Fort Wayne, Ind. - As the sun glistened brightly on a crisp northern Indiana fall morning, thoughts of tail gate activities danced though Hoosierland. Sure... Saturday, September 14, 2013 saw intrastate pig skin rivals Notre Dame and Purdue University preparing for a prime time televised shoot out with the coveted traveling 'Shillelagh trophy' at stake. But another same-day event took tail gating to new heights, or at least near record-setting lengths.
A total of 272 multi-generational Chevrolet Silverados, GMC Sierras and assorted General Motors pickups (with built-in tail gates) partook in the early afternoon "GM Truck Homecoming Parade" winding through the streets of Fort Wayne, police escorts included.
Fort Wayne Indiana, tucked in the northwest corner of the state, is an easy three-and-a-half hour easterly drive from Chicago's suburbs. It's also home to General Motors' Fort Wayne Assembly facility, cranking out as many next-generation, light duty (also known as 1500 or half ton) 2014 Silverados and Sierras as time will permit.
Fort Wayne Assembly opened in 1986 with a singular focus, light-duty full-size pickups; the only vehicle platform the facility has ever known. The 2014 Silverado/Sierra redesign boosted regional employment, adding 400 jobs, helping the state's second most-populous city to post one of the Midwest's lowest unemployment rates.
Dennis Dugan of nearby Columbia City Indiana and a 29-year GM employee brought his nicely refurbished 1948 bright orange Chevy ThriftMaster to the morning gathering and afternoon parade. "My wife and I bought this in 2001 and by August of 2004 had it ready to roll."
Full-size pickup truck customers are a passionate, brand loyal lot with Ford's light-duty F-150 continuing as the country's best-selling vehicle. But competitors including the Ram 1500 and Toyota's light-duty Tundra both underwent their own major tweaks in 2014, so the Silverado/Sierra redesign is well timed.
"The new 2014 Silverados and Sierras are stronger, smarter and more capable than ever before," commented Jully Burau, Chief Engineer, GM trucks, who acted as master of ceremonies from an outdoor platform stage during the duos pre-parade introduction at the Allen County Memorial Stadium Parking lot. "The 4,400 workers at Fort Wayne Assembly worked tirelessly to execute the front bumper to rear hitch redesign."
Since it's the season for weekend tail gating, Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 now adopt a 'light glide' back-end feature. No more uncontrolled 'thumps or thuds' when the tail gate descends down. The EZ lift and lower feature brings the tail gate to rest in a slow, controlled fashion for a soft landing utilizing just a couple fingers. Also, new corner rear step bumpers act as foot guides, providing solid footing when hoisting oneself into the bed.
Our V-8 Silverado Crew Cab tester (also one of 272 parade participants) included illuminating arrows in both side large view mirrors when the turn signal blinkers get called to action. Also a great touch was a circular insert in the driver's side mirror focusing light on the pesky left-side blind spot.
Two of three Silverado/Sierra cab designs are built in Fort Wayne: regular two-door and four-door double cabs. Larger Crew Cabs call Flint Michigan and Silao, Mexico production homes. The double cab body style replaces slightly smaller extended cabs from the previous generation.
Another Fort Wayne Assembly employee Deana Write, a subject matter expert during the redesign spoke to visiting scribes about the two-and-a-half year redesign process. "During the build, special attention was paid to noise reduction with triple door seals; thicker, denser dash insulation and in-layed door bodies," Wright said.
Indeed, during the three-plus hour trip from Chicagoland to eastern Indiana, the ride remained noticeably insulated with little-to-no tire-noise feedback and a better balance when compared to 2013 efforts.
Three naturally aspirated gas engines are offered, one V-6 and two V-8s. All three feature cylinder deactivation (utilizing just four cylinders at highway speeds to save fuel), continuous variable valve timing, and direct fuel injection. The trio are E-85 compliant, able to process a blend of 85 percent ethanol, a change from 2013 when only V-8s were E-85 ready. Otherwise, regular, 87-octane petro suffices. No turbo diesel powertrains are currently offered in GM's 1500 models, but are readily available in three-quarter-ton, 2500 and one-ton 3500 Silverados and Siennas.
The base 4.3-liter V-6 cranks out 285 horses, a significant jump from 2013's 4.3-liter's 195 horses. The 4 x 4 edition now tows up to 7,200 pounds, best of any base V-6 in the 1500 segment. The mid-choice 5.3-liter V-8 enjoys 355 horses (up from 315 hp. in 2013) and was the first engine available when 2014 models began arriving in dealerships this past May. A 4.8-liter V-8 from 2013 was retired. New for Silverado and Sierra is a top-performing 6.2-liter V-8 cranking out 420 horsepower, arriving to dealers in September of 2013. The 5.3-liter's 23 miles per gallon highway (two wheel drive) delivers the best V-8 mileage in the highly competitive segment.
Three-passenger regular cabs offer the V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8 engines. Two bed lengths include a six-foot-six-inch variety or extended eight-footer. Double cabs come solely with the six-foot six-inch bed and all three engine selections. Crew cabs offer two bed lengths: five-foot eight-inches or six-foot six-inches and three engine choices. All three body styles come with 4 x 2 two-wheel drive or 4 x 4 all-wheel drive with six-speed automatic transmission standard. Despite added content, base pricing for all three body styles remain unchanged from 2013.
Pricing for our roomy 2014 4 x 4 Silverado Crew Cab started at $43,165. Several a-la-cart options included power sunroof ($995) 'MyLink' audio/in-dash navigation with eight-inch color screen ($785), Six-inch chrome assist steps ($700), heated and cooled front seats ($650), leatherette seat covering ($325), trailer brake controller ($230), four movable, cargo area upper tie downs ($60) Cargo box LED lighting ($60) along with driver alert package ($845) and LTZ Plus Package ($770) brought the bottom line to $49,590 with 995 destination charge. The lowest-priced Silverado, a base two-wheel-drive with regular cab starts at $24,585.
While the two trucks share an assembly line, notable differences exist. Wheel arch molding comes standard with GMC Sierra, while optional in Chevrolet Silverado. As with most GMC offerings, Sierra offers a well-equipped Denali version.
Exterior visual changes are minimal; both are instantly recognizable as Silverado or Sienna. Our Silverado tester made huge leaps concerning ingress and egress. Pickups, never known for sedan-like entry and exit, have evolved where a nonagenarian shot-gun passenger had no issues getting in and out of the 2014 version. An aluminum hood and the cab's usage of high-strength steel work in tandem to lower weight and create a stronger frame.
Inside, plenty of storage (including a bi-level, two-door glove-box) is available along with abundant plug-in and recharging ports accommodating just about any portable electronic device. Soft-touch materials with stitched piping adorn dash and doors. Changing from two-wheel to four-wheel drive is accomplished electronically from a left-side dash dial.
While the' Truck Homecoming Parade' missed the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest pickup trunk conga line, participants experienced a better day then Boilermaker fans, who sauntered home with heartache and no trophy.
At a Glance2014 Chevrolet Silverado
Price as tested: $49,590
Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
Length: 230 inches
Width: 80 inches
Engine: 5.3 -liter V-8
Curb weight: 5,292 pounds
City/Highway economy: 16 mpg city/ 22 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five year/100,000-mile transferable limited warranty
Assembly: Fort Wayne, Ind; Flint, Mich; Silao Mexico