(AP) – Don’t let appearances fool you.
While Chevrolet’s 2014 Silverado looks a lot like its predecessor on the outside, major changes give the new Silverado better ride and handling, improved safety and a more luxurious, quiet interior with features that rival some offices.
As an example, a modern strip of outlets _ to accommodate three flash drives, two 12-volt power outlets for cellphones and other plug-ins and one regular 110-volt electric plug opening _ can sit ready for work at the lower part of the truck’s center dashboard.
A bigger-than-before, colorful 8-inch display screen with efficient touchscreen controls for Pandora Internet radio and navigation system is available, too. So are heated and cooled front seats that work fast, a heated steering wheel, new, rich-looking, leather-trimmed seats and a dashboard that can be covered with material and stitching as if it were lifted from a luxury car.
Best of all, standard, scheduled maintenance is free for two years/24,000 miles, and the 2014 Silverado Crew Cab earned five out of five stars for passenger protection in frontal and side crash tests.
Fuel economy ratings are noteworthy, too.
With the old, 195-horsepower V-6 gone, the 2014 Silverado with base, 285-horseower V-6, automatic transmission and two-wheel drive is rated by the federal government at 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway.
This compares with the top full-size truck mileage rating of 18/25-mpg rating for the 2014 Dodge Ram HFE model with 305-horsepower V-6, automatic transmission and two-wheel drive.
And if buyers prefer a V-8, the Silverado has the best government mileage rating of any full-size V-8 truck: 16/23 mpg with the Silverado’s new, 355-horsepower, 5.3-liter, overhead valve V-8 with direct injection and Active Fuel Management system. This management system automatically disables engine cylinders during travel when they are not needed.
Unfortunately, the test truck with this powerplant did not achieve the government numbers, averaging 14.9 mpg on mostly city and country roads.
Based on the Chevrolet consumer website which still prices 2013 Silverados, base pricing is up some $2,000 from the $24,585 starting retail price for a 2013 model.
Specifically, starting retail price is $26,670 for a base, 2014 Silverado 1500 Regular Cab with standard pickup bed, two-wheel drive and base, 285-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission.
Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, 2014 Silverado 1500 with four-wheel drive is $30,610. This is a Regular Cab model with two-wheel drive and V-6.
The lowest starting retail price for a 2014 Silverado with a V-8 is $27,765, and this is for a Regular Cab, two-wheel drive model with 355-horsepower V-8 and automatic transmission. The lowest starting price for a 2014 Silverado with V-8 and four-wheel drive is $31,705.
The competing 2014 Ram 1500 starts at $25,295 for a base, Regular Cab, two-wheel drive model with 305-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission.
The base, 2014 Ford F-150 Regular Cab with two-wheel drive, 302-horsepower, naturally aspirated V-6 and automatic transmission starts at $25,310.
Crew cabs, which are pickups that include full-size back doors and back seats, today account for more than half of all U.S. pickups sold, according to Chevrolet officials. Many truck buyers now use their vehicles for both work and family needs.
So, it’s important to point out the 2014 Silverado Crew Cab, which was the test truck, has a full 40.9 inches of back-seat legroom plus 40.5 inches of rear-seat headroom and felt spacious. But this is less than the 43.5 inches of rear-seat legroom and 41 inches of rear-seat headroom in the F-150 Super Crew.
The test Silverado, which stretched some 19 feet in overall length, impressed with its confidence-inspiring, assisted rack-and-pinion steering and pleasant handling in turns and curves.
Sure, passengers noticed weight shifting from one side to the other of this truck, and there was some head toss in long sweeping curves. But the test Silverado Crew Cab with Z71 off-road suspension handled overall like a smaller vehicle, braked strongly and moved abruptly around obstacles with composure.
There was some bounciness to the ride as expected in a truck with solid rear axle and multileaf springs. But the ride was not jarring and most road bumps were well-managed. On a dirt trail, the test Silverado moved over dirt humps and into and out of potholes capably, and four-wheel drive didn’t seem to be necessary.
All passengers liked the above-it-all views from their seats and ample headroom. Front seats were generous in width and comfortable.
People familiar with older Silverados liked the modernized dashboard.
The interior was noticeably quiet, which made for normal-voice conversations.
The 2014 Silverado has a straightforward offering of engines _ the naturally aspirated V-6, the fuel-conscious V-8 that has the EcoTec3 label rather than last year’s Vortec, and a new 6.2-liter V-8.
People looking for something different can find a turbocharged V-6 in Ford’s F-150 and a fuel-sipping diesel V-6 coming for the Ram.
The test Silverado accelerated strongly off the line, and torque of 383 foot-pounds came at 4,100 rpm.
Pluses: Engine sounds were pitch perfect for a truck this big. Storage includes two gloveboxes and a deep and roomy, covered center console. Maximum towing capacity for a light-duty Silverado is 12,000 pounds.
Safety extras include forward collision warning that even vibrates the driver’s seat if a potential crash situation is detected.
The 2014 Silverado has been the subject of two safety recalls.
In July, 843 trucks built during June were recalled because welding on the front-passenger air bag inflator could break during air bag deployment, potentially causing the air bag to not fully inflate.
And in October, some 19,000 Silverado and sibling GMC Sierra pickups in the were being recalled because front seatbacks may not perform according to federal safety standards in rear crashes.
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