A little step built into the bumper's rear corners, plus a handhold at just the right spot on the box rail protectors, makes it a lot easier to climb into the bed without lowering the tailgate.
JAMES B. TREECE

GM pickups raise the 'wow' bar

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James B. Treece is industry editor for Automotive News
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General Motors' new pickups have plenty of cool extra features.

I'm not talking about the big stuff. I give the Chevrolet and GMC pickup truck specialists the benefit of the doubt on the big stuff.

At the launch of the redesigned Silverado and Sierra, GM executives insisted that the horsepower, torque, towing capacity and fuel economy of the new pickups would be exactly what pickup buyers need to get their jobs done.

I believe them. Not because I know what those customers' needs are, but because those pickups are so absolutely critical to GM's financial survival that I can't imagine those engineers doing less than their absolute best. GM -- and Ford and Chrysler -- made some lousy cars at times, say in the 1970s. They never made truck lemons.

So let's assume these trucks make the grade on all the important specs, such as towing capacity, which can make or break a pickup sale.

How do the trucks stack up on the little points? You know, the added features that will make an owner say to his neighbor, "You know what else is cool about my new truck?"

Pretty well. Here's some of what's cool on these trucks.

Power sources. The Silverado, for example, has 3 auxiliary power outlets, those old-fashioned cigarette-lighter plugs, three USB outlets to charge your phones or other electronic gadgets, and a 110-volt outlet.

Said Chris Hilts, the Silverado interior design manager: "You could basically power the house from inside the truck."

Lighting. LED lights under the truck bed's rails illuminate the inside of the bed. Anybody who's ever loaded or unloaded a truck late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, or had to search around for stuff underneath a tonneau cover, is going to appreciate those lights.

CornerStep. A little step built into the bumper's rear corners, plus a handhold at just the right spot on the box rail protectors, makes it a lot easier to climb into the bed without lowering the tailgate. And this practical feature fits nicely with the exterior design, without looking like it was tacked on as an afterthought.

No phantom buttons. This is one of my favorites. I've had cars with absentee buttons: those spots on the instrument panel where there's clearly supposed to be a switch for something, but I didn't buy that option. Every day, I'd look at that spot and wonder what was supposed to go there.

Not so with these pickups. Chevy showed a slide of four very different iterations of the control panel to the left of the steering wheel, and none of them had a spot where a button might have been, but wasn't.

Again, Hilts: "When you don't have an option, there's nothing missing."

Storage. There are bins and boxes everywhere inside the cabin. There are two bottle holders on the insides of the front doors -- and two cupholders for the folks in front, too. All of the storage bins had rubber liners, so you won't hear your stuff moving around.

In addition to a lockable glove box, the pickup has a lockable compartment underneath the main storage bin in the center console. Hilts, showing its location and size, said, "A lot of our Texas owners carry pistols."

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com.

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