Whether you’re hauling a cement mixer, a three-horse trailer, or a sparkling new speedboat, you won’t find a more useful tool than a pickup truck.
Full-size trucks are the best-selling vehicles in America, partly because of the many Americans who work hard at jobs that require sweat and muscle rather than pixels and taps, and partly because Americans love to play hard. Or at least look like they do.
Right now, there are plenty of terrific choices when it comes to big pickup trucks. The best models come from the traditional Big Three American companies, such as the popular Ford F-150 and redesigned Ram 1500, with Japanese companies trailing the leaders with the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
Truck drivers are a notoriously loyal lot. They tend to choose a brand and stick with it, despite the lure of newfangled aluminum this and hybrid that.
Chevrolet is counting on people who love the bowtie-brand to ensure the all-new 2019 Silverado 1500’s success, while angling to appear to those who may have not considered a Chevy before. To see if the new Silverado is worthy, I spent a week wheeling a Nightsky BlueLT Trail Boss Crew Cab around the suburbs and across the mountains of Southern California.
The test truck came with a standard bed configuration and a $57,090 sticker price (including the $1,495 destination charge). It was loaded up with extras, with Convenience Package, Convenience Package II, Leather Package, Safety Package, Bed Protection Package, and Advanced Trailering Package option boxes checked.
Plus the test truck came with handy off-road assist steps – unless you’re actually planning to go off-roading. Then, they limit the LT Trail Boss’s breakover angle.
Design: 8.0 rating
When it comes to road presence and conveying a sense of strength, nothing beats sheer size. The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado is taller and bigger than last year’s version, increasing its physical dimensions by almost every measure. It’s lighter than the previous Silverado, though, thanks to the use of mixed metals through the body and the substructure.
The Silverado’s massive grille and headlamps have more layers than a multi-level marketing scheme (expect to be asked to purchase some leggings, or protein powder, or vitamins) but I thought it conveyed a sense of purpose. Lines that follow the truck across its flanks hold interest, while the Chevrolet name is emblazoned in big, capital letters across the tailgate.
Inside, my test vehicle looked utilitarian with its black-on-black color scheme. This usually makes cabins look smaller, but no color can mask the enormity of this cavern when you open the door.
I wish I could say that this $57,000 vehicle’s interior looked and felt like a $57,000 vehicle, but no, it did not. Hard, brittle plastics were evident all around the cabin. You can call this approach practical; I’ll call it builder grade. There were no assemblage issues, though, and gaps between panels were kept to a minimum.
Comfort: 9.0 rating
I’m always grateful when tall trucks arrive equipped with side step rails. I always need a little help climbing in, and these, along with the windshield pillar-mounted handles, helped enormously. Off-road enthusiasts will scoff at the added equipment, though, because they can get hung up pretty easily.
Once inside, it’s easy to find a good driver’s position, thanks to the 10-way power adjustable seat. Heated front seats always come in handy, as does the heated steering wheel.
The front passenger’s seat, however, came with manual adjustments, one of many reasons I’m skeptical of the test truck’s price tag. You lift a bar to scoot the seat fore and aft, and use a lever to adjust the seatback angle. Want to sit up higher? Tough, because there is no way to adjust the seat’s height. Then again, you’re so far off the ground that it’s not really noticeable.
In the back, your rear passengers might find themselves sliding around a bit when you go around a corner, as the seats are plain and flat. But you can’t argue with all of that shoulder, leg and headroom, so you won’t be hearing much in terms of complaints.
Controls: 9.0 rating
In a world gone mad with novelty transmissions, it’s refreshing to see the Silverado’s old-school lever mounted to the steering column. Running through the PRNDL with each of its satisfying clunks is how God intended automatic shifting to be.
Chevy does use some buttons for shifting, but they’re tasked with selecting 4-wheel-drive transfer case settings. You can pick 2-wheel drive, Automatic, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo. This design makes it simpler to prepare the truck for the road conditions that lie ahead.
Chevrolet knows that people who drive trucks are often wearing gloves, so most of the controls can be operated without removing them. There is a touchscreen display, of course, but volume and tuning knobs help to make using it easier. The climate controls are similarly simple and intuitive.
Utility: 10.0 rating
Big trucks can carry big things. Chevy tries to lighten the load, so to speak, by making it easier to haul big and heavy items. The lightweight, aluminum, power-down tailgate is really useful, and some trim levels even have a power up function.
Chevy also boasts that its cargo box holds more stuff by volume than its primary competitors, and that its Durabed design with a roll-formed steel floor is less likely to be damaged by your cargo. There’s also a 120-volt power outlet in the bed for additional lighting or other devices, and each of the tie-down hooks is rated to handle 500 pounds of force.
In the cabin, you’ll find plenty of storage bins and cupholders in which to place your belongings. The center console is huge, and the dual-tiered glove compartment is useful. There are rear in-seatback storage compartments, but they don’t hold much. You’ll still make good use of the rear under seat storage, and the bottom rear seat cushion flips up to maximize in-cab cargo space.
Technology: 8.5 rating
You’d expect a vehicle in this price range to come with a navigation system, but you’d be mistaken. With the new Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system, an embedded navigation system is reserved for top trim levels only.
