From all angles: The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

  by Andrew Ganz

From all angles: The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

New pickup trucks don’t come around all that often – so it’s a pretty big deal when they do. 

Although the outgoing Chevrolet Silverado was a strong performer in the market, General Motors let its bread-and-butter go essentially unchanged after its 2007 introduction. As a result, expectations were especially high for the all-new 2014 model. Fortunately, GM has delivered, bringing with it a host of new features and technologies designed to make the new full-size truck better than ever.

First, a little background. The Silverado nameplate might only date back a couple of decades, but GM has been producing bowtie-badged haulers for generations. The latest models harken back to the Chevrolet trucks of the 1980s, at least stylistically. Their vertical front grilles with available projector headlamps are a clear link to the look last seen in 1987.

But what's underneath is nearly all new. What follows is an in-depth look at the 2014 Silverado half-ton trucks. Most of what we'll say in the next several slides also applies to the 2014 GMC Sierra, a slightly more upscale version of the Silverado.

Note: This article is part of an in-depth series designed to give you a sneak peak into important new car models from all manufacturers. We do more than simply research new cars - we drive them, we talk to the engineers who design and build them and we chat with the marketers who find a way to convince buyers to sign on the dotted line.

1. There's a step... in the bumper

File this one under "why didn't anyone else think of that?"

Taking a page from its own history, Chevrolet has brought back a convenience feature and made things even better. Not only does the step now have an official name – CornerStep – it's more useful than it was in the Chevrolet Avalanche of yore.

Most 2014 Silverados will include a step cutout integrated into the rear bumper to ease access to the trucks' beds. Going a "step" further, Chevy has put contoured handholds into the top of the bed. The system is simpler and more elegant, if a little less showy, than Ford's complex tailgate-mounted handle system.

2. Let there be light

All trucks have a light that shines into the cargo bay, but only the Silverado goes further by integrating optional LED lights below the bed rails. With the tap of a button on the truck's dashboard, a series of LED lights come to life to show what's in the bed.

For owners who install a bed cover, these lights should prove to be especially useful. Since they're LEDs, their lifespan is nearly infinite. And because they're hidden below the bed rails, they're well protected from what owners choose to chuck into the bed area.

And new upper tie-down hooks are integrated toward the top of the inner bed sides to allow owners to attach cargo better than ever.

3. Opening more doors

Chevy has followed the lead of its Ram rival by scrapping the extended cab bodystyle and its rear-hinged back doors. For 2014, Silverados will be available in three cab configurations – standard regular cab, new double cab and passenger-oriented crew cab.

Regular cab continues to offer two doors as pickups have done for decades. For commercial users and those not concerned with passenger-hauling, this will continue to be a simple option – although GM admits that the market share of regular cab pickups is eroding.

If passengers are of the utmost importance, the Crew Cab offers stretch-out front and rear seat room with its two sets of full-size doors on either side of the vehicle. Conceptually, the Crew Cab remains the same as before.

The news here is the double cab. Looking something like a Crew Cab with shrunken rear doors, it offers significantly more convenient access to the rear seat for passengers plus the added strength of a fixed B-pillar to aid in side-impact safety. Rear seat space remains tighter than in the Crew Cab, but there's sufficient room for short-distance back seat passengers.

4. More boxes and beds

Buyers asked, Chevrolet delivered: The popular Crew Cab bodystyle is now available with both a 5'8 box the same size as the outgoing model and a new 6'6 box.

The longer box, obviously a boon for cargo hauling, could be a hinderance in tight parking situations given it adds eight inches onto an already large pickup. But for the first time ever, the choice is yours, if you're a Silverado buyer.

5. Lending a hand

Opening and closing a pickup's tailgate used to be a two-handed affair. Until now. The Silverado's EZ Lift and Lower tailgate integrates a spring mechanism to assist with both lower and raising the tailgate.

Now, owners can pull the tailgate handle and watch it glide gently into position when they open it. To close it, only one hand is needed since a hidden spring system lends an invisible assistance.

