2019 Chevrolet Silverado First Test: Pencils Down

I don’t envy the engineers and designers who endlessly toil on new vehicle development. In a perfect world, these passionate and talented men and women would have all the money and time in the world to do the job right. Instead, they’re beholden to managers and shareholders—those looking out for production schedules and the bottom line. If a new car, truck, or SUV is done right, critics and consumers alike shouldn’t ever notice that it’s been rushed or is missing something. Despite many massive leaps forward for the lineup, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado could’ve perhaps benefited from a little extra time before the talented team behind it had to put its pencils down.

We had a couple weeks to sample three 2019 Silverado variants, each outfitted with a new-for-2019 Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) V-8, a crew cab, and short (5-foot-7) bed. Despite the similarities in body style, each truck fits a wildly different niche. Our volume player was an all-wheel-drive Silverado RST equipped with the new 5.3-liter DFM V-8, which makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic. Covering the off-road end of the spectrum was a Silverado LT Trail Boss, which had the same engine and transmission as the Silverado RST but with proper four-wheel drive, a 2-inch suspension lift, and knobby off-road tires. For the increasingly profitable luxury truck segment, we had a Silverado High Country, which was powered by the new DFM 6.2-liter V-8 making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive.

There are four Silverado engines we’ve yet to sample: a carryover 4.3-liter V-6 and six-speed auto; the carryover Active Fuel Management (AFM) 5.3-liter V-8, which confusingly makes just as much power as the new version but is paired with a six-speed auto; and a new 310-hp 2.7-liter turbocharged I-4 and 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6.

Aside from the new DFM V-8s (which, unlike the old AFM V-8s, are capable of running in 17 cylinder configurations versus the AFM’s V-4 mode), the 2019 Silverados benefit from a new platform, body work, and cabin. The Silverado wears its extra 4 inches of length well. Each variant of the Silverado looks distinctive, especially our Trail Boss tester with its blacked-out nose and bright red tow hooks. Even more impressive is the work Chevy did to the back end of the truck. Thanks to new manufacturing techniques, the Silverado’s bed is 7 inches wider (without increasing the truck’s actual width), and cargo volume in the bed expands significantly. Chevy also increased the number of standard tie-downs in the bed—three in each corner for a total of 12—a move we hope other truck makers follow. If for some reason you need more, the Silverado’s bed can also accept optional Gear On tie-downs.

The Silverado is rated to haul up to 2,190 pounds with the 5.3-liter DFM engine or 2,100 pounds with the 6.2-liter engine. It can tow up to 11,600 pounds with the 5.3 or 12,200 pounds with the 6.2. Max payload capacity is 2,500 pounds with the V-6.

At the test track, the new Silverado puts up test numbers competitive with the rival Ford F-150 and Ram 1500. Unsurprisingly, the slowest of our Silverados were our 5.3-liter V-8 testers. The street-going and off-road-ready Silverado RST and Silverado Trail Boss traded blows in our instrumented acceleration tests. The Silverado Trail Boss was quicker to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, needing 6.4 seconds to the RST’s 6.6 seconds, but the Silverado RST caught up by the end of the quarter mile, its 14.9-second run at 94.6 mph just edging out the Trail Boss’ 15.0 seconds at 93.2 mph for the quarter mile.



Both were about neck and neck when we hitched an 8,300-pound trailer to them, too. You can get the full breakdown of all our test numbers in the chart below, but in the most important towing metrics—quarter mile and 45–65-mph passing acceleration—the Silverado Trail Boss was more impressive. It took 20.9 seconds to get down the quarter mile at 67.6 mph and needed 9.5 seconds to accelerate from 45 to 65 mph. The Silverado RST needed 21.2 seconds to clear the quarter mile at 66.7 mph and 9.9 seconds in our 45–65 passing tests.

With an extra 65 horsepower and 77 lb-ft of torque on tap, it’s not surprising that the 6.2-liter-equipped Silverado High Country outperformed the other two Silverados. When equipped with this optional engine, the Silverado High Country accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and runs the quarter in 14.4 seconds at 98.3 mph. With the same 8,300-pound trailer hitched to its bumper, the High Country runs the quarter mile in 19.7 seconds at 71.5 mph and needs just 7.8 seconds in the 45–65 pass tests.

And now’s about the time we get to the part where I tell you why the Silverado could do with another 10 minutes in the oven, so to speak. Simply put, test numbers aside, we were unimpressed by how the Silverado’s volume 5.3-liter DFM V-8 and its eight-speed automatic performed. We’re disappointed to find that GM didn’t fix the old 5.3’s biggest flaws: its sloppy throttle response at low speeds and its transmission’s overeagerness to get to its top gear. The truck feels powerful enough once it’s moving, but getting there is frustrating. “The engine has power, but it’s being tag-teamed by the unholy GM duo of a lazy throttle pedal and a transmission that hates to downshift,” features editor Scott Evans said. “Every time you want to move, you’ve got to get deep into the throttle before anything useful happens. The shifts aren’t as smooth as the 10-speed automatic, either, so you notice every time it’s forced to drop two gears to maintain speed up a hill.”

