Mountain Wheels: All new Silverado takes Chevy upward and onward |

Mountain Wheels: All new Silverado takes Chevy upward and onward

2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ

2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 2WD LT Double Cab

MSRP: $31,800; as tested, $35,985

Powertrain: 285-HP 4.3-liter V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 20 mpg combined: 18 city, 24 highway

The 2014 Chevy Silverado family has gone about as far ahead of the curve as you can go with a pickup truck. In addition to getting some of the new-school squared-but-rounded looks you see in competitors like the Ram (note the built-in airfoil lip that now graces the tailgate on both), its new engine choices, new car-like interiors, softened driving dynamics and user-friendly touches have made it quite a civilized collection of metal boxes.

Silverado now sports broad, almost Durango-like brakelamps, subtly squared wheel wells, sharp and bright (and optional) 18-inch aluminum wheels and, yes, that all-important giant stack of chrome up front.

That’s probably the most striking part of the 2014 Silverado’s entire package — the menacing, chest-high interlaced grid of gleaming metal, accentuated by old-style stacked headlamps. It’s very punchy indeed.

Add some rounded side rails and, well, you have the moderately redesigned modern truck, as you asked for. Imposing, durable, thoroughly Chevrolet.

What’s more, they did a pretty decent job on the inside, with plenty of angular design features that have the same bold flair they had when they first appeared on the new Camaro, but are subtle enough to fit in with a work truck.

The mix of surfaces — real and not-quite-real leather with offset stitching, dark and light tones on the doors, shiny plastic around the center stack. Hey, there’s even stitched webbing on the inner rim of the steering wheel, like a BMW, not to mention soft-touch thumb controls up front and full audio controls hidden on the back of the wheel.

The chrome-edged, brightly lit instrument cluster, with its red-, white- and blue-lit gauges and a user-adjustable video information screen in the middle, is a particularly nice piece of work.

And in my particular Silverado doublecab, the readout also offered data on an interesting, fuel-saving innovation: My EcoTec3 4.3-liter V-6 engine, good for 285 horsepower and as much as 24 highway mpg, achieves those numbers by deactivating three of its cylinders (noted on the readout) during times where the extra oomph isn’t needed.

That’s a consistent feature in Silverado’s three direct-fuel-injected EcoTec3 choices, which also include a 355-HP 5.3-liter V-8 that’s still good for 23 highway mpg, plus a 6.2-liter good for 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Chevy also likes to point out these are all naturally aspirated blocks of metal, not turbocharged wonders like Ford. Your brand loyalty can remain fully intact, as a result.

I cannot say that the V-6 is a consistent tire-smoker like the big V-8 but under the right circumstances it’ll do some tail-wagging, so be careful. It’s also capable of hauling 7,600 pounds, so it’s no slouch.

The biggest issue is one that’s addressed in the recent TV ads: The Silverado may be a little too quiet for its own good. This particular engine is whisper-quiet except under extreme duress, and the very well-insulated cabin very seriously serves to muffle the noises of the outside world.

Should you opt for 4WD, it’s all of course electronically controlled from the cab — even the optional trailer brake controller is intelligently located in the top left-hand corner of the dash for easy control — and the lift for the 4×4 is contained within a suspension system that leaves virtually no bounce or wobble, or even tendencies to wander on the road. I got all of those and more in a couple of recent crossover SUVs; in this instance, “drives like a truck” is a pretty positive attribute. You’ll find the six-speed automatic transmission equally smooth and seamless.

Way in the back, the cargo box has been given a few updates, including LED lighting, moveable tiedowns and a sprayed-in bed liner. Yes, the CornerStep rear bumper thoughtfully includes a couple of built-in steps to help you access this very tall box on wheels, and the rear “EZ lift and lower” liftgate — complete with that aerodynamic wedge — now raises lightly and drops softly and slowly, versus coming down with a big ol’ clunk.

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