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  • First Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - The Wait Is Over!

First Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - The Wait Is Over!

Highway Miles, Off-Road Mud, and Towing

Aug 13, 2018
Photographers: Jason Gonderman, Courtesy of Chevrolet
Back in January Chevrolet shocked us all when they unveiled the all-new and radically redesigned ’19 Silverado 1500 ahead of the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Silverado sports a new frame, updated suspension, improved drivetrains, advanced technology, and a new body constructed of a mix of steel and aluminum. New exterior styling broke with decades of typical Chevy design and set a new standard for the future of trucks. Since its debut we’ve been learning more and more about the new Silverado as GM slowly dished out info to us, but seat time is what we’ve been patiently waiting for.
We learned of four engine options and six drivetrain combinations when the truck was debuted. The 5.3L and 6.2L V-8s would remain, joined by a new 3.0L Duramax diesel engine and a fourth that months later was reveled to be a 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder. An eight-speed automatic backs the 2.7L and 5.3L engines, while the 6.2L V-8 and forthcoming 3.0L diesel power through ten cogs.
The slow roll continued as we learned more about the technology that’s gone into creating the largest volume light-duty pickup bed, dubbed the Durabed. And GM subtly let us know that the new ’19 Silverado is going to have a starting price of up to $700 less than the outgoing model.
Finally the big day has arrived and we’ve been allowed to slide into the driver’s seat for a quick first drive of the newest generation Silverado. Available to sample were High Country, LTZ, RST, and Trail Boss trims equipped with either the 5.3L V-8 and eight-speed transmission or 6.2L and 10-speed (not present were the 2.7L four-cylinder or 3.0L diesel engines). Our highway route consisted of about 100 miles of pavement which included steep mountain passes and winding two-lane highway, all at elevations about 6,000 feet near the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming. To sample the truck’s towing acumen Chevy saddled both 5.3L and 6.2L equipped trucks with trailers loaded to 6,000 pounds (or about 2/3rds of their roughly 9,000-pound rating). And since sticking to tarmac wouldn’t do the Trail Boss justice, there was an off-road course complete with a log crossing, loose hill climb, rock crawl, and a mud pit.

On The Highway

The first leg of our driving experience was spent behind the wheel of a High Country equipped with the 6.2L V-8 and 10-speed transmission. Power figures carry over from the previous generation at 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, which we’ve always found to be more than adequate. Since the ’19 Silverado is 450 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, GM claims a 0-60-mph time that’s improved by half a second. While a half-second improvement may be hard to feel, the truck is certainly no slouch off the line. Initial throttle response is fantastic and has been improved from previous generations. What we would love to see, however, is an available gear ratio other than the standard 3.23:1. Swapping to a 3.55:1 or 3.73:1 would make the truck feel like a rocket off the line, although likely at the expense of fuel economy (which is the driving force behind most decisions these days).
Photo 2/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT 040
While we’ve had experience with the 10-speed transmission in the Tahoe RST and Yukon Denali, this is GM’s first application in a pickup. Tuning is fantastic, with smooth shifts that border on imperceptible. The 10-speed has the ability to jump several gears at a time, which eliminates the awareness of gear hunting (either up or down) and ensures that power is always on tap. GM chose to keep the tried and true column shifter, and we applaud them for that. Console shifters eat up storage space and knobs and buttons have no place in a pickup. One gripe, if it can be called that, is that to use the gear selection function the shifter needs to drop one notch below Drive. Shifting between the functions on the fly could result in slipping into Neutral, making it an extra step we’d rather not need to do, but we’re really grasping for straws with this one.
Improving on previous generation of cylinder deactivation technology (Active Fuel Management) the ’19 Silverado V-8 engines feature Dynamic Fuel Management, which has the ability to operate the engine in one of 17 different cylinder patterns and can drop anywhere from one to seven cylinders depending on power needs. That’s right, these updated engines can run on just a single cylinder. In practical application this is done to improve fuel economy, and much engineering has gone into the new truck to ensure that cabin occupants are unaware of the engine’s operating mode. We can attest that this goal was achieved. During our time behind the wheel we were never able to definitively identify any sort of sensory signal that the engine was operating on anything other that its full compliment of cylinders, despite GM’s testing showing that DFM could be reducing active cylinders as much as 60 percent of the time. Auto stop/start is standard across the lineup as well. Fuel economy ratings get a modest bump of 1 mpg for ’19 over ’18. EPA estimates come in at 17/23/19 for the 5.3L 2WD, 16/22/18 for the 5.3L 4WD, and 16/20/17 for the 6.2L 4WD. We suspect real world driving will yield better results, but we’ll have to wait to test that.
The most noticeable improvement for ’19 was in chassis and suspension tuning. Thanks to its all-new, fully boxed high-strength steel frame, the new Silverado is considerably more rigid than the outgoing platform. This is great news when it comes to suspension tuning. Instead of fighting a frame that’s flexing like a wet noodle, with a rigid chassis the suspension is able to work as intended. This was noticeable within the first mile, seriously. The chassis and suspension tuning are firm without being harsh, soaking up both small and large bumps with ease and without the use of fancy (read: expensive) shock absorbers.
Steering is much improved as well, and not just due to the now–correctly aligned steering wheel. The Silverado’s new electronic power assist system is tuned perfectly, without the typical overboosting that these systems often produce. Similar to the current HD truck’s Digital Steering Assist, the Silverado 1500’s steering can compensate for aggressive road crown and heavy crosswinds. Also new is lane keep assist, which Chevy also executed flawlessly as the system very gently nudges the truck back into its lane instead of aggressively fighting for control of the steering like most of us have experienced with other systems. A new braking system has been incorporated as well, which provides firm, responsive braking without feeling overboosted (you should be seeing a theme by now).

