Here's a quick recap of the important aspects engineers touched in the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: Chevy started with a larger and lighter frame using more high-strength steel than ever before and increased overall torsional rigidity (good for extra payload and towing capacities), saving 88 pounds in process. The doors, hood and tailgate are now aluminum for extra weight savings, as well.
All cabin configurations have been redesigned to provide more room and storage, with the most popular crew-cab model getting 2.5 inches of additional rear legroom.
New Trim Packages
Chevrolet also has improved its trim level offerings by breaking them down into three separate categories: high value, high volume and high feature. The high-value category includes the bare-bones Work Truck, the Custom and an economical 4x4 option called the Custom Trail Boss. (All Trail Boss models offer a 2-inch suspension lift, extra skid plates, the Z71 suspension package, a locking rear differential and all-terrain tires). All high-value choices include a unique all-capital-letters "Chevrolet" grille.
High-volume models include the well-equipped LT, the street-performance-oriented RST (which will offer the class's first turbocharged four-cylinder engine) and a more feature-friendly LT Trail Boss 4x4, which has all the Trail Boss features but can be more luxuriously optioned. Each of these trim levels sports the traditional Chevy Bow-Tie emblem on the grille.
In the high-feature category, where chrome accents dominate, Chevy offers the LTZ and top-of-the-line High Country for buyers who want all the bells and whistles.
Another significant upgrade for the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 lineup involves engine choices, which will eventually number six. The entry-level naturally aspirated 4.3-liter V-6 is rated at 285 horsepower and 305 pounds-feet of torque, and the 5.3-liter V-8 makes 355 hp and 383 pounds-feet of torque. This V-8 comes with active fuel management, a conventional cylinder-deactivation system that shuts off four cylinders under light load to save fuel, or with a new, more sophisticated and effective dynamic fuel management feature that has 17 patterns and can deactivate cylinders independently. The Silverado is the first half-ton pickup to offer a turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine (a 2.7-liter rated at 310 hp and 348 pounds-feet of torque). Also available is a 6.2-liter V-8 with dynamic fuel management rated at a whopping 420 hp and 460 pounds-feet of torque.
The final piece in the powertrain puzzle, with late availability, is an all-new turbo-diesel 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six-cylinder. The V-6 and lower-level 5.3-liter V-8 will be offered with a six-speed transmission, the 2.7-liter inline-four-cylinder and DFM 5.3-liter V-8 will get an eight-speed transmission, and the 6.2-liter V-8 and 3.0-liter diesel will come standard with the new 10-speed transmission.
More Safety All Around
The new Silverado has more safety technology than ever before, including (depending on trim and ordering packages) radar-based rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping and departure warning systems, low-speed auto braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control, surround vision on a bigger and brighter touchscreen, a new color head-up display measuring 3 by 7 inches, and a new trailering system to help inform and educate users no matter their experience. The new trailer app includes: auto brake assist when hitching up a trailer; more detailed trailer profiles to help with proper brake controller settings; a trailer theft alert if unplugged; trailer tire pressure and temperature data; gross combined weight rating, maximum tongue weight and exact curb weights for your specific pickup; and an in-cab truck and trailer-light check test program.
Special Bed Strategy
The business end of the Silverado is where GM engineers have pushed the class in new ways. The side walls of the cargo bed have been pushed out more than 3 inches on each side to provide the largest bed volume in the half-ton class, as well as placing three tie-down hooks in each corner, each with a 500-pound capacity. The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 also has a stronger high-strength-steel bed floor and will offer four distinct tailgate options and features depending on what trim level you select: a manual, no-assist standard key-lock tailgate; a standard gate with lift assist; a key-fob-activated power lock with auto drop-down release; and a class-exclusive fully powered up/down, key-fob lock/unlock tailgate.
Our Drive Time
During a Chevrolet media event in Jackson Hole, Wyo., we drove three models set up to offer different levels of performance. (Per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its own lodging and transportation at such automaker-sponsored events.) Our seat time in the top-of-the-line crew-cab, short-bed High Country — equipped with the updated 6.2-liter V-8 — took us over a mountain range to elevations near 9,000 feet. Thankfully, the V-8 was minimally affected by the elevation, accelerating us past slower-moving traffic. Throttle response was quick and linear (especially in Sport mode), but the standout feature was how well the new truck handles and holds the road when pushed into sharper corners or accelerated quickly out of decreasing-radius turns.
We really liked the 10-speed's addition of adaptive transmission settings and the more aggressive Sport mode that tightens up throttle response, shift points and steering feel, providing the driver with more sensitivity and responsiveness. The new suspension pays off big — even with the stylish 22-inch wheels on our test vehicle. Every wheel, tire and shock absorber combination of the new Silverado has a unique suspension tune for both the front coil springs and rear leaf springs to provide the best combination of ride and handling for each trim, cab and wheelbase configuration.
The standout feature on the new truck is how well it handles and holds the road when pushed into sharper corners or accelerated quickly out of decreasing-radius turns.
Both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s equipped with the dynamic fuel management offered a strong feel. The largest V-8 gets the 10-speed, which might explain why it loses only 1 mpg in combined EPA ratings. We did find the bigger V-8 a touch thirstier than the competition's engines when it came to heavier trailer-towing loops during our most recent half-ton Challenge, where the Chevrolet, equipped with the highest gearing (lowest numerically), got the worst fuel economy.
The all-new four-cylinder engine is standard on all LT and RST models, the latter of which we drove outside Phoenix.
