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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Test Drive Review
Truck owners don’t want or need something that is too loud or ostentatious. Understated confidence is far more becoming on a pickup.
If you own a pickup truck, you know it gets used for far more than hauling loads and general work duty. It is also the family wagon, camping support vehicle and the ride that everyone can rely on no matter how bad the weather gets.
Pickups are used in so many more ways than just for work, and that has been the foundation of the new entrants in the truck market as of late. The Ram 1500 won Truck of the Year by being a comfortable daily driver, with its elaborate airbag suspension, but you can argue that the strides made by the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are just as significant. The latest pickup from the “bow-tie brand” employs new, more efficient and more powerful engines, the latest in-car tech. Most importantly, the little features baked into the design of the Silverado prove Chevrolet understands just how everyday folks use their pickups.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
First impression: This truck is massive. Like, really big. And this is not coming from a Prius driver. I’ve owned Tahoes, and in my younger days worked jobs that required the daily use of heavy-duty pickups. This is a light-duty truck, and it eclipses HD vehicles of years past.
You could attribute that to the robust mechanicals found underneath the sheet metal, but it is really the shape of the sheet metal itself. The battle among trucks in the last decade has been more than just a horsepower war, as the American Big Three have been racing to build the biggest, macho-est trucks for America’s heartland. Fenders, hoods and panels of all kinds have grown outward and mostly upward. There seems to be more empty space than ever before between exterior sheet metal and the actual mechanicals of the vehicle.
Want proof that we’ve entered an era of pea-cocking? It snowed the first night that I spent with the truck. I started it using the remote start (wonderful option, and a must for anyone in cold climes) and let the truck run for about 10 minutes, if not more. I arrived at the driveway to still find a layer of snow on the hood. Even after 20 minutes of driving, it was still there. On trucks of the past, the heat of the engine would have melted the snow off after several minutes, but there the pile remains!
That said, the Silverado's styling is rather staid when compared to other new trucks. This was a wise choice. Truck owners don’t want or need something that is too loud or ostentatious. Understated confidence is far more becoming on a pickup such as this, and the men and women that will be using the 1500 for work duty will find the straight lines on the body, grille and headlights a welcome sight every morning.
Inside, the Silverado has an interior that is as spacious as it is useful. The rear-seat room of the Crew cab model left the cabin feeling like a living room, with the center console playing the role of the coffee table. Items you might consider putting in the bed might actually fit in the rear seat if you flip the bench up.
Out of 10
Not every truck owner needs a V8. For those folks there is a venerable 4.3-liter EcoTec V6. It makes 285 horsepower and 305 pound feet of torque. This output rivals that of V8 engines from just a decade ago, but the V6-powered Silverado starts at the very-2014 price of $26,760 for a basic work truck.
To get V8 power, you’ll have to add $1,095 to any of the prices mentioned here. GM’s 5.3-liter V8 is a testament to new powertain technology, making 355 hp at 5,600 RPM and 383 lb-ft of all-important, load-hauling torque at 4,100 RPM. It features variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation technology, allowing it to run on 4 cylinders when full power isn't needed. This was the engine selected in our Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LTZ 4x4 test model—selected with the Z71 off-road package, of course.
GM has always taken great pride in its dealer-optioned performance packages. This is evidenced by the ZL1 package for the original Camaro, the W30 pack on the Oldsmobile 442 or the Corvette Z06 model. But none of those wear their option pack as proudly (or loudly!) as the Z71 off-road package for the Silverado.
The Z71 features upgraded Rancho shocks, front tow hooks, an added transfer case skid plate and either 18- or 20-inch wheels, wrapped in all-terrain tires. Other features include unique Z71 graphics on the instrument cluster and corner of the bed sidewall, but the real upgrades in this package are the active locking differential and Hill Descent Control. The former helps improve traction on muddy, snowy and wet road surfaces, while the Descent Control is like Cruise control for the trail. Simply press a button in the center console, and it crawls the Silverado at a slow, controlled pace, modulating brake and throttle without the driver having to put his or her foot on the pedals.
For the first time in a Silverado, a 2500–3500-spec engine will be available in a light-duty 1500-level truck. The 6.2-liter V8 typically fit for the Heavy Duty lineup will be available in the luxury-level Silverado High Country trim. It makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound feet of torque.
With all engines, power is sent through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard, but all versions can be upgraded to 4-wheel drive (4WD).
The best fuel economy is achieved by the RWD V6 Silverado, at 18 mpg city/24 highway. The V8 4WD model returns 16/23.
It should be noted how impressive it is that the V8 scores nearly as good, if not the same, fuel economy rating as the V6. Where the V6 4WD model returns fuel economy of 17 and 22, the V8 is just as good, with city economy at 16 MPG and highway fuel economy that is the same as the V6's.
The 6.2-liter V8 out of the High Country achieves 14 mpg city/20 highway.