6. Door realignment

You could be forgiven for not even noticing this one. Chevrolet has gone back to the drawing board for the Silverado Crew Cab's doors. On each side, the front door is a few inches shorter than before, but the cab is about the same size overall.

What gives? The rear doors take up the slack and the B-pillar moves a bit forward. The benefits of this seemingly minor change are endless. For one, drivers don't have as long a door before, which eases ingress and egress in tight parking spots. Yet since the B-pillar has also been moved forward, there's no detrimental effect on the amount of space the driver has to climb aboard.

For rear seat passengers, the shift has allowed Chevrolet to add legroom. Combined with the bigger door, the Silverado's rear seat is downright palatial without the awkward side profile seen in some rival crew cabs.

7. The engine room

A quick glance at the spec sheet might leave you thinking that Chevrolet hasn't done anything to the Silverado's powertrain lineup. Boy, would you be wrong.

All three engines for 2014 carry over the same displacement as their predecessors, but that's about it. Aside from a handful of nuts and bolts, nothing is shared with the 2013 engine lineup.

For the new model year, all three engines feature loads of technology – variable valve timing to optimize power and save fuel, a cylinder shutoff system that lets them run as four-cylinder engines to conserve fuel under low load situations and direct injection to increase performance.

Anchoring the bottom end is a new 4.3-liter V6 that cranks out a solid 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft. of torque. Vastly more powerful and refined than its predecessor, it proves that V6 engines are hardly penalty boxes in big pickups.

It's worth noting that this V6 is rated for up to 7,200 lbs. worth of a trailer when properly optioned – that's as much as V8s could tow not long ago.

Most Silverados will likely be ordered with a 5.3-liter V8 rated at 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft. of torque. An evolution of Chevrolet's small block engine line, this new V8 delivers better fuel economy than any other V8-powered pickup truck currently on the market.

For those who demand serious grunt, a late-introduction 6.2-liter will hit the market later this year.

8. High Country

Premium pickups are big business for automakers. Not only are they popular with buyers, they're pretty darn lucrative. If the accountants are happy, everyone is happy.

To that end, a new High Country trim level tops the Silverado line in an effort to bring in some of the Western themes so popular with truck owners.

High Country Silverados gain their own unique grilles and 20-inch alloy wheels outside, a look that meshes well to our eyes with the monochromatic bumper arrangement.

Inside, a saddle-inspired leather trim package brings with it luxuries cowboys – both the real kind and the urban kind – could only dream about in a full-size Chevrolet truck until now. Heated and cooled seats, an eight-inch touchscreen and more.

High Country will be available with both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s.

9. Infotainment

General Motors' latest MyLink infotainment system is available on lower trim Silverados and standard toward the upper end. Utilizing an eight-inch screen, the system features simple, large icons for easy use while on the go.

The high-tech navigation system uses one of the most sophisticated map interfaces we've ever come across when so equipped. Combined with the standard OnStar connectivity system, it'll be rather difficult to ever claim you "got lost" in a Silverado. Time to prepare a better excuse.

Early Silverados with MyLink that we've sampled have proven a little laggy, but we're hoping software updates will speed the system up a bit.

10. Quiet-proofing

Chevrolet claims that the Silverado is the quietest truck ever built. We see little reason to argue. Rather than just piling on heavy sound deadening (remember that weight is a detriment to performance and fuel economy), the automaker carefully worked to target high noise areas.

The tops of the doors no longer roll into the roofline as before, which improves aerodynamics and reduces wind noise. In the wheel wells of all Silverados – not just high spec variants – Chevrolet has fitted special sound absorbing liners, which work to cut down on tire roar on dry surfaces and the pitter patter of water or rocks on wet roads or on the trail.

Hidden entirely from sight – unless you crawl under the Silverado – are hydraulic body mounts on double and Crew Cab variants to further quell any undue noise or vibration.