At the core of the highly anticipated and financially important all-new half-ton pickup trucks from GM — the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 and 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 — are three brand-new engines. No matter how you slice this, whether you put this in a five-, 10- or 15-year context, this is a hugely risky move.
In fact, most carmakers — and certainly pickup-truck makers — intentionally come out with just a new frame or interior upgrade or suspension option, then plan to revamp the powertrain lineup a year or two later. Ford only did the engines the last time around. The Ram 1500 got a pretty significant revamp but offered only one new engine (of just two).
To come out with a new truck and a new powertrain lineup could be seen by some as just too risky ... unless there was a huge amount to be won and gained. Certainly, Chevy and GMC dealerships would argue that last point.
Clearly, GM needed to be bold. In this segment, for anyone looking to regain as much ground as the Silverado and Sierra have lost in the past few years, you have to be bold. These engines may be the clearest message about how badly Chevy and GMC want to succeed in this segment as we've seen from them in several decades. Let's take a closer look.
Make no mistake: This is a family of engines that use just about every form of technology at the disposal of platform engineers, and they're ready to talk about it.
"We believe these are the most technologically advanced engines ever offered in light-duty pickups, and they 100 percent truck — specifically designed for the way customers use trucks in the real world,” said Jordan Lee, small-block chief engineer and program manager. "They have all the power and torque needed to confidently handle the tough jobs, and they seamlessly switch to four-cylinder mode to increase efficiency during light-load driving.
"This is technology no other truck maker can match, and we offer it in every one of our EcoTec3 engines, for every one of our customers," Lee said. "It is not an extra-cost feature. You get our best and most sophisticated technology regardless of trim level."
EcoTec3 4.3-Liter V-6
The base engine is a 4.3-liter V-6; the midlevel small-block is a 5.3-liter V-8; and the performance engine of the three will be a new 6.2-liter V-8. We should note that GM has not announced what the target or actual fuel-economy numbers will be or how much power and torque each power plant will offer. That info will come early next year, possibly at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
All three engines have aluminum blocks and heads, use overhead-valve technology and offer cylinder deactivation (called Active Fuel Management by GM). All use direct injection and include continuously variable valve timing. Like the new Chevy Corvette motor before them, the key to these engines is in the combustion system, where the higher-than-usual 11.0:1 compression ratio allows the computer controls to keep all the conditions within the proper parameters for the best balance of power and fuel efficiency.
Every part inside the engine has been painstakingly reviewed and designed to offer the best results. Pistons have been cupped and sculpted, head ports have been shaped and smoothed, valve placement has been carefully considered, and even the angle and depth of the spark plug was agonized over — all to get the best and most thorough explosions inside the cylinders.
EcoTec3 5.3-Liter V-8
The new trucks make the most out of cylinder deactivation (GM's second-generation AFM system), where, during specific conditions, it will use oil pressure to deactivate the lifters on selected cylinders, shutting the valves for those cylinders. It does that for two on the V-6 and four for both V-8s. We're told the transition in either direction (turning on or off) takes less than 20 milliseconds and is virtually undetectable. We're also told the parameters for this new system are much more aggressive, likely to stay active 20 percent longer than the earlier version, and the computer has a learning function that will allow it to get smarter about learning the driver's speed and throttle habits.
All three engines have oversized oil pans compared with previous same-sized engines, and the V-8s are designed to use 0W/20 oil. The oil pump itself can move more oil to different areas in the engine depending on the operating conditions, including the spraying of the underside of the pistons when too much heat builds.
For now, that's all we know. No one has gotten a chance to drive the engines yet or compare them with what Ford, Toyota or Ram has to offer. Of course, we suspect that every GM engineer knew exactly what the targets were when working on the engine, so we'd expect each to offer quite respectable, if not segment-leading, torque, horsepower and fuel economy. Likewise, we'd expect some some very good towing and hauling numbers as well. But again, we'll have to wait and see.
EcoTec3 6.2-Liter V-8
To download the full press release from General Motors, click here.