PONTIAC, Mich. -- The light-duty truck market in Canada plays a huge role in the success of an automaker, and General Motors is stepping up its game with the introduction of the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
While Ford, GM's key competitor in the truck market, is responding to consumer demands for more fuel-efficient products with smaller-displacement engines boosted by turbocharging to achieve increased power and better fuel economy, and Ram is challenging with eight-speed transmissions, GM is going down a different road.
The automaker is introducing a series of three new all-aluminum EcoTech3 engines -- a V-6 and two V-8s, all normally aspirated, but loaded with fuel-saving technologies -- in its 2014 models. The engines will feature direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing and seamless cylinder deactivation.
Specific horsepower, torque and fuel-consumption numbers were not released at the media preview, but GM officials say the standard engine, a new 4.3-litre V-6, will have sufficient torque to power a crew-cab truck and pull a trailer while delivering superior fuel efficiency.
Customers looking for more power can opt for a new 5.3L V-8 that delivers more power and better efficiency than the current version, thanks to the ability to switch to four cylinders when power demands permit. The system, GM says, gives users power when they need it, but also cuts back to the fuel-saving four-cylinder mode when there's less demand, such as highway cruising.
For the ultimate in power output, a 6.2L V-8 will be available. It's based on the new engine that will power the 2014 Corvette.
A six-speed automatic transmission is used with all three engine packages. Trucks with a V-8 powertrain will also get a new rear axle that's been strengthened to cope with the additional torque output. The hydroformed, fully boxed frame has been strengthened with the use of high-strength steel crossmembers. The same strong but lighter steel is used in the new cab architecture.
All models are fitted with variable-ratio electric power steering, and four-wheel disc brakes are standard across the lineup. The standard suspension system has been retuned, while the optional Z71 off-road suspension package now includes Rancho shocks and hill-descent control.
Available safety features include trailer sway control and forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems coupled to a safety-alert seat.
The exterior of the new trucks, which will made their public debut this month at the Detroit auto show, doesn't look that different from the current models -- at least until you start noticing the details. The crew cab, for example, can now be ordered with either a five-foot, eight-inch bed or a six-foot-six version.
To make access to the bed easier, there's a corner step built into the rear bumper that allows one to reach into the cargo area whether the tailgate is open or closed. Handholds have been built into the top rails to ensure a safe, non-slip grip. The tailgate has been improved with the addition of a torsion bar that dampens the lowering of the panel and assists in raising it. Four upper tie-down heads can be moved to various locations within the bed to improve functionality.
One nifty new feature that will be appreciated is the addition of LED lights tucked under the bedrail -- they are standard on the Sierra and optional with the Silverado.
The doors on the crew-cab models are also larger, allowing easier access. The rear doors on the extended-cab versions have been fitted with front hinges, also improving accessibility, especially in tight spaces.
The improved aerodynamics improve fuel consumption and help make the cabins of the new Sierra and Silverado the quietest ever. The redesigned interior includes heated cloth seats and controls you can operate even while wearing gloves. There are ample storage spaces and the latest in connectivity features, including MyLink/Intellilink with voice recognition.
Production of the 2014 Silverado and Sierra pickups will start in the spring. GM says new versions of its heavy-duty lineup will follow next year, along with the redesigned mid-size Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.
-- Postmedia News