Chevrolet's new Silverado has a lot going for it. Sure, its design is polarizing, and the interior's design and materials are kind of a letdown. But the fact of the matter is that the 2019 Silverado is lighter, more capable, more efficient and roomier than before.
Perhaps the biggest shock to hardcore truck fans, however, is the arrival of a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Yes, a four-banger in a full-size pickup truck. This 2.7-liter I4 will soon serve as the base powerplant on the Silverado's LT and RST trims, replacing the 4.3-liter V6 that'll now only be available on the entry-level Work Truck and Custom models.
Relatively speaking, an inline-four with 2.7 liters of displacement is a whopper of an engine. But Chevy says this motor was developed from the ground up for truck applications, and produces a healthy 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. It certainly bests the 4.3-liter V6's 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet, at any rate.
Not only is the I4 engine more muscular, it has a wider, daily-driving-friendly powerband, with peak torque available from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. The V6, on the other hand, doesn't hit its torque peak until 3,900 rpm.
The turbo four also stacks up favorably against competing base powerplants. It packs a bigger wallop than the Ford F-150's 3.3-liter V6 (290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet). And it also edges out the 310 horsepower and 269 pound-feet offered in the Ram 1500's 3.6-liter mild-hybrid V6.
Towing and hauling capabilities aren't too shabby, either. Depending on drive and cab configuration, the four-cylinder Silverado, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission, can pull up to 7,200 pounds with a max payload of 2,280 pounds.
With a week's worth of seat time in a 5.3-liter V8-powered Silverado RST still fresh in my head, driving a four-cylinder version through Arizona is both familiar and different. At no time will you mistake the four for an eight, but it still gets my roughly 4,700-pound RST double cab tester up to speed with respectable hustle. Off the line, it pulls nicely, but thrust does taper off as you approach the 6,100-rpm redline.
Transmission tuning is on point, being remarkably quick and smooth, especially during downshifts as I lean into the throttle. Surprisingly, the engine sings a gutsy exhaust note -- not something you'd expect from a turbo-four -- and at no point does it feel overburdened. Of course, that will probably will be a slightly different story with a mountain of gravel in the bed or a trailer in tow.
Over the course of a mostly highway drive, the Silverado's onboard fuel economy monitor says I averaged 22.8 mpg. While those dashboard readouts tend to be optimistic, the number may not be impossible, thanks to a snappy engine stop-start system saving precious fuel during my limited city driving, and seamless cylinder deactivation system switching to two-cylinder operation for large portions of highway running. The EPA estimates the four-wheel-drive models will return 19 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Two-wheel-drive truck ratings improve by 1 mpg in each cycle.
Those numbers represent a nice bump over the 2018 Silverado V6's city economy figures, at 18 mpg for two-wheel drive and 17 mpg with four-wheel drive. However, on the highway cycle, the V6 Silverado is actually more efficient, returning 24 mpg with two-wheel drive and 22 mpg with four.
Outside having less oomph, the drive experience mirrors the RST V8. It's a quiet and comfortable ride with some body shake over bumps. Overall, the ride quality is better than a Ford F-150 but not as buttoned up as the Ram 1500 with its air suspension. Steering is responsive and hefty, with body roll staying nicely controlled through bends. It simply behaves like a more refined Silverado.
The Silverado's interior doesn't change for four-cylinder duty, and again, I'm let down. The design isn't all that different from the previous truck -- the gauge cluster and center stack look almost like carryover bits. All the storage in the massive center console, door panels and dual glove boxes is nice, but the materials don't move the needle at all from its predecessor.
On the other hand, the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system remains a notable cabin improvement. In my test truck, the 8-inch touchscreen looks crisp, is intuitive to work through and is quick responding to inputs. Features include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
For safety, the Silverado 2.7 comes with blind-spot monitoring with lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors, though they're part of an $890 Safety Package that I highly recommend. A backup camera is also standard, as it is on every new vehicle, but sadly image quality is dreadful. Hopefully, Chevy addresses that ASAP like it recently did in the Volt.
The four-cylinder-powered 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LTs and RSTs will begin rolling onto dealers lots in December. They'll be available with rear- or four-wheel drive, in Double Cab and Crew Cab body styles. Crew Cabs will offer short and standard bed options. The LT will start at $38,395, including $1,495 for destination, while the RST with body-colored bumpers, grille, mirrors and door handles begins at $40,295. Upgrading to four-wheel drive adds $3,300 to the bottom line on all models. My RST double cab 4x4 tester with options stickers for $47,300.
Will a gaggle of Silverado buyers miraculously not throw down for a V8 and decide a turbocharged four is good enough? Absolutely not. But the people who don't tow and haul heavy loads on a daily basis and previously bought V6s should be pleased. Chevy's new turbo four is stronger, more flexible and superior to the six-cylinder in almost every measure. Yeah, it's down two cylinders, but something tells me that these buyers will have a slightly more open mind to engine downsizing than typical V8 shoppers.
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