‘Economical’ Turbo Four in Chevrolet Silverado Pickup Gets Just 21 MPG

‘Economical’ Turbo Four in Chevrolet Silverado Pickup Gets Just 21 MPG

As we first learned back in May, Chevrolet is putting a four-cylinder turbocharged engine in the 2019 Silverado pickup to give buyers an economical option. But now we know it won’t do better on fuel economy than six-cylinder pickups from Ford and Ram. That’s a challenge given that for truckers — all things being equal — a V8 beats a V6, which beats an inline four.

The rear-drive Silverado with the 2.7-liter turbo four will be rated at 21 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway) when that combination ships spring 2019. It will be available in the mid-level LT and RST trim lines as the entry engine.

Chevrolet’s new 2.7-liter-cylinder turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine is SAE-certified at 310 hp and 348 lb-ft of torque.
Chevrolet’s new 2.7-liter-cylinder turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine is SAE-certified at 310 hp and 348 lb-ft of torque.

Not Much Better Than Bigger Engines

Compared with other GM engines and those of competitors, the first EPA rating, which covers 4×2 but not 4×4 drivetrains, isn’t what GM perhaps had hoped for. The Chevy’s 21 mpg combined (20 city, 23 highway) figure compares with these other car/engine combinations as follows:

Ford F-150. The 2.6-liter, twin turbo V6 with rear-drive gets 22 mpg combined (20 city, 26 highway).

Ram 1500. The new pickup’s standard V6 with 3.6 liters displacement and mild-hybrid configuration gets 22 mpg combined (20 city, 25 highway).

Silverado V6. The entry V6 engine on some other Silverado trim lines gets 19 mpg combined (17 city, 23 highway).

Silverado V8. The optional 5.3-liter V8 gets 19 mpg combined (16 city, 23 highway).

The Silverado turbo-four can tow 7,200 pounds, 200 pounds less than Ford and Ram. Its payload is 2,280 pounds, up to 600 pounds better. The 2019 GMC Sierra will also offer the turbo-four engine. Its rating hasn’t been announced yet.

A 2019 Chevrolet Silverado undergoing testing (by journalists).
A 2019 Chevrolet Silverado undergoing testing (by journalists).

Nothing Wrong With the Engineering

From an engineering standpoint, Chevrolet did almost everything right in designing the engine for truck applications. It boasts solid specifications: 310 hp and 348 pound-feet of torque, only 35 lb-ft less than Chevy’s 5.3-liter V8 engine for pickups. The torque is available from 1500 to 4000 rpm. And the engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic to keep the Silverado in the peak power band. Technology on the engine includes:

  • An aluminum engine block that helps the new engine weigh 80 pounds less than Chevrolet’s V6 still offered on the Work Truck, Custom, and Custom Trail Boss trims
  • Cylinder deactivation (“active fuel management” that let’s the Silverado four run on two cylinders and sometimes on one.
  • Dual-vane turbocharging to force more exhaust gas over the turbo to spin up the forced-air intake sooner
  • Electric water pump, on only when needed
  • A transmission with quick upshifts to keep the engine in the most economical part of the power band

When we tested the Silverado recently and found an admirable competitor to the best-selling Ford F-150, the turbo-four wasn’t yet available. Car and Driver had this to say about lapping GM’s Milford Proving Grounds in the Silverado/four-cylinder combo:

“During a brief drive … the turbo four took off with the gusto of a naturally aspirated engine. The automatic transmission does the four-cylinder no favors, however, as it’s eager to reach its tallest ratio and apathetic to downshift when the accelerator pedal is floored. Still, the little engine moved the big Silverado with plenty of pep off the line while emitting no noticeable vibration while on the go, at idle, or on restarting from a stop by way of its automatic stop/start system.”

Customers can buy the Silverado four-cylinder by the end of the year.

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