Chevy's 2019 Silverado drops weight, adds features for Detroit

The Big Bowtie goes on a 450-pound diet, can run on just one cylinder, and still has enough room left over for the industry's first powered tailgate.

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Chris Paukert
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Chris Paukert

Executive Editor / Cars

Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris has spent most of his entire career in automotive publishing. Mentored by "Automobile Magazine" founder David E. Davis, Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as Editor-in-Chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's Executive Editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has been serving on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards since 2010. He proudly joined the CNET team in mid-2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.

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Any time you sell 585,000 of anything in a year, it's a pretty big deal. But when you're talking full-size pickup trucks, you're talking about something that's "mission critical" to not just the company that builds it, but the auto industry as a whole. That's why there's a whole lot of eyeballs on the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado tonight. The new truck, which rolled out at an off-site media event ahead of the Detroit Auto Show, is General Motors' cash cow, and irrefutably its most important product.

Arriving in time for Chevrolet Trucks' centennial, the new Silverado looks more substantial, yet thanks to its increased use of mixed metals, it's actually lost a lot of weight -- some 450 pounds. The new truck features a longer wheelbase and its frame offers 10 percent greater torsional rigidity, yet it's 88 pounds lighter. A lot of the weight savings likely came from the all-aluminum "swing panels" -- automaker speak for doors, hoods and tailgates. That type of weight drop should pay dividends in everything from fuel economy to handling to component wear and tear. 

In a not-so-subtle dig at Ford's aluminum-bodied F-150, Chevrolet is taking great pains to note that the new Silverado features a roll-formed, high-strength steel bed floor. Likening the bed to "the head of a hammer" because it takes all the abuse, Mark Reuss, GM's executive vice president, said, "I don't think you'd get much work done with an aluminum hammer."

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The new bed is wider inside by nearly seven inches to net best-in-class space, plus it features optional LED lighting and will be available with new lockable storage bins that mount over the wheel wells. If you needed any further confirmation that full-size trucks have become lifestyle accessories as much as work implements, the Silverado will also be offered with an industry-first power tailgate that raises and lowers using the key fob. 

But it's not just about what goes in the bed, it's about what's under the hood. GM will offer no fewer than six different engine and transmission combinations, including a new 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder Duramax diesel paired to a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Naturally, gas engines will still command the lion's share of sales, with Chevy's 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8 engines picking up Dynamic Fuel Management, a new system that will allow for running on between one to seven cylinders, depending on load demand. That's right, this truck can sip fuel on just one cylinder.

Thus far, GM remains coy on output figures, payload and towing capacities and fuel economy.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado
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2019 Chevrolet Silverado

A new larger cab with higher front seats and nicer materials were a big priority for Chevy.

Chevrolet

Chevy says that thanks in part to a longer wheelbase, the new Silverado features an enlarged cab with a higher driver seat point that still affords class-leading headroom, plus improved material textures.

For the moment, the automaker isn't spelling out what sort of updates will come in terms of cabin and safety technology, but the outgoing truck already features available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging, and there's no reason to expect that to change for anything but the better.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado
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2019 Chevrolet Silverado

The profit-rich High Country luxury trim returns with even more frosting, including a powered tailgate.

Chevrolet

Chevy will offer eight different Silverado trims, including a new sporty-looking RST model and new Trailboss model that includes a two-inch suspension lift with Ranchero shocks, 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber, a locking rear differential and skid plates. At least at first blush, it doesn't appear to be a full-on Ford F-150 SVT Raptor rival, but it should be more capable in the rough stuff than the ZR2 that it's based on.

The new 2019 Silverado will stare down a new crosstown rival right inside Cobo Center this week -- Ram is poised to unveil a new version of its 1500 pickup at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday.

Pricing and on-sale date information has not yet been announced.

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