Good thing Chevy equips the Silverado with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which runs navigation through your smartphone. Everyone will approve of the 4G LTE Wi-fi hotspot, as well as the numerous charging ports and device inputs sprinkled throughout the cabin. The test truck also had a decent-sounding Bose premium audio system.
In terms of the user experience, the infotainment system was fairly intuitive, with big knobs for power/volume and tuning. Unfortunately, Silverado buyers get a limited one-month trial to all OnStar services, which is barely long enough to recognize them as useful enough to pay for a subscription.
Those who need to tow a trailer will appreciate the trailering assist camera views that help the driver to align and hitch a trailer. This technology, however, pales in comparison to what Ford offers for the F-150.
Safety: Not rated
At the time of this writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the federal government had performed crash tests on the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, which is why we haven’t rated the truck for safety.
In order to prevent a collision from occurring in the first place, Chevy offers a bevy of active safety technologies. They include forward collision warning, automatic emergency pedestrian braking,a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, and a lane departure warning with lane keeping assist system.
My test truck’s optional Safety Package added front and rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, a lane change alert system, and a rear cross-traffic alert system. Trail Boss trim is, apparently, incompatible with the Silverado’s other safety features.
Every Silverado gets Teen Driver technology, which helps parents of young drivers to monitor their use of the truck. A Rear Seat Reminder system is also standard, chiming to prompt you to check the rear seat before leaving the truck in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of a tragic mistake.
Power and performance: 7.0 rating
Brawny, deep-welled power from Chevy’s latest 5.3-liter V8 propelled my test truck. Making 355 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 383 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm, it’s rated to tow up to 9,500 lbs. when the LT Trail Boss is equipped like my test vehicle. Other engines for the 2019 Silverado 1500 include a 285-hp 4.3-liter V6, a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8, and a torque-rich turbocharged 2.7-liter 4-cylinder. A diesel offering is also in the works.
While the numbers for the 5.3-liter V8 seem impressive, if you hold them up to the Silverado’s two primary competitors, they fall a little short. Unless you really want bragging rights, though, this engine supplies plenty of oomph for carrying around all of your equipment in a delightfully speedy manner.
A new 8-speed automatic delivers the power to the wheels. Mostly, it did a commendable job of shifting correctly, although some harsh driveline lash was noted in my early-production test truck during low-speed downshifts.
If you’re not expecting a big, heavy, powerful truck to quaff fuel like hipsters do their artisanal kombucha, you’re living in Fantasyland. Still, I wasn’t expecting my test truck to miss the mark on its EPA-rated 17-miles-per-gallon average in combined driving by such a wide margin.
I got 13.6 miles per gallon on my test loop, and that was without engaging the 4WD system or hauling anything in the bed or on a trailer. During a week with plenty of highway driving, the best number I saw was 15.1 miles per gallon.
Even for a full size truck, that’s disappointing, especially since this particular version of the 5.3-liter supposedly had Chevy’s new Dynamic Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology.
Ride and handling: 8.5 rating
Think about the weight balance of a pickup truck. Most of it sits over the front wheels unless there’s some serious payload in the bed. Otherwise, there’s a whole lotta nothin’ over the rear wheels. Add in a Silverado LT Trail Boss’s high center of gravity and off-road tires, and you’ve got the ingredients for a dynamic disaster.
Finding balance from such an unbalanced foundation represents a unique challenge, which is why it’s so impressive that Chevy created a fairly decent driving truck in the new Silverado. Body roll is remarkably controlled, the steering is precise, and the brakes are responsive. It’s actually pretty easy to get this truck going fast on the freeway and not notice how fast you’re traveling, in part because it’s so quiet inside.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Silverado is a smaller, nimble vehicle, though. You’ll still need plenty of room to squeeze into holes in traffic, and you’ll look around parking lots for a bit longer in order to find a space that can accommodate this dreadnaught. Speaking of which, I found it easier to back the Silverado into spaces than to pull in nose-first.
On canyon roads, you won’t forget that you’re driving a vehicle with 10.7-inches of ground clearance and Goodyear Duratec all-terrain tires. Try to hustle, and you’ll know that trucks are a different species than sport sedans.
Big trucks aren’t ideal for tackling tight, rock-strewn trails, either. While the Trail Boss’s underpinnings are convincingly capable of handling boulder bashing to your heart’s delight, the truck’s sheer length, width, and height limit where you can take the Silverado.
A basic Silverado regular cab with a V6 engine, 2WD, and Work Truck trim is priced from less than $30,000. The numbers climb from there as you add more seating, a bigger bed, a more powerful engine, 4WD, and pile on the options, depending on your needs and your lifestyle.
Still, even in its most rudimentary form, you’ve got an incredibly useful tool with a wide set of talents to help you move people and things with stamina and enthusiasm.
The new 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 may not be able to boast about being the ‘biggest,’ the ‘fanciest’ or the ‘most’ at nearly anything, but it’ll no doubt serve all your light-duty work and recreational needs.
Total Vehicle Score: 158/190 points
Overall Vehicle Rating: 8.3