. Which it was. Upgrading to the optional 5.3 liter V-8 was almost mandatory, if you wanted to pull anything – or get anywhere quickly. But even then, the Chevy’s step-up 315 hp V-8 only made a handful of hp more than the Ford’s base V-6 – and wasn’t even in the same ballpark as the Ram’s optional 395 hp Hemi.
You see the problem.
GM finally saw it, too. Hence, the new direct-injected 4.3 liter V-6. It makes 285 hp – almost a 100 hp uptick from last year – and more importantly, it produces more torque (305 ft.-lbs.) than the Ford’s smaller displacement base V-6, which only makes 278 ft.-lbs. The Ram’s standard 3.6 liter V-6 put out even less torque than the Ford – just 269 ft.-lbs.
With the new 4.3 engine, the ’14 Silverado can pull 7,200 lbs. – considerably more than the base F-truck (6,400 lbs.) and on par with the V-6 Ram’s 7,450 lb. rating.
The Dodge Ram’s newly available 3 liter turbo-diesel can pull 9,200 lbs.
The 4.3 liter V-6 comes paired with a six-speed automatic and can be ordered with either 2WD or part-time 4WD. Mileage stats are 18 city, 24 with 2WD and 17/22 with 4WD. This is slightly better than the V-6 F-150 – 17 city, 23 highway for the RWD version and 16 city, 21 highway for a 4WD – and slightly worse than the V-6 Ram 1500, which is still the class leader at 17 city, 25 highway with 2WD (16 city, 23 highway with 4WD).
The Chevy’s optional 5.3 liter V-8 has also been muscled up – to 355 hp and 383 ft.-lbs. of torque. This puts it even-Steven (just about) with the F-truck’s optional 5 liter V-8, which makes a bit more hp (360) and a bit less torque (380).The Hemi Ram is stronger, hp and torque-wise (395 hp and 410 ft.-lbs. of torque) but take a look at the towing numbers:
Equipped with the 5.3 V-8, the new Silverado can tug 11,400 lbs. now – up from 10,700 lbs. maximum last year and more than the F-truck with its top-gun 3.5 liter twin turbo “Ecoboost” V-6 (more on this in a moment) and more than the Hemi-equipped Ram’s 10,450 lb. max rating. The 5.3 equipped Silverado even out-tows the SVT Raptor – a special high-performance version of the F-150 – which maxxes out at 11,300 lbs.
And Chevy’s got one more engine in the batter’s box: a 6.2 liter V-8 that will deliver at least 420 hp – completely outclassing the F-truck’s Ecoboost V-6 in every way, from on-paper power to on-street acceleration, as well as maximum tow capacity.
Chevy has not yet (at the time of this review in mid-November, 2013) released the official numbers, but the 1500 with the 6.2 V-8 ought to be the clear class leader, towing-wise, given that the 5.3 V-8 already out-tows the competitions’ strongest available engines. The 6.2 Silverado might also out-accelerate them as well. That includes the SVT Raptor – which, remember, has only 411 hp.
Driver-adjustable electric trailer sway control comes standard, too.
The optional Trailering package adds a locking differential – and for the really serious, there’s the Z71 Package (LT and LTZ trims only) which includes underbody skid plates and tow hooks, off-road HD shocks and suspension and a heavy-duty air cleaner to deal with off-road dust.
ON THE ROAD
The new V-6 makes one hell of a first impression. In every way except for the sound it makes, you’d swear there’s a V-8 under the hood. This is not surprising, given it is a V-8 . . . sans two cylinders. The 4.3 liter engine is based on the current-gen GM aluminum small block V-8. Same basic block/heads/valvetrain/intake layout – just with six pistons (and so on) instead of eight.
Its larger displacement, as alluded to earlier, gives it a torque advantage over its gas V-6 rivals that makes it feel stronger coming off the line and in the middle of the powerband, too. Dodge’s new turbo-diesel V-6 one-ups this, of course. But it is hp deficient (just 240 hp) and so while it has powerful grunt coming off the line and can certainly tow more, it’s not the high-speed runner the Chevy is – or can be, if you want it to be. This truck achieves triple digit speeds with deceptive ease. You’re at 90 before you know it – and it feels good.
The overdrive gearing of the six-speed automatic is so steep that even pulling all that weight – and even with the aerodynamic profile of an ice chest stacked onto a refrigerator lying on its side – you can run all day at 70-75 and not crest 2,000 RPM on the tach.
Same goes for the others in this class. However, I personally would be more comfortable with the Chevy because that 4.3 V-6 is based on the superb Chevy OHV V-8 while the competition’s V-6s are not design-sourced from the respective manufacturer’s V-8 line. Moreover, the Ford V-6 is shared with passenger cars (Mustang, et al) as is the Ram’s V-6 (Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, etc.). They were primarily conceived for cars – not trucks – and so are hp rather than torque-biased. Also, Chevy has been making the 4.3 V-6 for a long time. The new engine is updated (aluminum and direct injected, with cylinder deactivation technology) but the basic layout dates back decades and has an established track record for durability the others don’t.
Handling – both on-road and off- has been night and day improved. Chevy mounted the ’14 Silverado’s cab to the frame using new body mounts that dramatically limit fore and aft movement – which exponentially reduces the reverberations transmitted to the interior and passengers when the truck is driven over rutted, washboard roads. There’s less unsprung weight, too (the base V-6 regular cab weighs 250 pounds less than its 2013 equivalent) and that no doubt helped Chevy engineers fine-tune the ride for less bounce. There are also structural braces tying things together under the hood – as well as more high-strength steel used throughout. There is even acoustic laminated exterior glass and lined/insulated wheel wells to help quiet things down.