The engine may seem small on paper, but the eight-speed transmission does a great job of making it feel powerful and nimble, thanks in large part to the turbocharger's generous size and dual-volute design. Extra interior insulation prevents the engine from sounding buzzy to the driver (at least with the windows rolled up), but the power response is striking and our two-wheel-drive double-cab model was fun for driving around town and zipping onto the freeway. The smaller engine provides weight savings that provides more payload capacity for the Silverado than ever before — ours was factory-rated to carry more than 2,000 pounds of cargo in the bed according to the door tags.
Braking a Little Rough
We didn't do any full-payload driving, but Chevrolet says the amount of rear-end droop when loaded is less than on the previous generation, which we've already found to be less than most of the other half-ton pickups. Brake-pedal feel is vastly improved, delivering a much stronger initial bite at the beginning of the pedal travel and a solidly progressive feel as foot force increases. We should note, however, that some of our editors still found the brake-pedal feel a bit too numb (a common criticism of past Chevy half tons), blaming the new brake-by-wire system and software. Many of those complaints went away or lessened when more weight was loaded into the trucks during our various drives.
The new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss trims have a single off-road coil/leaf suspension. For an off-road suspension with more high-tech adaptive shock absorbers, you'll have to move to brand sibling GMC's Sierra 1500 AT4.
During our mud-soaked four-wheeling stretch, we really liked the standard Trail Boss suspension, which offers a 2-inch lift front and rear to allow for taller, 31.5-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac all-terrain tires. Chevy's off-road course included low-range crawling over staggered logs, a descent into and climb out of a truck-swallowing dirt pit, a stretch of two-lane mud bog and a dive into a waterhole. Although not a huge course, it did test the Trail Boss' tire grip, crawling power and obstacle visibility. Several of the hurdles required us to use the standard locking rear differential, all the while creeping in 4x4 low range.
The suspension was quite pliable and absorbed ruts and rocks like an off-roader should. Our LT Trail Boss had the standard 5.3-liter V-8 with DFM and eight-speed transmission, while the Custom Trail Boss comes standard with the entry-level 4.3-liter V-6 and offers the carryover 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed as an option. Here's our only Trail Boss warning: These are all offered with the taller, 3.73:1 gear and have a slightly lower towing capacity.
Mixed Interior Impressions
The interiors of the new Chevy Silverado 1500 left us wishing for more, especially when looking at the top-of-the-line models. GM's two separate brands serve similar markets, so the GMC Sierra 1500 is typically more upscale and comes at a premium price. This seems to mean that the Silverado High Country interior needs to be good but not better than the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali. Although some might say this puts Chevy at a disadvantage, we do like the new interior's more accessible center dash controls and larger, high-clarity 8-inch touchscreen. However, when it comes to top-notch materials, style and complementing textures, the cabins left us wanting more.
During our recent half-ton Challenge, the new High Country did not measure up well against the 2019 Ram 1500 Limited's superior interior details and 12-inch touchscreen. If a luxurious interior is what you want, top Ram or Ford trims provide the most impressive features and designs in the class. Still, there's plenty to like about the new Chevy interiors: larger gauges and information screens, the massive center storage bin, dual glove boxes, closer and simplified climate and radio controls, a cavernous and reconfigurable under-armrest storage bin, a lockable 24-liter storage tray (with tie-downs) underneath the rear bench (for crew and double cabs) and the class-exclusive hidden rear backrest storage bins, deep enough to hold emergency gear, tools, coloring books and more.
We should note (for longtime readers) that all new 2019 Silverado 1500s continue to use the column shifter for gear selection in all trims and powertrain choices.
Leather choices in the vehicles we drove were quite nice, especially if you like the two-tone look. As to seating on the upper trims, we like the lateral support of both the front and rear seats, though they could use more padding overall. Also, spend some time in the front seats working the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and seat adjustments to make sure you can get comfortable with the way the shoulder belt fits across your upper body. Unlike previous Silverados, the 2019 doesn't have a shoulder belt height adjustment on the B-pillar, which some drivers have complained allows the belt to rub them uncomfortably.
Going for a Tow
We also did quite a bit of towing with a 6.2-liter-equipped High Country, in which the new trailering technologies and multicamera features made our time with a 6,000-pound double-axle dump bed feel safe and secure. Although we haven't driven a Silverado 1500 with the Max Trailering Package GM offers (which gives you better gearing, a stronger rear axle, a higher gross vehicle weight rating and stronger rear leaf springs), we have driven the GMC Sierra 1500 pickup with the same gear and it ended up winning our latest PickupTrucks.com half-ton comparison test.
If you plan on doing any kind of heavy hauling or towing with this truck, that option package should be high on your ordering list. The max trailering option pricing varies with trim level, but for our test vehicle, it added only $850 to our GMC Sierra 1500 SLT. For comparison's sake, the more fully equipped Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country had a transaction price of $67,420, while the mid-level GMC Sierra 1500 SLT (with the Max Trailering Package) that won the contest on its towing prowess totaled $63,040. We recommend that buyers be clear about their towing wants and needs; prices can increase quickly.
Wrapping It Up
Although the new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is not getting as much praise because it doesn't measure up to the plush sizzle and pop of the new 2019 Ram 1500's luxurious interior, it's a huge improvement over the Silverado it replaces, with almost infinite variations to fit your needs. If you know that you want style and luxury from your half ton, the LTZ and High Country have plenty of tech and chrome. If you need some solid function and sportiness for your rig, there are the LT, RST and LT Trail Boss. And if you need function over form, consider the economical Work Truck, Custom and Custom Trail Boss.
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