Chevrolet’s new 2019 Silverado 1500 pickup truck just raised the bar. The 2019 Silverado is simultaneously bigger and lighter, the crew cab has limousine-class legroom, safety features abound, the cabin is surprisingly quiet, tech tools make trailer hook-ups easier than Tinder, and a rear-facing camera bolts to the back of your trailer. To push fuel economy above 20 mpg, dynamic fuel management shuts off unneeded cylinders in 17 different steps.
So as not to cripple Ford pickup sales, Chevy eased off the competitive throttle: There’s no diesel engine until next year, the Silverado safety suite lacks adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection doesn’t adapt when you’re hauling a trailer (the F-150 does), and if you get the trailer cam you can’t have a forward-facing surround camera on the truck. Overall, Chevy matches and raises the Ford F-150, while FCA’s Ram division has a new pickup offering (not yet driven and compared) that promises to be a serious competitor.
The Fourth Generation Gets Bigger Outside and In
This is an all-new model, the fourth generation of the Silverado. It is 1-2 inches longer, wider, and taller. The wheelbase is 4 inches longer and that shows up as more legroom in the crew cab version’s second row. Visually, the Silverado seems bigger and more aggressive, a look that almost says this is a pickup for plowing snow without bolting on a plow.
Driving on- and off-road in Wyoming and Idaho, especially the $65K high-roller High Country, the ride was impressively quiet. The cabin has gobs of space for soda bottles, two phones that can be simultaneously paired, purses, backpacks, dogs, children, up to six devices that need USB power, jumper cables, first aid kits, and ever-expanding American behinds. With four-wheel-drive engaged, the Trail Boss trim line comfortably navigated an obstacle course of a log road, a steep dirt hill, uneven boulders, and a muddy bog that — taken at an aggressive speed — simultaneously sprayed videographers too close to the safety embankment and made you wish the side windows had wipers as well. There is not yet, however, an all-out, fire-breathing off-road version on par with the Ford F-150 Raptor or the ZR2 edition of the midsize Chevrolet Colorado we tested a year ago.
Idiot-Proofing the Trailer Hook-Up Experience
For those who tow trailers, the 2019 Silverado makes heroes of us all. The advanced trailering system uses multiple cameras to show how close you are to the trailer hitch, dynamic guidelines show if you have the wheel turned so you’re lined up with the hitch, and the side view shows if you’re close to anybody else, say on a multi-vehicle boat ramp or at the local trailer storage yard. Often, the most embarrassing moments of your trucking and vacationing life are when you give up with the hitch and receiver still a half-foot apart and ask two husky onlookers to nudge the trailer into position.
Then there’s the rear camera option — rear as in it mounts on the rear of your trailer or boat. You can see what’s behind the trailer as you back up. You can even see what’s behind you on the highway, albeit in five-second chunks before the camera times out. Just press the trailer view button on the center stack LCD and you’ve got five more seconds. One quirk with the system is that if you get the trailer camera option, Chevy removes the front surround camera from the package. (See the blank spot in the upper left of the screenshot above.) Turns out Chevrolet specified a four-port input box for its surround view system (front camera, two sides, rear) and the trailer camera makes five, so the front camera was sacrificed. It sounds as if Chevrolet will find a five-port input device to right this minor wrong.
Electronic bells and whistles ease the tasks even more. With the camera in hitch view, if you shift to park, the parking brake is automatically set. If you have multiple trailers, you can set up to five trailer profiles to track miles driven, mpg, and transmission temperature, and store a brake-gain memory for that trailer. If a would-be thief tries to disconnect the trailer while the truck is locked, the alarm sounds, lights flash, and you get a phone, text, or email alert, so you can call the cops or take the law into your own hands. From the cab, you can monitor trailer-tire pressure. The MyChevrolet Trailer phone apps test each trailer light in sequence so you don’t need a helper.
I4, I6, V6, V8, Diesel, 2 Kinds of Cylinder Shutdown
To save fuel, the gasoline engines offer two kinds of cylinder deactivation on light load. The simpler is automatic fuel management: Half the cylinders shut down when there’s no heavy load. This is for the lower-cost Silverados. New is dynamic fuel management, on midrange and higher-end Silverados. Depending on load, there are 17 patterns of cylinder shutdown. With some, such as one-half or one-quarter load, the same cylinders are deactivated each time. (It doesn’t affect wear, Chevy says.) In the other patterns, different cylinders are shut down depending on engine load, and these patterns are for when the demand for cylinders doesn’t divide evenly into eight. When coupled with a 10-speed automatic, Chevrolet says DFM yields a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy.
