Though all-new full-size pickups are a somewhat rare occurrence, in today’s hyper-competitive new-vehicle market, it happens more often than it used to. Remember the 1973-1987 C/K pickups that soldiered on for 15 model years (even more for the Suburban/Jimmy/Blazer)? Those days are gone. Today, GM is showing us the all-new Silverado and Sierra that replace the GMT-900 generation that spanned the 2007 to 2013 model years (7 model years; don’t forget also that the 2007s were launched very early in 2006).
When the current generation of GM’s full-size pickups debuted, they were a definite leap ahead of where the trucks had been. The designs were fairly conservative, but with enough hidden aero tricks to make them decently efficient. Their interiors leapt to what, at the time, was either at-or-near the head of the class.
Sadly, these strong-selling trucks (though combined they still don’t outsell their Ford rivals, nor do they quite sell as well as GM may have hoped they would) were forced to survive GM’s bankruptcy with almost no updates since their launch. While Chrysler rolled out a new RAM with an advanced powertrain (8-speed automatic and DOHC V6) and Ford’s F-Series has a twin turbo EcoBoost V6, Ti-VCT DOHC V6 – all with more refined interior technology than GM’s offerings, it’s little wonder that non-loyalist buyers were not buying GM’s trucks in the numbers that GM was probably hoping for.
As with their last redesign, both trucks’ shapes are a conservative evolution over the current trucks. The Silverado’s face, at least in high-end LTZ trim as shown, has 50 percent more chrome than before (I’m completely making up the statistic, but the bigger-is-better notion on grilles, pioneered by Ford, is alive and well on the Silverado’s face). I’m not keen on the Dame Edna chrome trim around the headlights on the Chevy, but the fact that they’re projectors is nice.
The GMC Sierra gets its own face, which is, to my eyes, the more handsome of the two. Its grille recalls the new GMC division’s look, first seen on the GMC Graphyte subcompact crossover concept, and more recently on the 2013 Acadia, and to a lesser degree on the Terrain. Interestingly, Chevrolet and GMC pickups have traditionally shared all body panels throughout their history, except for things like grilles, and occasionally hoods, until the previous 2007-2013 generation, when the GMCs had softer fender curves and the Chevys had more abrupt lines. With the 2014s, it appears that the trucks are again sharing fenders (but it’s hard to tell from photos; GM only released four Sierra images, two of which are exterior shots). If the are any indication of the truck’s likely success, they seem to be disappointed in the conservatism of the design, but like the interior and the upgrades.
Despite looking more like a mid-cycle update, the trucks are completely new from stem to stern. (It’s not just GM who is conservative when redesigning their bread-and-butter vehicles; just look at the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, BMW 3 Series, and Ford F-Series for more examples of this.) Under the hood, the trucks have a new engine family dubbed “EcoTec3,” which drops the long-lived Vortec name. Why, I’m not sure, since EcoTec had previously been only the name of GM’s four cylinder engine family. The company did not release power, torque, or fuel economy figures, but the lineup will be a 4.3 liter 90 degree V6, 5.3 liter V8, and 6.2 liter V8. The 6.2 liter engine is all new and will likely top all competitors in power and torque. The 5.3 liter will likely remain the volume engine, where it has been for a while, serving the best V8 fuel economy in the segment. GM promises an upgrade to its power, which is welcome, because the 5.3 is not a particularly gutsy engine. As for the 4.3 liter V6, it’s promising more capability than before, but 90-degree V6s are not inherently smooth-running, and the old 4.3 liter boat anchor is not up to the competitive levels of Ford’s or RAM’s base engine offerings in power or refinement. The 4.8 liter and 6.0 liter V8s are discontinued, as are the two-mode hybrid models. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice.
It’s clear that engineers have paid a lot of attention to the new trucks’ interiors. They have been upgraded with improved materials, quality, noise suppression, and – most importantly – technology. GM’s MyLink infotainment system is available, as is a 4.2 inch color TFT display in the instrument panel that displays trip, economy, and audio information at a glance.
While RAM (then called “Dodge” – remember that name in trucks?) pioneered front-hinged doors in extended cab pickups years ago in the RAM pickup, it took GM quite a long time to catch up. It finally has – extended cab trucks now get shorter-length front-hinged doors. The new design allows rear-seat access with the front doors closed, and likely improves side impact safety and noise isolation. Meanwhile, the crew cab models get more rear-seat space, which is a sorely-needed competitive flaw the current GM trucks suffer. Without knowing the dimensions, it’s clear that the crew cab’s rear doors are proportionately similar to those offered in the RAM and F-150. Both of those competitive crew cabs offer limo-like rear-seat room in crew cabs, so it’s nice to see GM catching up to them in that respect. For the first time, GM is allowing a 6’6″ box with crew cab models; in the past, crew cabs could only be purchased with the 5’8″ box. Extended cabs get only the 6’6″ box, while regular cabs can be equipped with either the 6’6″ box or an 8′ box. All boxes get new cargo management options and are constructed of roll-formed steel rather than the less-sturdy stamped steel used by GM’s competitors.
The trucks have upgraded their standard and available safety features. About two-thirds of the trucks’ structure is built of high strength steel for strong occupant protection. Standard safety features include electronic stability control with Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist, head curtain side airbags with rollover protection, and OnStar. New, optional features (which are segment-exclusive to the GM trucks for now) include Lane Departure Warning (via an audible warning or the available Safety Alert Seat) and Forward Collision Alert. Sometimes vehicles with Forward Collision Alert also include adaptive cruise control, but that’s not available. Other available safety features include front and rear park assist, a rear vision camera mounted in the tailgate and spotter mirrors that make it easier for drivers to see things in their blind spots.
So, the upgrades are pretty comprehensive, but there’s still a few things not checked off on my wish list. These include:
- An ultra-luxury model (akin to Ford’s King Ranch). No word on the Sierra Denali, but it’s probably in the plan.
- More differentiation between Chevy and GMC versions
- Light duty diesel (please, GM, dust off the 4.5 liter Duramax)
- More than six speeds in the transmissions (if this reminds you of GM being behind the game seven years ago, clinging to 4-speeds while the industry was moving to 5- and 6-speeds, it should)
- A competitor to the 3.5 liter EcoBoost
- A competitor to the 3.6 liter Pentastar or 3.7 liter Ti-VCT base engines in the RAM and F-150 (we’ll reserve judgment on the GM 4.3 liter until we’ve seen what it can do)
- A more dramatic weight reduction, akin to Ford’s aluminum diet in the next F-150
- A successor to the regular cab, short bed 454SS (call it the 376SS, perhaps?)
That last one may not be feasible, but it’s fun to dream. The new trucks go on sale in mid-2013. Obviously, pricing will be announced at a later date.