By Sue Mead, Motor Matters

Climbing into the saddle of the 2014 Chevy Silverado at the Knibbe Ranch in Texas, we found a lot of things worthy in GM's claim that its new "from hood to hitch" pickups are the "best-driving in the industry."

Renovated from the ground-up, the 2014 Chevy Silverado gets a boldly refreshed exterior with "fist-in-the-wind" styling, plus a redesigned interior with upgraded materials with more elbow and foot room. Silverado also has new infotainment/navigation features; new and upgraded powertrains with more command at the wheel along with improved fuel economy and better towing and hauling capability; a posse of new technologies that aid in on-road and off-road driving; and a collection of new safety features.

The 2014 Silverado starts at $24,585, including destination. Double-cab versions retail for $28,610, while the crew-cab model will start at $32,710. It comes in 2WD or 4WD with regular, double cab (replaces extended cab) and crew cab versions. Buyers can order one of three box sizes (5.8-, 6.6- or 8-foot beds); and choose between several trim levels. Three drivetrains are available, including a 4.3-liter V-6, 5.3-liter V-8 and 6.2-liter V-8. There are no hybrid versions at the present.

The 2104 Silverado looks more boxy, angular and aggressive than ever. The more steeply-raked windshield serves a dual purpose; it brings improved fuel economy and reduces wind noise. The new truck is also larger -- nearly the height of GM's current heavy-duty models.

A twin-port grille, full-width bumper and dual powerdome hood are capped by stacked, rounded headlamps that seem small relative to the overall proportions of the front end. Integrated roof and tailgate spoilers, along with recessed sides and inlaid or recessed doors with triple seals, combine to improve exterior airflow and reduce noise in the cabin.

Exterior changes and innovations of note include the front-hinged rear doors on extended cab models that make it easier for rear passengers to get in and out. A corner step on the rear bumper is a great way to solve the problem of having to reach over the liftgate to grab something in the bed, or simply climb in over the gate; the steps pair with grips on the side of the bed. The rear liftgate has been redesigned and is easy-to-lift and drop-down.

The Silverado cabins are larger and have been thoroughly renovated, created to give a more comfortable, stylish ride and beset with higher-quality materials. An upright instrument panel and center stack with 4.2-inch information screen, with big knobs and controls, are easy to see, reach and manipulate -- even with work gloves on.

We drove a number of Silverado models that have clearly come ready to battle the competition in the U.S. We drove on highways and two-lane country roads, as well as on dirt roads and rougher, off-road terrain. We also towed trailers and hauled heavy loads to assess its ride and drive in conditions that many buyers will perform. We found plenty of power on tap in the V-6 and liked the drive of the V-8; and came away impressed with the new transmission that delivered shifts on time and torque when needed.

Both on the road and over rough terrain, we appreciated the updated suspension and engineering upgrades that make the stiffer truck feel lighter on its feet. The new electric power assist rack-and-pinion steering is responsive and made even the biggest versions of the Silverados feel easily maneuverable. Also good are the upgraded brakes and the smooth and confidence-inspiring pedal feel (something that was lacking with previous generation trucks).

The all-new V-6 that gets 285 horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque was purpose-built for the 1500 series of pickups, rather than being adapted from a GM passenger vehicle. The beauty of this engine is that it shuts down to 4-cylinder operation when driven at moderate speeds. Driving the V-6 we were able to achieve 19-23 mpg on average, even with some spirited motoring.

We also drove the 5.3-liter V-8 that gets 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque and is rated at 16/21 mpg. All three motors are matched to a six-speed transmission with Auto Grade Braking to reduce brake wear on downgrades. The engines share GM's EcoTec3 technology, which allows each of them to operate with only four cylinders through cylinder deactivation.

Silverado's designers have done a great job with updated and new styling that also keeps a heritage Chevy look and feel. Especially appealing are the upgrades to the modernized cockpit, with great visibility and roominess; updated materials; ample and clever stowage; and GM's new technologies that bring convenience and add safety.

Our favorite take-aways were the quietness of the cabin and the ease of conversation from the front to the back seats, even when under power.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 2/3-passenger full-size 4x2 pickup

BASE PRICE___________________ $24,585

MOTOR TYPE__________________ OHV V-6 w/DI

DISPLACEMENT________________4.3-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 285 at 5300 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 305 at 3900 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________6-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________205.6 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___40.0 ft.

TOW RATE 6'6 BX_______________ 6,400 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 26.0 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ TBD