AW: Talk to me about the capability of the frame and chassis. How does the increased rigidity contribute to the driving experience?
Herrick: The frame is stiffer both in torsion and in beaming. When you have a great foundation and frame structure, you are able to have a great cab and box structure too. How those two work together is really important. We were able to take the body mounts that join them (frame and body) and fine-tune them more accurately than before for isolation. And that provides great feedback for the customers. If you have a truck that doesn’t have a good foundation and cab structure it almost doesn’t matter what piece of rubber you put in between them. It won’t react properly. In the first few blocks, you drive this Silverado, you’ll notice that even though this is a huge truck, the handling makes it drive small.
Herrick: It’s always about the customer. But did we have a customer voice in the distance saying “I want more tie-downs, and I want a bigger volume box?” No. But once we showed them the design in clinic, they were very excited. It actually started with one of our engineers, Dave Rock, who’s been the person responsible for our pickup boxes forever. In fact, we nicknamed it the “Rock Box”. And he came to us early in the program and pitched the idea of how to change the construction of the box for increased volume. We basically decoupled the side of the box from the depth of draw in the wheelhouse. So, we can draw the box deeper all the way to the bed wall. And that allowed us to have a separate stamping of steel that could support the 500-pound capacity tie-downs. We took this concept to clinic, and the response was unbelievable. The customers literally stood up on the table and cheered. That was one of the most dramatic clinic responses we’ve ever had.
AW: The Trailboss appears to be the most capable full-size 4WD truck you’ve ever done. Did that come from customers that had Z71 trucks and wanted something more?
Herrick: There are a lot of aftermarket companies that offer lifted suspensions. We saw that and decided we should lift our truck right from the factory and warranty it. Because we wanted it to be fully capable, dependable and durable. Our engineers delivered but it took developing some unique components. Half-shaft angles are very important — you don’t want those to wear out prematurely. And they wear more at aggressive angles (from a lift). So, we baked that into the program right at the very beginning. In fact, we designed it (the stock suspension) so that if you (didn’t buy a Trailboss) got home and wanted the lift, you could go back to the dealership and bolt the pieces on. We’re working on making that 2-inch lift available right from the dealership.
AW: Luxury trucks are big business these days. What features stand out on the new Silverado that those customers will appreciate?
Herrick: There’s more content in this High Country than we’ve ever done before. The power movable side steps stand out because they allow you look up into the box or, at the push of a button, step into the cab. The power tailgate that raises and lowers is another example. You can open and close it from the key fob, from inside the truck and at the tailgate. There’s a button to lower it on the tailgate. To raise it, you lift up on the tailgate, and once it senses you want to lift it, it will power it closed.
AW: How does the Dynamic Fuel Management differ from current cylinder deactivation systems and how does that impact the acoustics in the cab?
Herrick: Today, we have four cylinders of the V8 turn off to save fuel. But with Dynamic Fuel Management, we’re able to deactivate any number of cylinders and combinations at will. It can understand how loaded the vehicle is and what the road load horsepower needs to be, versus what you’re asking of the engine — and give you the right number of cylinders firing. Downhill with the wind at your back, there are conditions where it will run on two cylinders. The system saves fuel and can give you that iconic V8 power and efficiency. In terms of engine noise, when you have different orders of cylinders firing, it’s really hard to engineer around that. Each situation can have its own harmonics and disturbances. And each one has its own way of reaching the cabin. So, we engineered around those disturbances with acoustic packages and special materials so you don’t hear it.
AW: What improvement do those air curtains on the fenders contribute to the aerodynamics of the truck?
Herrick: They give us 11 counts of aero. One count is a Cd of .001 — one thousandth. And one count is a big deal. We will fuss in the wind tunnel for hours to get three or four counts. Eleven counts is a huge deal for us. But it wasn’t an afterthought; those fenders were part of the design of the truck.
AW: What stands out most to you about this new truck? What’s going to really impress the full-size truck customer?
Herrick: You know, I get excited when I see these trucks. I worked on the 1988 GMT 400 trucks, and those were a huge departure in styling. I think the styling of this new truck is just as much of a departure — and just as impactful.