Form and Function
Out of 10
The role of the pickup truck has expanded over the decades. Once simply the machine for a multitude of job-site tasks, the pickup is also being asked to haul families on road trips and bring the kids to soccer practice. It has to be as functional as a minivan without giving up any ground for the 9-to-5. The Silverado plays these dual roles well, employing a number of features and solutions.
The Silverado's plethora of cubbies and pockets is as good for camping gear as it is for tools, and there is plenty of space for both. The rear bench seamlessly folds up for even more space.
A neighbor asked me to help him pick up a basketball hoop that was “Free-First-Come-First-Served” from Craigslist. The Silverado had a factory-ordered spray-on bed liner, so I wasn't concerned with metal scratching the bed of the truck.
Sadly, the hoop was taken by the time we got to the address. We even went the night it was posted and could have taken advantage of the rear semi-floodlight which bathes the truck bed in illumination.
The true genius of the Silverado is not in its touchscreens, but in the simple solutions. Ford has an elaborate step that comes out of the top of the tailgate to help shorter folks climb up, but it's a little awkward. GM had a better idea—they cut a step into the corner of the bed, so you won't need to throw your foot on top of the sometimes mud-covered rear wheel to climb in or use goofy fold-out steps.
Out of 10
The exterior styling of the Silverado may be something of an evolution of the previous design, but when it comes to technology, the 2014 model could not be further from the vehicle it replaces.
While the previous Silverado had available Bluetooth connectivity, it was nowhere as functional as it is now. The new Silverado is available with Chevy MyLink, which employs your smartphone’s data connection to operate apps like Pandora streaming radio. Also available is Sirius XM Travel Link, which delivers live traffic and up-to-the-minute weather updates.
It seems like there are as many USB ports as there are cupholders in this rig, which is obviously a good thing. Flip up one panel in the large center bin, and you’ll find three USB power points. Open up the center console and you’ll find two more. Just don’t ask which one is the actual media connection USB and which are simply for power. This is a great feature for its ability to power multiple phones and music devices. Those landscapers out there can go all morning with their headphones on, plug into the USB over lunch, and have enough juice to make it through the afternoon.
Another great addition is the wall-style power outlet right in the center of the truck. Folks using the Silverado for work will find this great access to plug in a power tool in a pinch. Campers can use that outlet to plug in any sort of air mattress or floodlight.
But the feature that will confuse the most but also has the greatest potential to get you out of a jam is the Safety Alert Driver's Seat. This feature straddles the lines between safety, tech and form-and-function. Basically there are “buzzers” in the driver’s seat cushions that vibrate several separate areas of the seat. If you are backing up and something crosses the Silverado’s path, it vibrates the rear third of the seat. If you have the available lane-departure warning system engaged and you start to drift out of the lane to the right, it vibrates the right side of the seat. If you are parallel parking the big truck and get too close to the car in front of it, the front of the seat vibrates. All the while, there is a visual representation of how close objects are getting to the distance sensors on all sides.
Out of 10
Trucks are generally safe vehicles in terms of protecting the driver and passengers, but keeping all that metal stable on the road has been a challenge through the years. The Silverado has StabiliTrack stability control to keep you on the road in those emergency maneuver situations. For towing a large load safely, the Trailer Sway Control helps control braking coming into a turn and adding power coming out of a turn with a trailer.
In a truck of this size, a feature like a backup camera is almost a necessity. Combined with the sensors, it will be able to identify objects in front of or behind the truck. There are also rear cross-path sensors, so it can alert you to vehicles that might be headed right toward where you are reversing.
Out of 10
Brand loyalty is so huge in the truck market it almost negates the issue of price comparisons. If you have owned a Ram or Ford before, the odds of sticking with the same brand are insanely high.
If you have never owned a pickup before, the Silverado is a great place to start, though for price and other factors, the Ford F-150 might be a better way to enter the market. The Ford is big, but not as massive as the Silverado, which might make owning one for the first time more manageable. The base price of the Silverado is up $2,000 from the year before, which might hurt companies buying fleets of the base model. The lowest you can pay and still get a V8 and 4-wheel drive is more than $31,000. Our test model came in at an absurd $48,750. So $50,000 might seem like a heck of a lot to pay for a pickup (that you’ll be pouring about $75 a week of gas into), but this is a truck you can take anywhere to do anything. You can drive it to a wedding or a football game. You can go off-roading, and (with the backup cameras and parking sensors) you can park it in the city. It truly is a truck for all occasions.
If you have owned a Silverado 1500 and are considering a 2014 version, you can rest assured that the truck is more powerful and more efficient, with more attention than ever paid to how you really live and use the truck, at the work site as well as the campsite.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a producer and senior writer at WheelsTV, an associate editor at Autoblog.com and a freelance contributor to Hemmings Classic Wheels. He is currently an editor at BoldRide.com and is a featured contributor to the Boston Globe.