2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive: American workhorse

August 13, 2018

Wyoming is the American ideal for truck buyers. The sky is vast, the mountains big, and people have room to spread out. Any drive can pass by amber waves of grain with purple mountains’ majesty as their backdrop. It’s that beautiful.

Chevrolet has designed the 2019 Silverado not for beauty, but to help Americans get work done. It's now better for the kind of Americans who might mend fences, tow horse trailers, or go to the market for feed. The new truck offers 20 percent more bed volume, up to 5 percent better city fuel economy, a model for every type of customer, and improved driving dynamics. It does it all while dropping as much as 450 pounds and adding new safety, towing, and off-roading technology as well.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

Business-like cabin

From inside, the 2019 Chevy Silverado doesn’t offer the opulence of the new Ram 1500. It’s not as luxurious, its infotainment screen isn’t as big, and the materials aren’t as rich. It's smart, but not dressy.

A deep center console has room for file folders or a laptop computer. The switchgear is easy to locate and operate, with large enough controls for gloved hands. USB ports and 12- and 120-volt outlets are located at the base of the center stack to make it easy to plug in electronics. An integrated trailer brake controller sits next to them for easy access when pulling a heavy load.

MORE:  2019 Chevrolet Silverado priced from $31,290

While some soft-touch materials cover important places—the door tops, the center console, and dash—GM’s reliance on cheap switches drags down top-line models, which can reach $70,000.

Chevy added space for passengers and some intelligent storage features. The rear seat in the Crew Cab adds 2.9 inches of leg room thanks to a longer wheelbase, and the rear seat bottoms smartly fold up for large items storage. Chevy even puts small storage pockets in the rear seatbacks.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

The business end

By making the Silverado’s bed an inch longer and an inch taller, and carving out its inner walls to widen the load floor by almost seven inches, Chevy added 20 percent more volume for the materials needed for mending fences in Wyoming.

Inside the bed, which sticks to steel rather than aluminum, Chevy mounts 12 fixed tie-downs that can withstand 500 pounds of force before bending. Nine movable tie-downs help keep rogue fence posts from rolling around and scraping up that steel bed.

Outside, the convenient corner steps are deeper to give work-booted cowboys a boost up into the bed. A 120-volt power outlet and optional task lighting add utility, too.

In addition to the short bed, the Silverado is offered with 6-foot-8-inch and 8-foot beds.

At the business end of the business end, an aluminum tailgate is lighter and easier to lift. In addition to manual tailgates with and without lift assist, a power up/down tailgate is optional.

Chevrolet has clearly put a lot of thought and functionality into its bed—more than Ram and Ford—and it should pay off for customers who use their trucks like they were intended: to haul stuff around. The corner steps make it fairly easy to get into the truck, though not quite as easy as Ford’s tailgate step. The cargo volume lets DIYers carry more mulch, wood chips, or feed in a single trip. The tiedowns keeps loads from shifting. And the power tailgate is the pickup equivalent of the SUV’s power liftgate for workers with full hands.

Lightweighting and capability

The 2019 Silverado is a veritable gumbo of material types: its body uses seven kinds of steel, plus aluminum for the doors, hood, and tailgate, to shed 88 pounds. Despite the weight loss, the Silverado Crew Cab, short box is 1.2 inches wider, 1.5 inches taller, and 1.7 inches longer than the outgoing truck while riding a wheelbase that is 3.9 inches longer. Its frame is now fully boxed, too. By using 80 percent high-strength steel, Chevy was able to cut 88 pounds out of the frame while making it 10 percent stiffer torsionally.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

Additional weight comes out of the suspension. The front independent long arm/short arm suspension uses new forged aluminum upper control arms, while the live rear axle’s coil springs are now two-part springs with a composite plastic second stage that saves 12 pounds per side.

In total, a Silverado Crew Cab sheds up to 450 pounds.

The lightweighting strategy helps improve both the ride and handling. With less weight to carry around, the Silverado uses softer springs. Engineers also opted for taller front knuckles, which create more suspension travel; double ball joints up front, which reduce friction and soften the ride; and tires with taller sidewalls to improve ride quality.

On these Wyoming and Idaho roads, the new Silverado is a close match for the Ram 1500 for ride comfort, though the rear leaf springs make it more susceptible to bounding motions over consistently bumpy roads, especially with an empty load.

The Silverado also handles about as well as a full-size truck can. The steering is so direct that drivers trading older Chevy pickups will feel like they’re now in a sports car. The truck reacts reasonably well to inputs, and body lean, while present, is well-controlled, even in the Silverado Trail Boss with its off-road tires and 2-inch lift. While the Silverado does quite well here in wide-open country, however, the extra length on an already large truck should make it a handful to deal with in town.

But the Silverado is made for dealing with handfuls and bedfulls and trailerfulls, even if its 12,200-pound maximum towing capacity doesn’t match the 12,500-pound maximum of last year’s model. That figure was for a specific two-wheel-drive model, and Chevy said most buyers opted for four-wheel drive for towing. Towing figures are up an average of 400 pounds, and payload numbers increase by a few hundred pounds as well.

A slew of features improve the towing experience. An Advanced Trailering package has six different camera views, including views to help align the hitch, from the side mirrors, and even a forward view from the side marker lights. A convenient sticker in the driver’s door jamb shows figures such as gross vehicle weight rating, curb weight, max payload, and max tongue weight for each truck as equipped.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

An app for the package includes a checklist for the towing procedure, a remote light test, and profiles for five different trailers. A tire-pressure monitor for trailers is another smart safety feature.

All of these features will make it easier for an individual hook up a trailer without help, and make sure all the details are correct.

Expanded engine lineup

The 2019 Silverado lineup will eventually feature a half dozen powertrains, but this drive features just the carryover 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8 engines. The 5.3-liter makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, while the 6.2-liter churns out 420 horses and 460 lb-ft of torque. The 5.3 is hooked up to an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the 6.2 sends its power through a 10-speed auto.

Both engines get GM’s new Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) system that can shut down one to six cylinders to save fuel. Chevrolet engineers run the engine in 17 different programs, each of which shuts down cylinders in different “fractions.” Rather than six, Chevrolet gets to 17 by shutting down cylinders on different engine cycles. For instance, a 1/3 fraction fires every third cylinder, restarting the cycle after three turns through the firing order.  

With either V-8, DFM works seamlessly, and it combines with the truck’s weight loss and improved aerodynamics to improve fuel economy by 1 mpg in the city. The 5.3 is rated at 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined, while the 6.2 comes in at 16/20/17 mpg.

GM’s V-8s may not be hybrids or turbos, but they're solid engines. The 6.2 is clearly the stronger choice, although it’s only available for the top two trims. The 5.3, meanwhile, should continue to offer the best real-world V-8 fuel economy in the full-size pickup market.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive, Wyoming, August 2018

Expanded lineup

Chevrolet is offering the 2019 Silverado in eight models to provide a truck for just about every type of buyer. Lower end customers will want the Work Truck, the Custom or the Custom Trail Boss. Volume buyers will consider the LT, LT Trail Boss, and RST, while those who want more features and luxury will want to opt for the LTZ or High Country.

No matter what truck buyers choose, it will have the goods to help them get work done, be it mending fences in Wyoming, hauling gravel in Cleveland, or towing a horse trailer in Texas. The American pickup is bigger and better than ever.

Chevrolet provided airfare and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.