A new series of engines is introduced, providing more power and torque than last year's offerings. Called Vortec, this family of engines includes a 4.3-liter V6 (the only six-cylinder of the bunch) capable of 200 hp at 4,400 rpm and 255 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm; a 5.0-liter V8, producing 220 hp at 4,600 rpm and 285 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm; and a 5.7-liter V8, rated at 250 hp at 4,600 rpm and 335 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. (There is also a 7.4-liter Vortec V8, but it's only available on the heavier-duty C/K 3500 trucks.) All of these figures represent increases in output when compared to their respective 1995 predecessors. An optional electronic shift transfer case for the K1500 (i.e. 4WD; C=2WD; K=4WD) rounds out the list of the most significant powertrain updates for the year.
Other noteworthy updates include the introduction of an optional passenger-side third door, called the "Easy-Access System," in GM vernacular. This feature is only available on the extended cab body styles.
Improved comfort and convenience comes in the way of such new features as illuminated entry, 12-volt power outlets, an electrochromic inside rearview mirror and height-adjustable D-rings for the shoulder section of the front three-point safety belts, among others. Daytime running lamps (DRLs) are part of the list of new exterior features.
A new level of sophistication in exhaust emissions monitoring is found with the addition of OBD II, the second generation of On-Board Diagnostics.