The Silverado offers six engines, three automatic transmissions, and two ways to deactivate unneeded cylinders. The 4.3-liter V6 and 5.3-liter V8 with six-speed are for the lower-price “high value” Silverados. The new 2.7-liter inline turbo four with automatic fuel management goes on the mainstream LT and RST. The 5.3-liter V8 with dynamic fuel management and a 10-speed is on the two highest trim lines, LTZ and High Country. The new 3.0-liter inline turbo diesel with 10-speed is on the midrange and high-end Silverados, excluding the off-road Trail Boss trims.
EPA ratings will get the Silverado at least 20 mpg on the highway. The 5.3-liter V8 with rear-wheel drive is rated 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. The four-wheel-drive 6.2-liter V8 is rated at 16/20/17.
All that power provides towing capacities of 8,000 to 12,200 pounds and payloads of 2,100 to 2,500 pounds. Today’s half-ton trucks haul as much as yesterday’s three-quarter-ton trucks.
Silverado Trim Lines
The 2019 Silverado has eight trim lines, or model variants, spread over three groups.
High value (3). Work Truck, Custom, and Custom Trail Boss. These get you into a Silverado in the low thirties, before options.
High volume (3). LT, RST (new in 2019), LT Trail Boss (new in 2019). This is where most Silverados are sold.
High feature (2). (That is, high-dollar.) LTZ, High Country. If you’re all about leather, comfort, and overall box-checking, you can surpass $65,000 with the High Country, Chevy’s answer to the F-150 King Ranch edition. One cool option is a tailgate that lowers itself automatically and, with the nudge of your knee (or a hand), raises and latches itself.
The Trail Boss Silverados come from the factory with ride height lifted two inches. There’s electronic hill descent, a two-speed transfer case and locking rear differential, skid plates for the oil pan and transfer case, a heavy duty air filter, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and (V8s) dual exhaust outlets.
Despite Chevy’s repeated Ford-bashing for Ford’s aluminum body — vulnerable to dents, Chevrolet says — the Silverado body is 88 pounds lighter, in part because the doors, hood, and tailgate are made of made of, um, aluminum. The safety cage is made of seven grades of steel. Overall, the new Silverado is about 400 pounds lighter. The truck bed offers good storage with extra space on either side of the fenders and multiple fixed tie-down locations. Chevrolet will spray-coat a bed liner at the factory ($650). LED lights and a 120-volt outlet can be had in the bed.
Infotainment, Safety Tech
The Chevrolet MyLink system remains exceptionally easy to use, with things people like, such as big rubber knobs and clear menus. OnStar is standard. There can be as many as six USB jacks. The CD player is gone.
Chevrolet has a nearly full set of safety assists and driver assists. That includes forward collision alert, low-speed braking, pedestrian auto-braking, lane departure warning above 37 mph, blind spot detection (Chevy calls it lane change alert with side blind zone alert), and rear cross-traffic alert. Rather than a warning beep, there’s haptic feedback through the safety alert driver seat cushion, an option that indicates hazards to the left versus right.
A head-up display is offered with a virtual 7-by-3 inch screen. Surround vision is available with the quirk (noted above) that if you also order the trailer camera, Chevy takes away the front camera.
The big omission is adaptive cruise control. It really belongs on vehicles that may be traveling long distances. Chevrolet says it’s actively working on ACC for Silverado.
Should You Buy?
Pickup trucks are big business, mostly outside the major population (read: media) centers. The six full-size pickup trucks from Ford, Chevrolet, Ram, GMC, Toyota, and Nissan accounted for 2.4 million of the 17.2 million light vehicles sold in 2017 (one of every eight sales). Ford, Chevy, and Ram were 1-2-3 in sales, each with more than 500,000 sales and profit margins higher than sedans, crossovers, and SUVs. Ford’s latest F-150 debuted as a 2015 model; the Silverado and Ram will be all-new for 2019. The new Silverado is the 1500 series, what is called a half-ton pickup although they can carry almost 2,000 pounds including passengers. The huskier 1500HD, 2500HD, and 3500HD come later.
Pickup truck buying decisions are often formed by what pickup you own now. Brand loyalty is high; if you own a Silverado now, your next truck will be a Silverado. So Chevy aims for first-time buyers, such as people who bought a boat, a horse, or a gentleman’s farm. That said, the Silverado is so accomplished that owners of other brands should at least stop by the Chevy showroom. The Ford F-150 just go a recent refresh, but the core truck dates to 2014. The Ram should be competitive with its new 2019 models. Only the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan have competitive challenges against the big three.
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