The truck market in Canada is a big one. It’s even bigger with our friends to the south. According to sales figures the Ford F-150 has outsold every other model of vehicle in North America for many many years. In fact last year the Ford F-150 accounted for just over 6% of the total volume of new vehicle sales. Nearly one in every ten new vehicles sold was an F-150. It’s with good reason. The F-150 has proven to be a reliable, attractive and hard working light duty pickup. Recent designs are stylish and simple yet rugged. Innovations like the EcoBoost engine and tailgate steps have been popular in the segment. By sales numbers at the very least they are the golden standard.
This is the environment that GM is launching their “all new” line of light duty trucks. The unveiling of their mid and heavy duty trucks is soon to follow no doubt along the same lines. GM has always been chasing Ford with truck sales but, as I said in a recent Silverado review, it’s not because of poor product offering. The current product offering is competitive but certainly in need of an update. Let’s take a look at the limited information from the launch and post launch information.
“All New” redesign
I put this in quotes for a reason. My first blush of the Silverado and Sierra when they were revealed was “these don’t look significantly redesigned”. And they’re not. Both trucks bear similar fender curves and shape of their previous generation. You do notice a big change on the grill and cabin design, however. None of this is really a negative thing. The old design has been refreshed to add a nice element of sophistication without sacrificing the trademarks that makes a GM Truck stand out in the crowd.
They’ve actually exaggerated the grill designs intentionally for this purpose. Things like projector bulb headlamps and chrome add a real element of class to the front end design.
One place where the current GM lines were barely keeping pace is economy. Comparing entry level engines with the F-150 and the GMs didn’t fare well. Expensive and frequent trips to the gas pump are stereotypes of pickup-truck ownership. The drive for affordability and environmental requirements have changed a lot of that recently. Most truck manufacturers have been racing to clock better and better mileage numbers in the last few years. Ford’s EcoBoost engine, a turbo 3.6L V6, was first on the market to show a boosted V6 could do the work a thirsty V8 could. Dodge recently released a V6 in their trucks with 38 Mpg highway (advertised). The current generation of GM trucks didn’t have much to compete with these high mileage engines. That’s not to say they didn’t have good offerings. For a little bit extra all their trucks could be fitted with the 5.3.L V8 which was more than comparable with its competitor V8s.
That’s all changed with the 2014s. GM has re-launched their truck engines with an all new engine series. This is a legitimate re-design. According to the launch event these engines share very few parts codes with their past generation. They are being sold under the name EcoTec3 and feature your standard offerings of current technology. Direct injection, multi-displacement and variable valve timing are all standard on all three engines. Gone is the inefficient 4.8L V8 replaced with the EcoTec3 4.3L V6 engine. GM hasn’t released Mpg numbers for these engines at publication but you can expect them to be comparable to competitors.
All new interior; Infotainment!
Trucks have long been lacking in the tech department. I’m probably part of a few people who feel this way. Again GM’s trucks and their interiors were due for an update in this sense. The F-150 received an update two years ago along with the Dodge Ram. The GM design, while neat and functional, was years older. As a tech geek I’ve longed for a pickup that had the same infotainment options as some of the higher class SUVs. Traditionally the buyers in the truck market didn’t share my passion for such things. They demanded simple practicality and reliability. That’s changing. Trucks are becoming family vehicles and as such need to start providing the same options. GM has plainly recognized this (along with Ford and Dodge) and we’ve seen a massive change with the 2014 launch. The new truck dashes are much prettier and modern looking. The best change, however, is the massive inclusion of Infotainment. I’ve never used the Chevy MyLink system but it has potential. There have been reviews done comparing it to the Ford Sync which were positive. I reserve judgement for my own techie battering of tests, however.
All around the new designs are good. GM has a good line-up of light duty trucks and a formula that has been successful, just not as much as their competition. Their long-needed update is here but they are making us wait until later next spring or early summer before the first 2014 models have come. While they may be first to pull the punch on the 2014 line-up they may have shown their cards too early. Ford and Dodge have yet to launch their 2014 truck lines and now they know what GM is up too. It’s a strong hand for sure, but will it stand after the river? They seem to think so.