Inside The Cabin

While the exterior of the all-new Silverado might have caused heart palpitations amongst the most diehard fans of the Bowtie, the interior redesign remains familiar enough not to send anyone off the deep end. The driver information center and 8-inch infotainment screen are carryover from the previous generation, as is the steering wheel control layout. The center stack and air vents now sport a very trapezoidal look, as do many of the interior design features. From a usability stand point, we found the new controls to be intuitive and easy to use. Two USB-C charge ports are provided along with two USB-A and a wireless charging mat now large enough to fit most phones (which has been moved to the front of the console from the lid). Interior cargo volume has increased by 20 percent and rear seat legroom adds three inches. Seats are comfortable and the interior is incredibly quiet. Although our truck wasn’t equipped, a head up display and rear camera mirror are available options that we would love to have.
Photo 3/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 038

Safety, Security, and Convenience

This is where things go a little sideways for us. We have a little bit of trouble understanding how certain features aren’t available on an all-new platform in this day and age. Adaptive cruise control, in general, is a staff favorite. However, it is not available on any trim of Silverado despite the competition offering it for several years. We also appreciate the collision alert system and low-speed automatic braking, but there’s no option for any sort of auto emergency braking, rear cross traffic detection, pedestrian detection, or reverse emergency braking. While the gripe may be small, we still feel like it’s worth noting. For the price of a pickup, these seem like small additions, and since other Chevrolet vehicles have them already—say Malibu for instance—it doesn’t even seem like a stretch for GM to include them on the Silverado. Even the outgoing large GM SUVs offer these features.
Photo 4/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado RST 032
Back in the land of compliments, we still love the multi-functional power side steps, and being able to lift and lower the tailgate from the comfort of the driver’s seat is definitely a neat trick (we’re not yet sure it’s necessary, but cool nonetheless). We’ve been fans of the high-beam assist feature for years, and Chevy’s new LED headlamps are fantastic. Larger corner steps make getting into the bed easy, and LED lighting illuminates the box when it’s dark (we’d love to see a switch in the bed to activate the lighting without needing to enter the cab). Keeping an eye on things is an available 360-degree camera system. Trucks have been slow to adapt this technology for some reason, but we’re certainly glad the new Silverado has it as an option.

