Road test: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado

Kevin Hackett clambers aboard the updated version of Chevy’s big load-bearer.
The Chevrolet Silverado may not differ much from its GMC Sierra cousin, but it boasts a lengthy lineage and a proud workhorse tradition. Courtesy Chevrolet
The Chevrolet Silverado may not differ much from its GMC Sierra cousin, but it boasts a lengthy lineage and a proud workhorse tradition. Courtesy Chevrolet

It isn’t long since I got to test the GMC Sierra truck and, on the surface of things, the Chevrolet Silverado appears to be the exact same vehicle, only with different badges attached to its sizeable flanks. But there’s more to the Silverado than merely a less luxurious specification and (slightly) more subtle nomenclature. This is a full-sized, light-duty truck with history – and it’s this rich heritage that draws buyers in, faithful to a brand that has been around since 1911.

So while its road manners and abilities are fully in tune with those of its more expensive GMC cousin, and hence there’s no need to dissect them, it’s probably more pertinent to look at what you get for your money with something like this. Because when it comes to metal for your hard-earned dirhams, there’s very little to touch an American truck.

The 2014 Silverado Light Duty has, according to The General, “been engineered to be stronger, smarter and more capable than ever before”. And while we might not normally associate a vehicle of this kind with the word “smart”, there’s intelligence being applied to the way they are powered. Engines that shut down half the cylinders at lower speeds would have been completely irrelevant in a big truck not that long ago, but now it makes living with one less of a financial or environmental headache.

There’s also smart design when it comes to the interior, which, while still functional in its look, now embraces touch-screen connectivity via a large, central display that’s intuitive and easy to use – something that would also have been considered a useless extravagance in times past. But is it a smart purchasing decision in the UAE?

The Silverado is still possessed of bullish styling, as any road user of outside lanes on our main roads would no doubt testify, and this is one of the reasons that these behemoths are so popular here. But on my way to the office this morning, I happened to pass one on the road that was being used for its intended purpose: it was actually transporting livestock – goats that were tethered to the flat bed and seemed to be enjoying the view and the “fresh” air. My passenger also remarked that she’d seen one over the weekend that was carrying a couple of small boats, so it’s evidently not entirely about posing and “livin’ the American dream”.

There’s no shortage of space inside, either. My test vehicle is a Z71 model, replete with crew cab and four doors, offering an impressive amount of room that would be the envy of many large saloon cars. The interior surfaces are more pleasant to look at and to touch than before, and the same utilitarian approach to design as the Sierra is here in abundance. That means more USB ports than a computer lab, and storage boxes and cubbyholes that you could house a small family inside. If it’s practical usability that you’re after, then this could be your ideal mode of transport.

Chevrolet claims that “hundreds of improvements, large and small” have been made to the Silverado – these include revised steering, suspension and brakes, although it’s still no focused track warrior. It’s softly sprung and a bit wallowy over bumps and through bends, but my goodness it’s comfortable and quiet on the straight-ahead, no doubt ably assisted by the acoustic-laminated glass, triple-sealed doors and lined front-wheel wells. It’s as quiet as an S-Class, even as its brick-like profile batters through the air at speed.

You can specify a Silverado in any of a bewildering array of trim types, ranging from a humble V6 with a two-seat cab, all the way to the high-end truck that I’m testing, and again that’s versatility that would be most welcome in other markets – but here, where size matters, it’s likely that only the largest will appeal. Apart from the differing physical dimensions and power trains on offer, the trim levels vary between el-cheapo vinyl and luxuriant leather, but whatever you choose, the build quality is immeasurably better than it used to be, despite pricing staying pretty much the same as ever they were.

But what’s this? I’m experiencing vibrations through the seat of my pants – something that I haven’t before encountered – as I swap lanes. Ah ha, that will be the Silverado’s lane-departure monitoring telling me off for not using my indicators. While normal cars might emit an audible warning or flash a light from a mirror, this truck simply gives my derrière a rumble – it’s weird but effective, although, with the truck’s enormous girth, it’s easy to set off as it occupies almost all of any lane that it happens to be in.

My previous reservations remain, however, and I know a vehicle like this will never appeal to me personally. But each to their own, because there’s a buoyant market here for them and some are being put to good use as workhorses rather than fashion statements. It comes from a distinguished line of vehicles that stretches back to a time when horses and carts were still de rigueur and it will no doubt still be around, in one form or another, decades from now.

khackett@thenational.ae

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Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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