You will have to drive the truck to believe how good it is off-road now – not just in terms of not getting stuck, but also in terms of not beating you up.
On road, it’s a similar deal. For a leaf-sprung son-of-a-gun, this thing can hustle through the twisties – and as noted above, feels granite solid (and granite quiet) at very high road speeds, too.
My test truck had the optional (and not cheap) All Star 18-inch wheel and tire package – which probably helped the handling. You can go as high as 20s, if you want to.
GM has been perhaps the most conservative overall in terms of styling its big truck over the past 20-something years. Remember the ’80s-era advertising jingle, “Like a Rock”? That’s how GM truck styling has evolved – which is good.
Trucks should look like trucks (not like melting sticks of butter, the mistake Ford made back in the ’90s, thankfully since corrected).
Chevy calls the new Silverado’s blunted, squared-off looks “Fist in the wind.” That fits. Who cares about aerodynamics when you have horsepower? The big white ‘fridge in the basement? That’s your model, guys. Add some heavy chrome to give it some flash. Yeah, buddy. Now that’s a truck!
But that doesn’t mean niceties have been overlooked. Such as the dampened tailgate, which doesn’t just drop anymore but instead gently lowers to the horizontal. And those molded-in foot steps on each side of the rear bumper. They’re cleaner-looking (and easier to use) than the clumsy mini-ladders tried in the past. They won’t break, either.
Clever Chevy has also added under-rail bed lighting. So much better than the light affixed way up high on the rear of the cab – which is rendered useless if you have a cover on the bed. It is astonishing no one else thought of this before now.
But these are small things. How about the big things?
Like, for instance, the way the back doors are hinged on extended and crew cab versions of the ’14 Silverado. Instead of the former (and typical) rear-hinged layout, they are now mounted conventionally (car-style) on the B pillar, which means it is no longer necessary to open the front doors to open the rear doors. Probably, the presence of the beefy B pillar helps structurally, too (see earlier comments about the much reduced cabin shakes on washboard roads).
You can also now order the crew cab (four full-size doors and a larger cabin) with a longer six foot, six-inch bed (or go with the the standard “short” five-foot-eight-inch bed). This increases the usability of the Cowboy Cadillac version of the Silverado. However, if you order the extended cab (in Silverado-speak, “double cab”) you must accept the six-foot, six-inch bed. Regular cab models may be ordered with up to an eight-foot bed.
The new interior layout cribs some from the current F-truck – especially the Super Duty-ish layout of the gauges. I’m all for it. Much better than the car-ish cockpit in the previous 1500.
Trims higher than the base Work Truck get a 4 inch LCD display in the center stack, with oversize touch inputs that can be operated with a gloved hand. That’s smart. Even smarter would have been canting the display slightly to the right and toward the driver, so it would be easier to see – and use. No big thing, though.
The base Work Truck includes AC, 17 inch wheels, cruise control, power windows and locks and a four speaker stereo with USB inputs. That plus the new 4.3 V-6 makes this a ready-to-go truck as it sits.
For work – or play.
The upmarket trims add to the opulence but not the necessaries – other than additional power for towing.
To be fair, both the base-trim versions of the F-150 and the Ram 1500 are more or less comparably equipped – and cost less to start. What you get with the Chevy is a more truck-minded V-6, with more low-end grunt – and superior towing/pulling power. Probably also a longer-lived, more reliable truck. I’ll get into that now.
I know the F-truck is the current (and long-time) best-seller, based to a great extent on its past reputation. But I wonder about its future. The turbo-Ecoboosted V-6s Ford is hard-selling as the replacement for the traditional V-8 is a complicated – and problem-prone – engine. Ford is already dealing with unhappy customers – and if the issues aren’t resolved, there is going to be trouble.
GM was smart to stick with the tried and true, large displacement/pushrod V-8 (no turbo, thank you) layout. These engines are understressed, make scads of torque down low and hp up high – and are relatively simple, proven designs that we know are good for 200,000-plus miles of trouble-free operation if given regular oil changes and not deliberately abused. We do not know this about the twin-turbo’d Ecoboost V-6. In fact, we know there are problems with it now – long before the warranty has run out. See here for more about that.
Ford committed to smaller, on-demand-power turbo engines in order to placate the FedGov and its increasingly strident fuel-efficiency-uber-alles mandates (set to rise to 35.5 MPG by 2016). But, the actual differences, MPG-wise, between the Ecoboosted F-truck’s MPGs and its V-8 equivalent Silverado competition are so slight as to be a wash – as far as you, the owner are concerned.
Check it out.
A 2WD F-150 equipped with the Ecoboost V-6 rates16 city, 22 highway (1 MPG less on each count with 4WD). A 2WD Silverado equipped with the 5.3 liter V-8 rates 16 city, 23 highway (16 city, 22 highway with 4WD) which is slightly better than the twin-turbo’d Ford V-6
Dodge’s new diesel V-6 option will surely draw some sales away from both Chevy and Ford – but Chrysler has its own issues to sort out, including some reliability/durability issues with automatic transmissions and electrical stuff.
And neither Dodge nor Ford toss in two years of free scheduled maintenance – which GM does, just to sweeten the pot a little more.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Chevy might finally have what it takes to upset Ford’s apple cart – and leave the number two spot to Dodge.
Throw it in the Woods?