Five Good Minutes: Sitting Down with the Minds Behind the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado
Chevrolet just went through its "super bowl," as Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for the Golden Bowtie, said. This super bowl he's talking about is the recent launch of 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. Like crosstown rival Ford and its F-150, the Silverado delivers the biggest numbers for any Chevrolet model sold in North America. Perry's statement also touches upon the unyielding competition seen in the light-duty pickup truck segment. Ford, Chevrolet, Ram, and even Toyota are always trying to one-up each other through features like fuel economy and the hotly-contested (by fans of each respective brand, anyway) tow rating claims. We sat down with Jeff Luke, executive chief engineer for the 2014 Silverado, and Chris Hilts, creative design manager - full-size trucks, to see how the latest light-duty truck sporting a Golden Bowtie came to be. Automotive.com: What's the biggest change from the second to the third generation Silverado? Jeff Luke: I'd say there are really two things. One is the fuel economy improvement on the truck largely led the by the EcoTec3 engines but I'd also say the second thing would be the refinement and quietness of the cabin. A.com: What was your inspiration behind the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado? Chris Hilts: For the new Silverado, I think the attention to detail was key. Obviously function, getting all of the controls placed high and well within reach, that was all kind of the bare bones of the architecture for the truck. When it came down to a theme, I think the team really focused on craftsman-types of products, things that were made by hand. A.com: What measures were looked at when trying to grow fuel economy? JL: Clearly fuel economy is the sum of multiple performance areas. The engines, the powertrain, the EcoTec3 technologies, with active fuel management being one, direct injection being two, and continuously variable valve timing; those three technologies integrated into the powertrain make it much more efficient, but at the same time with more capability, more horsepower, and more torque. We look at aerodynamics, managing air around the vehicle, under the vehicle, around the side of it, making it more efficient and having less drag. We look at mechanical loses very carefully, we have a technology on our trucks called "Regulated Voltage Control," which essentially (reduces generator charging when systems don't need full power and as a result, saves energy). A.com: What does the High Country offer that the King Ranch and Laramie Longhorn don't? How's it going to be competitive? CH: I think the idea on the High Country is to set itself apart from the rest of the trim levels, so just like the King Ranch, the High Country is in the same segment. By doing things like contrasting piping on the seats, real leather on the seats, we use this seating leather that is cloud print, a unique material for leather, it's a bit pricey, a little more upscale from what normal leather would be. We have real aluminum on the High Country, that material choice sets (the High Country) apart from the rest of the trim level fleet. A.com: You're thoughts on keeping the column shifter? JL: About 65 percent of our production today, customers like the 40/20/40 front bench seat and we believe and hear a lot from customers that they really value the center console storage space and the shifter up on the column not only enables the 40/20/40 seating, but also (is beneficial for) customers with bucket seats. A.com: From a design standpoint, what did the customer want on this Silverado? CH: It's funny, when you talk to truck customers, they're very straight-forward, they tell you exactly what they want and what they don't want and a lot of them shy away from too much technology. What we really found out is that truck customers want a truck interior that feels like a truck. A.com: Name a feature, or two, on the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado that will fly under the radar? JL: The E-Z lift-and-lower tailgate, I think for people who are in and out of the back and using the tailgate very often, they will recognize the value and ease of use of the tailgate, and basically the one direction of effort being in the up direction only with this feature, and half the amount of lifting energy to put it back up, coupled with the step in the bumper. A very simple feature but very effective and I think these two features make truck use much easier and much more effective. CH: For me, it's got to be the eight-inch display and the (instrument) cluster. I had the opportunity, a few weeks ago, to drive with the navigation system fully routed and it's like a concert. As you're driving down the road, the map is changing directions, the screen and cluster tells you exactly what lane you want to be in, and yet, you're not compromising anything while you're driving down the road. A.com: Lastly, why no diesel? JL: We are evaluating whether diesel application will be accepted by customers. We look at performance, we look at cost, the value proposition for the customer, stay tuned at this time.
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