Ready to haul

In pickup parlance, the chase isn’t just on, it never really stops. With the arrival of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, the pace is definitely quickening.

In 2012, nearly 1.8 million domestic- and foreign-based 1500-, 2500- and 3500-series pickups were sold, and 40 percent of that belonged to Ford. GM’s Silverado/Sierra models finished solidly in second place, well ahead of Chrysler’s Ram and the Toyota Tundra, and light years ahead of the Nissan Titan.

With the all-new Silverado 1500-series, Chevrolet appears to have done its homework and paid close attention to what buyers are looking for to haul and tow their stuff. There are more powerful engines and improvements and upgrades in nearly every other category you could imagine.

Chevy’s truck designers appear to have tinkered the least with the sheet metal. The new Silverado bears more than a passing resemblance to the outgoing model. In front, the twin stacked headlights remain, but the grille is now much more prominent and tougher looking. As well, the hood and fenders bulge out more aggressively than before.

Behind the tailgate, the handy “Corner Step” bumper has recessed footholds that, combined with built-in hand holds inside the box, make accessing the bed much easier.

The dashboard and control panel that houses the optional 8-inch touch screen are positioned in a tidy pod for easy viewing, and all of the oversized knobs and switches are work-glove-friendly and clearly marked.

All body styles — regular, extended Double Cab (now featuring front-hinged rear doors with outside handles) and four-door Crew Cab — are attached to a reworked frame with more high-strength steel, extra bracing for stiffness and improved body mounts that help isolate road nose and vibration.

The revised suspension places the wheels on each axle farther apart with a goal to improve overall ride and stability.

For 2014, Chevrolet has a made a few changes to the Silverado’s box size/cab combinations. Now you can now order the Crew Cab with the longer 80-inch bed as well as the standard 68-inch version.

Perched between the frame rails is a choice of three new all-aluminum cam-in-block engines. The entry point is a 4.3-liter V-6 that features the same displacement as the previous V-6, but the output has significantly increased to 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque from 195/260. Optional is a 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 horses and 383 pound-feet on tap, up from 315/335.

Later in the model year they will be joined by an available 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 420 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, which shares its parts with the new Corvette V-8.

All three engines feature direct injection, which tailors the fuel load for the task at hand. They also have continuously variable valve timing (which allows in more fuel and air depending in the power needs) and cylinder deactivation that cuts off as many as half the cylinders in light load and cruise situations.

The transmission for all is a six-speed automatic. The result, at least for the more muscular V-6, is a 3-mpg improvement in city driving and 2 mpg better on the highway (now 18/24). Meanwhile the base V-8 gets a 16/23 rating.

Chevrolet also likes to point out that it has managed to increase performance and reduce fuel consumption across the line without resorting to complex (and expensive) turbo-charging. That’s a shot aimed directly at the Ford F-Series’ and its “Ecoboost” V-6.

You can order your Silverado as a stripped-down, rubber-matted V-6 work rig with a $24,600 sticker, or head all the way up to the new and thoroughly tricked-out High Country 4×4 with a correspondingly high list price. It’s a brand-new trim level designed to keep well-to-do ranchers driving in the lap of luxury.

Whichever pickup matches your needs, know that Chevrolet has made the right changes for a more refined and fuel efficient Silverado to keep pace with Ford.

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