If timid styling is the only criticism of the 2014 full-size trucks from General Motors, they'll be a huge success.
Chevrolet and GMC unveiled Silverado and Sierra 1500 pickups at Detroit's North American International Auto Show with "evolutionary" design changes, which means they look a lot like the previous generation.
Is that a problem? Not really. A problem would have been a pair of trucks that could not be immediately identified with their makers.
Of those rivals, the F-Series and Ram share iconic status with the Silverado and Sierra. When Dodge unveiled the brutally brilliant front end of the Ram in 1994, the concept took hold and remains in place today.
Ford has done some nice cosmetic updates to its F-Series, but the blue oval still looks at home on the chrome grille.
The 2014 GM trucks are handsome enough to appeal to any driver's vanity and rugged enough to handle almost any chore.
Silverado's new design is more muscular, more functional and more aerodynamic. A twin-port grille, full-width bumper and dual power dome hood present a bold front, which continues through sculpted body sides and fender flares.
The front end is engineered for more efficient cooling, while the roof and tailgate spoiler were shaped for reduced drag. New inlaid doors, which fit into recesses in the body side, reduce wind noise for a quieter cab.
In the all-important power compartment, the 2014 Silverado 1500 features a family of three all-new EcoTec3 engines. The base V6 and two V8s use direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing. All three switch seamlessly to four-cylinder operation to improve efficiency during light load driving and all three are engineered provide more power, more torque and better efficiency than the previous versions.
The new 4.3-liter V6 is built to power a crew cab pickup, while the 5.3-liter V8 adds power, torque and better efficiency than the current version. A new 6.2-liter V8 is top dog.
A redesigned interior features upright instrument panel, six-gauge instrument cluster and multiple storage options. In keeping with GM's ergonomic legacy, controls are functional, logically placed and easy to operate with work gloves on. Rear doors on crew cabs are larger, for easier entry and exit, and rear doors on extended cab models are now hinged at the front for easier access, especially in tight spots.
With GM bringing its new trucks to market just a few months after Ram Trucks updated its 1500, the new models are catching a wave of enthusiasm from the market.
The best-selling F-Series ended 2012 with sales of 645,316, up 10 percent, according to Autodata statistics. Chevrolet sold 418,312 Silverados, similar to the prior year, while Sierra sales rose 5 percent to 157,185, giving GM a total of 575,497 full-size pickup sales. As those numbers indicate, GM is tantalizingly close to Ford's numbers in the category.
Still, Ford's 39 percent of the market is its largest since 2001, with its lead the longest since 2004. And that's for a truck that has been the best-selling vehicle of any kind for 36 straight years.
Ram sales were up almost 20 percent to 293,363. Toyota and Nissan are still struggling to catch up to the domestic three. The Texas-built Toyota Tundra achieved 101,621 sales, up 23 percent in 2012, while Nissan's Mississippi-built Titan saw sales drop 2 percent to 21,576.
To give customers a clue as to where the next-generation F-Series is heading, Ford unveiled a concept vehicle called the Atlas featuring a next-generation EcoBoost powertrain with truck-enhanced automatic engine shutoff technology. Auto Start-Stop shuts off the engine when stopped in traffic to save fuel and suspends the feature in towing situations.
EcoBoost engines use gasoline direct injection and turbocharging to deliver fuel-economy gains of up to 20 percent and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of up to 15 percent, compared with larger-displacement engines. More than 500,000 EcoBoost engines have been sold globally, including 250,000 in the Ford F-150.
Other features include active grille shutters that open when extra cooling is needed and close to improve aerodynamics at cruising speeds. A drop-down front air dam serves as a spoiler to improve aerodynamics at highway speeds and rises in low-speed situations to increase ground clearance.
"The Ford Atlas Concept previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pickup," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. "With 36 years as America's best-selling pickup, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market."
2014 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500
TYPE: Full-size pickup.
WHERE BUILT: Flint, Mich.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico.
KEY RIVALS: Ford F-Series, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan.
POWER: 4.3-liter V6; 5.3-liter V8; 6.2-liter V8.
FUEL ECONOMY: TBA.
STANDARD: independent coil-over-shock; monotube shock absorbers available; solid axle with semi-elliptic two-stage multi-leaf springs; monotube shocks available; electrically-assisted power rack-and-pinion steering with variable assist; StabiliTrak electronic stability control with Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist; power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with Duralife long-life brake rotors; standard ABS; Hill Descent Control available
Email Richard Williamson at motorfriend(at)sbcglobal.net.