The 6.2-liter V-8 and its 10-speed auto, which is only available as an option on the top-level Silverado LTZ and Silverado High Country, improves things immensely. The big V-8 has plenty of power on tap, and it sounds especially great when you bury your foot into the throttle. The 10-speed automatic is worlds better than the eight-speed, too. It feels modern and well sorted—basically the polar opposite of the eight-speed automatic. Its shifts are seamless and nearly unnoticeable, and it doesn’t display the hunting behavior of the other transmission, either.




Although the 6.2-liter engine drastically improves the Silverado’s drive experience, we’re disappointed the engine isn’t available on lower trim levels. We’re curious to find out if the new four-cylinder turbo engine and diesel can help improve things somewhat on volume Silverados. The fact that the 10-speed automatic will be paired with both is certainly a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the 5.3-liter V-8 with eight-speed auto isn’t our only bone to pick with the Silverado. Its interior lacks the imagination its competitors at Ford and Ram display. Sure, you get your USB ports, hidden storage cubbies (in the rear seat backs), and touchscreen infotainment systems (the touchscreen doesn’t work with gloves on), but we’re bummed about the material quality and design of the new Silverados. Chevy hasn’t done enough to distinguish the new model from the old one inside, aside from finally putting the steering wheel directly in front of the driver.

The least offensive model is perhaps the Silverado RST. At $54,280 (as tested), it represents a pretty great value. The cabin, though a bit boring with its black plastic and gray upholstered seats, is easy to use and comfortable. The Silverado Trail Boss ($54,280) is perfectly acceptable for the price, too. Like the RST, it’s a pretty boring mix of black, chrome, and gray plastic, but the materials are all nice enough so long as you haven’t just come from your local Ram or Ford dealer.





It’s the Silverado High Country’s interior (shown above) that’s the biggest issue. At $64,030, our editors didn’t notice any discernible difference in interior material or quality compared to the volume trucks. Sure, you got a two-tone interior and some plastic wood trim, but Chevy’s best effort looks cheap and, well, a bit sad when parked next to a comparable Ford F-150 Limited or Ram 1500 Limited.

All three Silverados also garnered complaints from editors because of poorly picked trim materials. “I really don’t like the amount of shiny chrome inside the cabin. The reflection of the sun off the chrome around the cupholders was intense,” complained Motor Trend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina. Road test editor Chris Walton agreed, adding, “I can’t emphasize enough how much reflected glare there is in these Silverados. If it’s not from the cupholder surround, then it’s the top edges of the convex center stack surround. There’s even glare from the center console edge reflected in the passenger window.”

After two weeks with the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, we could all agree on one thing: Chevy isn’t done yet. Although it has made some segment-leading improvements to its bed and seriously upped the Silverado’s style, both the volume 5.3-liter V-8 and its interior just don’t feel done yet. Chevy has the bones of a good truck here, but giving the engineering and interior design teams a little extra time to do their things certainly wouldn’t hurt.

All trucks were tested in extreme-heat conditions, and performance was adversely affected. We will attempt to retest and update these results at a later date.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4WD LT Trail Boss Z71 (Crew) 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4WD RST (Crew) 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4WD High Country (Crew)
BASE PRICE $49,795 $45,995 $57,795
PRICE AS TESTED $53,295 $54,280 $64,030
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door truck Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 5.3L/355-hp/383-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8 5.3L/355-hp/383-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8 6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic 10-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,236 lb (58/42%) 5,178 lb (58/42%) 5,450 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 147.5 in 147.4 in 147.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 231.7 x 81.2 x 78.4 in 231.7 x 81.2 x 75.5 in 231.7 x 81.2 x 75.5 in
0-60 MPH 6.4 sec 6.6 sec 6.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 93.2 mph 14.9 sec @ 94.6 mph 14.4 sec @ 98.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 134 ft 126 ft 123 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.69 g (avg) 0.76 g (avg) 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 30.0 sec @ 0.55 g (avg) 28.6 sec @ 0.58 g (avg) 27.5 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 00.0/00.0/0.00 mpg 00.0/00.0/0.00 mpg 15.0/24.3/18.1 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 15/20/18 mpg 16/22/18 mpg 16/20/17 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/169 kW-hrs/100 miles 211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles 211/169 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.15 lb/mile 1.06 lb/mile 1.10 lb/mile

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