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Big trucks are a big deal in Canada.
Generous factory incentives, lots of new product and a slowly rebounding economy saw sales of light-duty trucks rise by 14 per cent in 2013 compared to the year before, taking a 56-per-cent share of the overall new-vehicle market.
That's why the most important new model this year for General Motors' Chevrolet brand isn't its sophisticated Corvette sports car but its plebeian Silverado full-sized pickup truck.
Just like its domestic rivals at Ford, Ram, andsister brand GMC, Chevrolet's largest vehicle -- this all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado -- is its biggest seller.
Despite Canadian consumers' affections for small cars, Chevy's full-size pickup truck outsells its next bestseller -- the compact Cruze sedan.
And while many of the two-door, regular cab $27,930 (all prices include freight and pre-delivery inspection fees) 2014 Silverados Chevy will sell this year will be to carpenters and plumbers who need a basic work truck, plenty will also be sold as family vehicles, such as my $51,455 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LT 4x4 tester.
If you're shocked my Silverado rang in at twice the price of the base model, you haven't been shopping for a big truck in a while.
Opting for the four-door Crew Cab version added $5,965.
The LT trim package (highlighted by remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors, Chevrolet MyLink colour display and a leather-wrapped steering wheel/cruise controls) added another $4,780.
And what's the point of having a big truck without a big V8 engine ($1,225)? Or all-wheel-drive ($4,200)?
Throw in some other car-like features and it doesn't take too long before your big Chevy truck has ballooned in price.
Let's get one thing straight: I am not a "truck guy."
I live in the city where my streets are level and paved, and (eventually) plowed.
I have no toys to tow. And trips to the hardware store are for light bulbs, not two-by-fours.
So the need for a full-size, four-wheel-drive pickup truck is virtually zero.
Still, the new Silverado impressed me with its comfortable ride and roomy and functional interior.
With an optional front centre console that's chock full of storage compartments and places to plug in a plethora of electronic gadgets, my 2014 Silverado Crew Cab became an extremely roomy five-seater instead of its normal six-passenger capacity.
While the Chevrolet's interior design isn't as stylish as you'll find in the Ram 1500, all the Silverado's knobs and buttons have a quality feel.
From the driver's seat, though, you'll need to be careful parking in tight, urban parking lots. The new Silverado's high cowl and wide roof pillars hinder outward visibility.
And if you want to treat your truck like a big sedan, make sure you get a rear-bed tonneau cover.
That is, unless you like shovelling snow from your truck's bed in the winter or don't mind leaving any valuables (like sports gear) exposed.
For 2014, the all-new Silverado comes with a trifecta of all-new six- and eight-cylinder engines.
In what will likely be the most popular choice, my Silverado Crew Cab was powered by a 5.3-litre V8, sitting between a 4.3L V6 and 6.2L V8.
Mated to a six-speed automatic, the run from rest to 100 kilometres per hour takes around seven seconds.
While rivals are opting for force-induced downsized engines, active aerodynamics or eight-speed autoboxes, Chevrolet is relying on cylinder-deactivation -- turning its 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque V8 into a V4 during high loads -- to address customers and governments looking for more fuel-efficient big trucks.
Even so, there are few gains in fuel economy over the Silverado's 285-hp V6.
Both engines are rated at 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway; the six scores 12.6 in the city, the eight is rated at 13.3. (A comparable Ram 1500 scores a better 14.6 / 9.8.)
Needless to say, I recorded nowhere near these estimates, with an average of 18.1 L/100 km during my week with the big Chevy truck where plenty of snowfall left me leaving the Silverado's 4WD in Auto most of the time.
The throaty thrum from the Silverado's V8 could be to blame for my lead-foot numbers.
That, and an overall ride and handling experience that ventured to the luxury side of the segment.
Despite a traditional leaf-sprung rear suspension (instead of the Ram's carlike coil-over independent setup), the Chevy truck's long wheelbase smothers potholes and remains composed over larger dips on the road.
The cabin is also near-luxury-car-quiet at highway speeds and is even calmer when the cylinder deactivation tech shuts down half the engine.
Even the Silverado's steering has some off-centre weight and is relatively accurate for such a large vehicle.
Admittedly, when compared to the Ram 1500 4x4 Quad Cab Outdoorsman I drove a few months back, the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LT 4x4 is less refined overall.
If I suddenly bought a Jet Ski or took up carpentry, this urban truck-buyer would still pop for the Ram.
No doubt, though, traditional truck buyers will appreciate Chevrolet's conservative approach, leaving the Silverado at the top of Chevrolet's sales charts for the foreseeable future.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014