2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 5.3L 4x4 Crew Cab
You’d think truck makers would be throwing a veritable conniption, what with gas prices so high and the concept of vehicle downsizing seemingly taking hold. Yeah, right—big-time pickup makers have it the other way around, acting more like the folks lining up to slap the famously panicked passenger in the movie Airplane! out of it. Instead of clubs, a gun, or even a nun, players like Ram and Ford are coolly wielding technologies to maximize fuel economy and add carlike refinement. Chevrolet, however, is going its own way on the concept, passing over turbocharging, a self-lowering aerodynamics-enhancing suspension, and a gajillion-speed transmission for its redesigned Silverado and focusing instead on honing the classic-pickup recipe. Testing the high-zoot, four-wheel-drive LTZ Z71 crew-cab model you see here, the question we raised after first driving the Silverado last month cropped up again: Is it enough to move the bar? That will be answered by a proper comparison test, but we can report that Chevy takes a decisive step forward. “Decisive step forward” certainly doesn’t apply to the styling, which is thematically similar to the old truck. Mostly, the updates apply to the stiffened body structure and overhauled interior, as well as a trio of all-new V-6 and V-8 engines. (This test focuses on what is expected to be the Silverado’s volume powertrain, the 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic, but a 4.3-liter V-6 and a 6.2-liter V-8 will be available.) Besides its fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation feature, which operates the V-8 on just four cylinders in low-load scenarios, and—on the LTZ trim—a nicely assembled interior with a stitched vinyl dash and door padding, chrome-accented buttons, and the MyLink touch-screen infotainment interface, the Silverado, leaf-sprung rear suspension and all, is boldly unremarkable on paper. Yet in the metal—the carry-over man-truck styling notwithstanding—the little things pay off. The Silverado’s on-road behavior is almost carlike, but given that the crew cab stretches nearly 20 feet nose to stern, comparisons to a big crossover are probably more apt. The steering wheel, although offset slightly to the driver’s right, is well weighted, loading up predictably in relation to cornering forces. The firm brake pedal not only offers superb bite but also returned a commendably short 178-foot stop from 70 mph, four feet better than a 2013 Ford Taurus SEL AWD we tested recently. Sound-smothering triple-sealed doors (now inset into the cab body), a solid-feeling chassis, and a remarkably compliant ride also make it difficult to write off the Silverado as a half-baked evolution. The 5.3-liter V-8’s full 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque are delivered close to redline, meaning it needs to be worked to hustle. Hammer down, the V-8 motivates the 5605-pound Silverado crew cab to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 92 mph. We dig the noises the V-8 makes under hard acceleration and the lack of any noise at all when just half its pots are boiling with the cylinder-deactivation feature. The 13 mpg we saw in our testing was less rosy but not uncommon among full-size pickups, and the truck spent a lot of time with its engine idling for photos. Curiously, the six-speed automatic was clunky at low speeds—short of full-throttle applications, it tended to bobble the first-to-second shift. When slowing to a stop, the unit would also prematurely slam into first, resulting in a shudder. The truck’s high cowl and overly thick roof pillars drew flak, as well. The supports’ built-in grab handles make entry and exit handier for front and rear passengers, but they also do a good job of further obscuring the driver’s blind spots.