Although there are only two noteworthy changes to the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado lineup of full-size pickups, together they go a long way toward improving the big Chevy trucks' competitive edge in this hotly contested market. The first is the design, the second is wider use of an 8-speed gearbox.

When the current-generation of full-size Chevy trucks debuted a couple years ago, the styling was panned. It wasn't ugly, but just way too conservative. It took a trained eye to tell the difference between the new truck and the old, and in this era of ever-bolder designs on full-size trucks, the conservative route wasn't the right path to take.  For 2016, Chevrolet rectifies the situation with all-new nose and tail treatments for its Silverado lineup. All trucks get a new grille with a strong horizontal bar dividing the upper and lower portions. Chevy paid special attention to the headlights using LED accents on LTZ and High Country models, and the segment's first LED fog lights on LT Z71, LTZ and High Country models.

The model you choose depends on how much chrome there is, from the more subdued chrome stripe of the standard Silverado to the mega-bling Silverado LTZ. We actually prefer the monochrome look of the new Z71, which stands out from the crowd by avoiding much of the chrome. The new hood looks more muscular, and in back are new LED taillights that give the rear a more distinctive look, although truth be known there's not a lot of room for expressive styling on the back of any pickup truck.

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

Expanded 8-speed availability

The other major change is expanded availability of GM's 8-speed automatic transmission. Now available with the 5.3-liter V8 engines in LTZ, Z71 and High Country models, the 8-speed offers a shorter first gear for better acceleration and faster torque delivery -- essential for towing -- and a more relaxed top gear for better fuel economy on the highway. During our brief drive, the 8-speed definitely felt like it gave the Silverado more zip, although real-world highway fuel economy figures will have to wait. 

There are a handful of other improvements, such as a remote locking tailgate and the addition of Apple CarPlay to Chevy's MyLink infotainment system. There's also an articulating automatic running board that slides to the rear to make it easier to access the bed from the side of the truck. However, pushbutton ignition -- available in the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 -- remains conspicuous by its absence, even in the high-end High Country models.

It may not sound like a lot, but the combination of the new transmission and styling finally makes the Chevrolet Silverado look as new as it really is since its redesign.

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