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Auto blogSat, 10 May 2014 18:03:00 EST
As Ford prepares to hit the market with its x-factor, aluminum-intensive F-150 and Ram sales stand tall enough to meet General Motors truck sales eye-to-eye, GM is putting the word out that it's going to add more features to its trucks and do so more regularly. An executive engineer for pickups told reporters that "a whole array" of changes are on the way as soon as the 2015 model year and then would likely come "the year after that, the year after that, the year after that."
Only GM knows the way it plans to go with its fullsize trucks, with almost everyone else - including its dealers - griping about market share at the same time as they applaud profits and hope for clarity and growth. GM raised prices on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra not long after launch even as it was losing market share and getting called "the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years," further upsetting dealers, then Ram outsold the Silverado in March of this year and led GM to increase incentives. But transaction prices rose with the premium; in the first quarter of this year more than 37 percent of the trucks costing more than $40,000 were the Silverado and Sierra, leading one dealer to say of the Sierra, "You can't sell a cheap one," and the analyst who made that "least successful launch" comment to opine, "GM may have made the right call to go for price over share."
We won't know for a few months what any of these updates will be, but the rumored changes for the Silverado and Sierra appear to cover all the bases, including appearance, capability and fuel economy. Rumors run to higher gear counts, stop-start technology and diesel engines before brand-new pickups come for the 2019 model year, those next-generation models supposedly to be engineered with a lot more aluminum.
General Motors has finally dropped the curtain on the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and 2014 GMC Sierra. Both trucks have undergone substantial revisions with updated versions of the company's 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8 engines. In a shot across the bows of both Ford and Chrysler, GM says it won't use a V6 engine adapted from passenger car applications. Instead, it developed the 4.3-liter engine based on its proven truck-duty architecture.
All three mills will boast direct injection fuel systems as well as a new cylinder head design. Combined with a revised piston, the new engines feature a smaller combustion chamber with a compression ratio of 11:1 or higher depending on the application. Cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing are all part of the recipe, and each engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with auto grade breaking. So far, no fuel economy or horsepower figures have been released, though GM says the new engines will best their predecessors in both areas.
Outside, the trucks feature a number of enhancements to reduce drag and wind noise, and GM claims both the Silverado and Sierra will offer buyers some of the quietest cabins in the class. Extended cab models now feature front-hinged rear doors to allow easier access to the back passenger area, and Crew Cab buyers can now select between a five-foot, eight-inch bed or a six-foot, six-inch bed. Buyers with a mind toward going off road will also rejoice in the return of the Z71 package, complete with Rancho shocks, front tow hooks and additional under-body protection.
Refreshed, Not Refreshing
I'm probably ill-suited to accurately and fairly take the full measure of a vehicle like the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali. This is a machine conjured around the express notion of corralling and then herding a brood of rafter-swinging hatchlings to and fro in relative comfort, and with no such passel of wee Bowmans to call my own, it's difficult to give this rig a fair shake. While I can certainly weigh cargo capacity, legroom and fuel economy stats with the best of them, I'd be lying to your face if I said the word "crossover" didn't urge some uncontrollable Pavlovian recoil from the murky recesses of my frame. To put it simply, I just can't stand the damn things.
As a rule, the segment is built on a bed of compromise. Manufacturers love nothing more than to spin up a tired yarn about the virtues of this particular neck of the market. We're told the crossbreeds deliver all the ride quality, driving dynamics and fuel economy of a car married with the seating position, capability and interior volume of the SUV set. That all sounds as swell as a sunset, but as the 2013 Acadia Denali so artfully illustrates, the advertising on the box is rarely congruous with the prize inside. Even with an imaginary squad of younglings at my heels, the refreshed luxury crossover doesn't quite manage to scratch the promised itches.