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Consumer Reports auto experts report from the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
GMC Sierra

What is it? Both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra mark an evolutionary step forward, with revised styling, powertrains, and safety features more commonly associated with upscale cars.

The light-duty 1500 series trucks wear squared-off styling that gives them a sturdy, heavy-duty appearance. Numerous design details, such as a more angled windshield and tighter panel gaps, has enabled a five-percent improvement in aerodynamics. The trucks were engineered to meet the latest crash test standards.

Much emphasis was given to fuel economy in the developed, however, no real numbers are yet available for mileage or power. There are three new all-aluminum engines: 4.3L V6, 5.3L V8, and 6.2L V8. Each is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. Despite carrying familiar displacement designations, these new engines have “few” carry over parts from past engines. Each has cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing, and grade braking. The V6 will be the standard engine, and notably, it will be offered with crew cab configurations.

The trucks will be sold in traditional standard, extended cab, and crew cab bodies, with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The redesign brings larger rear doors on crew cab models, and extended cab rear doors are now forward-hinged. Four-wheel disc brakes now standard.

The cargo bed will be available in three bed lengths: 5’8”, 6’6”, and 8’. Notably, this gives crew cab models a choice of 5’8” or 6’6”. A corner-step bumper allows easier access to the bed, and the tailgate can be had with damping to aid opening and closing. To aid nighttime loading, LED lighting (standard on Sierra) is mounted under the bed rails.

What is new or notable? With the new trucks, GM has placed an emphasis on reducing noise, from chassis, motors, and cabin design, promising its quietest cab ever. Interiors look distinctly GM, though a bit less toy like. There is an increased emphasis on electronic features, such as a 4.2-inch information display and available MyLink infotainment system. The Sierra is distinguished by numerous upscale trim pieces.

On the safety front, the trucks tout available lane departure warning, forward collision warning systems, and backup camera, along with standard trailer sway control, hill start assist, side curtain air bags, and OnStar telematics.

The light-duty pickup trucks are expected to go on sale next year, to be followed by heavy-duty versions, and then new midsized Canyon and Colorado trucks

CR's take: In testing the current Silverado and Sierra, we found the trucks to be easy to live with, thanks to a comfortable ride, a floor height that allows fairly easy access and cargo loading, and a generous load capacity. But we did note that they are not as quiet inside as the Dodge or Ford pickups, which also have better brakes. With the known updates for the redesigned GM trucks, it sounds like they have targeted some good improvements. We look forward to buying and testing them ourselves to see how they stack up in this challenging, high-stakes market niche.

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