Remarkably quiet and easy to drive, the all-new 2019 Chevy Silverado makes a strong bid for the title of America’s best pickup.
Don’t plan the victory parade yet, though. Ram will unveil a mild-hybrid version of its own all-new full-size pickup shortly in the pitched battle for supremacy in the auto industry’s biggest and most profitable market segment.
The all-new Silverado, Ram and the soon-to-come GMC Sierra all aim to take a slice out of perennial No. 1 seller Ford F-150’s hide.
The Silverado weighs as much as 450 pounds less than comparable 2018 models, despite having much more cargo and passenger space. Chevy claims a Silverado with the short cargo box has more cargo capacity than the competition’s longer, standard-bed pickups.
That’s a big deal because it could also make the new Chevy relatively easy to park and drive in the suburbs and cities where many truck owners live and work. The added cargo capacity is thanks to one of the Silverado’s many innovations, a bed with tucked-in walls that fits the Silverado’s structure like a tailored suit.
Also in the service of making these big vehicles easy to use in crowded environments, a short-box Silverado’s overall length increased just 1.7 inches while its wheelbase grew 4.0. The bed got an inch of the extra space. The other 3 inches went to rear legroom in the four-door crew cab models that account for well over half of sales.
I spent a day driving 2019 Silverado crew cabs through the mountains and high meadows of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho.
Over Mountains and Into Mudholes
The 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 pulled effortlessly up a 10-percent grade in Teton Pass. The route included a short but challenging off-road course strewn with boulders and a mudhole. I also towed a 6,000-pound trailer.
The Silverado passed all tests with flying colors.
GM’s new dynamic fuel management system seamlessly — and magically, if you know much about how engines work — lets the V8 engines switch from using all eight cylinders to one, and every combination in between.
That helps a four-wheel-drive Silverado get EPA scores of 16 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway and 18 in combined driving with the 5.3L V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. The more powerful top 6.2L V8 rated 16 city, 20 highway and 17 combined with a 10-speed automatic.
Chevy says the cylinder deactivation system improves city fuel economy 5 percent, and may save even more fuel in real-world driving than on the EPA lab test.
That’s impressive, but the remarkable thing is that the driver can’t tell whether the engine is firing on all eight cylinders, or one, three, five, any combination. Operating like that would have shaken previous engines apart, but not before making the vehicle buck like a bronco.
The Silverado’s light strong frame gets a lot of the credit for that, and for a smooth, quiet ride on rough roads. The Silverado’s frame and body benefit from what GM calls its mixed materials approach. Unlike Ford, which got plaudits when it switched the F-150 to a lighter all-aluminum body a few years ago, the Silverado’s body and frame use a wide range of materials, including some aluminum and several different grades of steel to strengthen strength where it’s needed.
Stiff Frame, Soft Ride
The frame is 90 pounds lighter, but strong and stiff to achieve the Silverado’s vibration-free ride without the electronic systems many other vehicles use.
Comfort also benefits from new 20- and 22-inch tires with higher sidewalls — the equivalent of softer springs. The trucks weren’t inclined to bounce when driven empty, despite a 5-percent increase in towing capacity and 14-percent bump in payload, the amount of weight they can carry in their beds.
The electric power steering is smooth and precise. The crew cab Silverados I drove — a $50,995 LT Trail Boss and top of the line $62,535 High Country — were maneuverable and easy to handle. The LT and High Country could account for up to 70 percent of Silverado 1500 sales.
The Silverado was poised on a serpentine road above the aptly named Snake River.
The 2019 Silverado will have the widest model range in Chevy trucks’ 101-year history: Eight distinct models from the luxurious High Country crew cab to two-door work trucks. Between the spacious crew cab and two-door regular cab, a “double cab” has smaller rear doors and back seat than the crew cab. Crew cabs are the best-selling model.
New models for 2019 include the RST, a well-equipped pickup with body color trim instead of chrome for a more citified look; and the Trail Boss and Custom Trail Boss, off-road models with a 2.0-inch suspension lift, locking differential, skid plates and other goodies.
Other Available Features Include:
Multiple cameras for hooking up trailers and towing.
Blind spot alert.
Memory settings for up to five different trailers.
Rear-view camera mirror.
Lane-keeping alert and assist.
Low-speed automatic front braking.
Pedestrian detection and automatic braking at up to 50 mph.
Chevy pulled out all the stops for the Silverado’s engineering and model range, but its most upscale interior clearly trails the luxury of top competitors from Ford and Ram. While those pickups offer leather fit for a hand-tooled saddle and detailing like saddle-bag style map pockets and barbed-wire pattern floor mats, the Silverado High Country’s interior holds no surprises.
Similarly, the LT Trail Boss I drove featured lots of black soft-touch materials that felt fine, but didn’t look like anything special. The Silverado crew cab has plenty of room, storage bins and cubbies, however.
Crew cab models with 355-hp 5.3L and 420- 6.2L V8s are available now. A 5.3L without the electronic cylinder deactivation system will be available for fleet customers buying work trucks.
A 310-hp four-cylinder 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to the 8-speed arrives this fall as the base engine for the volume-selling LT and RST. A 285-hp 4.3L V6 and six-speed automatic for base work trucks also arrives this fall.
A 3.0L V6 diesel is due in early 2019.
Production of double cabs begins this fall. Two-door regular cab Silverados — the least popular and profitable models — are expected in the first quarter of 2019.
2019 Silverado at a glance
High Country cab tested:
6.2L OHV V8 with cylinder deactivation
10-speed automatic transmission
Power 420 hp, 460 pound-feet of torque
Towing capacity 12,200 lbs.
Payload 2,100 lbs.
EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city/20 highway/17 combined