L.A. Times auto editor Brian Thevenot and auto reporter David Undercoffler review the newly redesigned Chevy Silverado and discuss the challenges Chevy faces luring customers away from Ford and the Dodge Ram.

In the automotive world, no one is more loyal than a truck owner.

Lassie on her best day couldn't match the fidelity of someone who buys a particular brand of pickup. Once they choose Ford or Chevy or Dodge, usually only a pine box lures them away.

With this in mind, the goal of the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado wasn't to lure new buyers with extraneous bells and whistles. Rather, the 2014 model, rolling into dealerships now, aims to give the Chevy faithful exactly what they liked about their existing trucks, while correcting previous flaws.

The new Chevy truck succeeds in that context. It's a measured step in the Silverado's evolution that makes meaningful improvements to its powertrain, styling, utility and comfort.

A radical deviation from the formula might have offended the Chevy faithful, with dubious prospects for replacing them with new customers. And the pickup — the second-best-selling vehicle in America, behind only Ford's F-150 — generates piles of cash for GM, more than any other vehicle it builds.

For 2013, the Silverado and its cousin, the GMC Sierra, are on track to sell almost 500,000 units. With so many sales up for grabs, the truck segment is viciously competitive. This has pushed the Silverado's rivals to explore new and efficient powertrains as a way to draw buyers.

Ram recently refreshed its 1500 trucks and in 2014 the company will offer a V-6 diesel engine, while making a fuel-saving eight-speed automatic transmission available on all its models.

Ford shook up the truck industry several years ago by offering a turbocharged V-6 engine as an alternative to a V-8 in the F-150. Few expected change-averse truck buyers to part with their beloved V-8 engines, yet Ford says these EcoBoost engines made up roughly 40% of all F-150 sales in 2012.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado offers buyers none of these options. Engine choices are limited to one non-turbocharged V-6 and two V-8s, and no diesel. And buyers can choose any transmission they like, as long as it's the six-speed automatic.

Chevy may update the Silverado line later, adding new powertrains and features, said Jeff Luke, GM's executive chief engineer for trucks. But the automaker also hopes to steer truck buyers seeking fuel efficiency toward the mid-size Chevrolet Colorado, a new version of which is expected in 2014.

GM also had to delay development of its trucks by about a year because of its bankruptcy filing in 2009, causing a domino effect that hampered its efforts to keep up with rivals.

Yet a week of testing several iterations of GM's new trucks demonstrated that these new engines are more than capable, while staying technologically relevant in the marketplace.

The base V-6 and the two V-8 engines come with direct-injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing.

Power won't be an issue: The lineup starts with a 4.3-liter V-6 that makes 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque and ends with a 6.2-liter V-8 good for 420 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque.

In the middle is the engine from the loaded Silverado 1500 4x4 Crew Cab we tested. This 5.3-liter V-8 makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It delivered ample power smoothly across the rev range, though occasionally the transmission could have used another gear or two.

The cylinder deactivation was a particularly neat trick, in effect turning the engine into a four-cylinder unit under light loads on the highway. The shift into and out of this mode was imperceptible; without the tiny V-4 indicator light on the dashboard, you'd never know it was happening.

A week of driving this Silverado 323 miles in mostly city conditions yielded an average of 14.5 miles per gallon, though freeway jaunts regularly saw the truck getting around 21 mpg. Official ratings are 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

This powertrain is also particularly adept at towing. We spent an afternoon in a GMC Sierra with the same engine and transmission, while pulling a 5,000-pound Airstream trailer behind us.

With the blessing of a GM engineer from the truck program, we slammed on the brakes, floored the accelerator and jerked the wheel from side to side (not at the same time) in an effort to unsettle the vehicle. We blinked long before it did. The rest of the drive was impressively drama-free, especially for someone new to the world of towing large objects.

Our truck was also comfortable climbing and descending a steep stretch of rough trail. Included in the $49,050 price was the Z71 package, which added an off-road suspension system with Rancho shocks, hill descent control and a locking rear differential. A rotary dial to the left of the steering wheel enables drivers to easily switch between two-wheel drive, Auto, 4WD High or 4WD Low.