We're only days away from the highly anticipated unveiling of the next generation of General Motors' half-ton trucks, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500. The 2014 models will represent the trucks' first bumper-to-bumper redesign since 2007. During that time, the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 have received clean-sheet redesigns as well as extensive refreshes, making the current GM models a little stale by comparison. GM is hoping its all-new trucks, which should feature new engines, a new chassis, increased capabilities, more modern features, and updated styling, will reset the half-ton game.
We know what we'd like to see on the new GM trucks and we've put together our Top 10 list below, along with our probability prediction for each of the features.
1) Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission
Likely, but probably not at launch. GM reportedly has two eight-speed transmissions in development: a lower-volume version for specialized applications in cars like the C7 Chevrolet Corvette and Chevrolet SS performance sedan, and a higher volume version for use in its full-size pickups and SUVs. Like the GMT 900 trucks and SUVs, which launched with four-speeds and eventually got six-speeds, the new GM trucks are likely to spend a year or two with their existing six-speeds before getting upgraded.
2) Diesel Engine
Not likely. The tragedy here is that GM created a late-stage prototype of a light-duty diesel engine right before its 2009 bankruptcy. Dubbed the Duramax 4500, the 4.5-liter V-8 had many unique features, including reverse-flow heads similar to those used on the new 6.7-liter Ford Power Stroke, dual overhead cams, and an unusual 72-degree cylinder bank angle. The engine was reportedly designed to fit into the same space as a gasoline small-block V-8, and its reported output of 310 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque would have matched that of the original LB7 Duramax 6.6-liter HD diesel, but in a lighter, more fuel-efficient package. By all indications, this engine will be relegated to the dusty basements of GM's R&D centers and obscure gearhead history books.
3) Turbo V-6
Ford F-150 EcoBoost Engin...
Ford F-150 EcoBoost Engine
Feasible, but not at launch. GM's reported strategy for the new 1500 model trucks is to counter Ford's EcoBoost with similar power and the same or better fuel economy from its new direct-injected, 5.3-liter, fifth-generation small-block V-8. For traditionalists who insist on V-8 power, that may be a winning strategy, but the popularity of V-6s in full-size trucks took everyone by surprise, including Ford. You can bet the success of the EcoBoost is being monitored very closely from the towers of the Ren Cen, and a turbocharged V-6 in the Silverado and Sierra could eventually become a reality.
4) Integrated Bed Box Storage
Unknown. Ram's Ram Box is a clever utilization of what would otherwise be wasted space in the side of the bed. So far, Chrysler is the only manufacturer to offer such a feature, but it may not be the last. GM and Ford may be waiting until any existing patents on this clever feature expire.
5) HID/LED Lighting
2013 Ford F-150 HID Headl...
2013 Ford F-150 HID Headlight
Most likely. We were somewhat surprised by the claim that the 2013 Ford F-150 was the first full-size truck to offer HID lights, but sure enough, after doing some research, the feature had been absent from the segment, even on upscale models like the GMC Sierra Denali. HID lights are almost certainly going to appear on the next-gen Sierra Denali, and possibly on a high-trim Silverado. We're also betting on liberal use of LEDs as running lights, taillights and turn signals, either as options or standard features across much of the 2014 GM 1500 lineup.
6) Cabin Tech Upgrades
You can bank on this one. GM has been very aggressive lately with the development and marketing of its upgraded cabin tech in the form of the MyLink suite in Chevrolet models and IntelliLink in GMC and Buick models. Lower-trim models will likely have a slimmed-down interface with basic functions or mobile-device integration, while higher-trim models such as the Denali could even get something approaching Cadillac's CUE tablet-like touch-screen interface.
Spied photos of the 2014 Chevy...
Spied photos of the 2014 Chevy Sliverado
2013 Ford F-150
2013 Ram 1500
7) Increased Towing/Payload Capacity
If there's one thing full-size trucks don't want to be seen as, it's weak. Although added capability in the form of payload or towing has traditionally also meant increased weight, advancements in materials and engineering sophistication have allowed ever-higher levels of capability without as much of a weight penalty as there would have been in the past. You can bet GM will try to trump Ford and Ram's ratings, even if by only a few dozen or hundred pounds.
8) Increased Fuel Economy
This one is a no-brainer. Ford is hawking the EcoBoost's double-barreled advantages of fuel economy and towing and hauling capability, and the Ram V-6 offers an unprecedented 25 mpg highway, so it's a foregone conclusion that improved economy will play a major role in the 2014 GM models' marketing and product positioning. Count on the direct-injection 5.3 V-8 matching or surpassing the EcoBoost's 16/22 EPA ratings.
9) Lighter Weight
Most likely, if for no other reason than increased fuel economy. But even with the aforementioned advancements in engineering and materials, reduced weight is somewhat of a trade-off with capability. There may not be a massive decrease of 500 or more pounds, but a model-for-model drop of a few hundred pounds is a strong likelihood.
10) Improved Interior Materials/Design
Today's trucks are no longer the stripped-down beasts of burden they once were. Just look at the proliferation of high-trim (and high-profit) leather-lined models offered by the Detroit Three. Ford has especially capitalized on the dual-use trend with multiple plush renditions of the F-150, including the Limited, King Ranch, and Lariat. Chrysler's once legendarily horrific interiors have also given way to handsome, functional, and high-quality cabins in the new Ram models. Expect the bar to be raised significantly on the new GM models.
That's our crystal-ball reading on the new GM trucks. Check back on December 13 for the official details to see how close we were. Let us know your predictions in the comments below.