Trailer In Tow

During our day with Chevrolet we were given the opportunity to try towing with the new ’19 Silverado. We’re happy to report that both the 5.3L and 6.2L tow like a champ. With 6,000-pound trailers, we headed up a mountain grade and both powertrains handled the job with poise and confidence. The course was short, but it gave us enough time behind the wheel to confirm that towing ability was not sacrificed. Steering was controlled, brakes confident, and power adequate. More testing will be needed to really dissect their ability.
Photo 5/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado HighCountry 048
Inside, the integrated trailer brake controller has been moved from the left side of the dash to the center stack, within reach of the driver’s right hand, as it should have been all along. Built into the infotainment system is a powerful new trailering app, which helps with tasks like providing hitching guidance, pre-trip check lists, and hands-free light testing. It can also monitor trailer tire pressure, set trailer maintenance alerts, and act as a security system in the event the trailer is unplugged while parked. When paired with the 360-degree camera system the trailering app gets even more powerful.
Starting with the ’19 Silverado, GM is now placing trailering information placards on the driver door jam. These stickers list VIN-specific gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCWR), max payload, max tongue weight, and vehicle curb weight. To find the maximum trailer weight, simply subtract curb weight and the weight of any onboard cargo from GCWR. One of our test trucks, a crew cab High Country with a 6.2L registered a maximum trailer weight of 9,798 pounds.

Getting Dirty

The first ’19 Silverado that we saw, way back in 2017 at the Texas Motor Speedway, was a bright red Trail Boss. So to say that Chevy is proud of their new off-road package would be an understatement. To let us experience the truck in its full glory the GM team constructed a simple demonstration course, with large logs to traverse, a steep loose-dirt hill climb, a rock crawl, and a mud pit. Stretched out it was probably 200 yards long, but it certainly packed a punch.
Photo 9/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado TrailBoss 071
There are two versions of Trail Boss, LT and Custom, with the differences lying in the interior. The suspension boasts a 2-inch lift, custom-tuned Rancho shocks, Goodyear Duratrac tires, and an automatic locking rear differential (the stalwart G80, or Gov-Lock). At first glance the Trail Boss is rather unassuming, but in the dirt it really performs. Thanks again to the rigid chassis, the Trail Boss’s suspension is allowed to work and work it does. The truck had no issue clearing the logs (though a little wheel spin was needed when they got wet), and climbing the hill was a relative breeze. The rocks weren’t huge but big enough that you wouldn’t normally drive a Silverado across them, and the Trail Boss took the bumps and bounces in stride. In the mud the Goodyears had no issue slinging themselves clean and pushing the truck on through.
Sure, larger logs, bigger boulders, or deeper mud might stop the Trail Boss in its tracks, but that’s not what this truck is about. Doing what it’s intended for, the Trail Boss rocks. And it looks damn good doing it too.
The dirt wasn’t the only place we drove the Trail Boss. Since trucks spend most of their life on pavement we wanted to see how this off-roader would handle on the highway. We’re glad to report that it’s just at home on the pavement as off. We found no adverse handling from the taller stance, and the interior was negligibly louder than the High Country we had been in prior. Unfortunately, Chevy provided us with a Trail Boss with the optional 20-inch wheels and more streetable tires, rather than the Goodyears. We suspect, however, much like the ZR2 and others with the Duratrac rubbers, the Trail Boss with the chunky tires would have a fair amount more road noise and the steering would probably chase rain groves more, but we’ll have to wait to confirm this at a later date.

Final Thoughts

The Silverado was due for an all-encompassing update, and what we got with the ’19 model fits the bill perfectly. Exterior styling will grow on us, and in a few years nobody will even remember what the old trucks looked like. The interior is fresh and new, without being so radical that it’ll scare off brand loyalists. Drivetrains have been improved without sacrificing what made them customer favorites. And the chassis and suspension is the real star of the show. While not the most radical redesign, every part of the truck was touched and improved in thoughtful and worthwhile ways. We still have our gripes, but overall the ’19 Silverado 1500 is a winner.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country

Vehicle type: Four-door, crew cab, pickup

Base price: $56,300

Price as tested: $64,030

Engine: 6.2L V-8

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Horsepower: 420 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 460 @ 4,100 rpm

Curb weight: 5,202 pounds

Towing capacity: VIN Specific (Up To 12,200 pounds w/6.2L)

EPA mileage rating: 16 city/20 highway/17 combined

Photo 28/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado HighCountry 044

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss

Vehicle type: Four-door, crew cab, pickup

Base price: $48,300

Price as tested: $54,095

Engine: 5.3L V-8

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 355 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm

Curb weight: 5,500 (est.)

Towing capacity: VIN Specific (Up To 11,600 pounds w/5.3L)

EPA mileage rating: 15 city/20 highway/17 combined

Photo 32/89   |   2019 Chevrolet Silverado TrailBoss 063

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