Sport Truck readers already know that trucks are great. The broader automotive world is about to be reminded of this fact, when General Motors puts its next generation of pickups on sale during the fourth quarter of 2006. Meet the all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
These are easily the most sophisticated and best trucks The General has ever produced. To highlight this point, GM's Heritage Center brought out a bunch of historic pickups from its collection to show how much the world of trucks has changed since the Grabowsky brothers founded Rapid Motor Vehicle Company and sold what may be the world's first truck in 1902. (Max and Morris Grabowsky sold their truck company to General Motors in 1912, and their company became GM's GMC.) The first pickup in the display, a model from 1915, still had chaindrive and wood spoke wheels!
To make the point that these trucks mean business, none other than the Chairman of General Motors himself, Rick Wagoner, kicked off this major introduction. Rick arrived in one of a fleet of 22 trucks that sped dramatically into position along a hillside at General Motors' Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. And by "mean business," Wagoner was quick to point out that as GM's best-selling product line, these were critical to the company's financial future.
So, what did GM come up with? How did it make the country's best-selling truck even better? To answer this question, GM product development engineers spoke for the better part of an hour and handed out nearly 100 pages of materials charting the changes and advancements. We can't cover every detail right here, right now, but we can give you the highlights.
The Silverado and Sierra ride on a new, stronger chassis with a fully boxed frame. Engineers say that the new frame shows a 234 percent improvement in torsional stiffness and a 62 percent improvement in vertical stiffness, compared to the '06 models. This is critical, because when the chassis is solid, it can handle more power, the suspension can be tuned better, the vehicle is quieter, and the feeling of quality goes way up.
Suspensions are all new, with major changes at each end. Monotube shocks, with coilover springs, once only used on sports cars, are now standard fare up front. For added stability, the front track is widened 3 inches. In back, there is an additional inch of track. The traditional leaf spring lives on, but with huge refinements, such as splayed shocks and new mounting points. Payload and towing capacities are up, while ride and handling are said to be improved. (We'll let you know our opinion when we drive them.) The standard wheels are 17 inches, with 18- and 20-inch rims available.
Beyond pure mechanical advances, full electronic stability control is standard on crew cabs, and is enhanced with the ability help reduce yaw. Bosch's latest electronics control the four-wheel disc brakes.
With a design that lays the...
With a design that lays the door almost flush against the bed, the rear doors on extended cab models open a full 170 degrees.
Powering the new trucks is a family of engines that consist mainly of high-performance V-8s. The most advanced mills use technology developed for the Corvette Z06's LS7 engine. The aluminum heads feature a high-flow design with unique inlet port and offset rocker arms. Some engines also include variable valve timing (VVT), a slick system that automatically changes the phase of the cam to alter intake and exhaust valve timing. VVT is key to maximizing idle smoothness and allows the engines to make more power over a wider rpm range. Some engines also have active fuel management, a feature that shuts down fuel delivery to four cylinders. We've driven other GM V-8s with this feature, and the only clue that the engine is firing on fewer than eight pots is the indicator on the dash. When you step into the throttle, all cylinders instantly come back on line seamlessly.
Features like these help improve mileage, and while figures weren't available as we went to press, expect to see a 1 mph increase to both city and highway figures.
The use of coilover springs...
The use of coilover springs and monotube shocks show how high-performance engineering has affected the suspension design on these new trucks.
The General knows that these...
The General knows that these trucks will be used for work or play, so there are two completely different interior configurations. Interiors on work trucks feature larger controls and door handles that are easier to use with gloves, plus a double glovebox. Think utility and simplicity.
The General knows that these...
The General knows that these trucks will be used for work or play, so there are two completely different interior configurations. More luxurious car-like interiors, as found on GM's new SUVs, are standard on higher trim levels.