Few bragging rights, but not such a bad truck

In the world of half-ton pickup trucks, Ford has emerged as the market’s technological innovator. The F-150 boasts lightweight aluminum all over its body and turbocharged “EcoBoost” engines under the hood, employing every bit of wizardry to maximize performance and fuel economy without diminishing capability. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 has doubled down on decadent luxury, with a gorgeous cabin and smoother ride quality. And the redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500? What’s its specialty? Well. It’s a truck, too.

It’s easy to be harsh on a redesigned vehicle that doesn’t clearly move the needle from its predecessor. And the latest Silverado is the model’s second-straight cautious redesign. There hasn’t been a radically improved Silverado since 2007. Even some famously loyal pickup buyers appear to be shifting their allegiances, with Ram recently overtaking Chevy for the No. 2 sales slot.

All that being said, the 2019 Silverado remains a competitive truck in many respects. Like all the competition, it has a comfortable cabin with an available giant back seat, a quiet ride and tons of optional luxury gear. Like all the competition, it has absurd towing and payload limits that make a mockery of the “half-ton” moniker. And like the other leading full-size pickups, its available V8 engines deliver strong acceleration and surprisingly acceptable fuel economy. All this is to say that Silverado is in the same approximate league as the Ford and Ram. It just doesn’t have a particular standout specialty, even at similarly sticker-shock-inducing price points. Being basically OK at everything isn’t going to win many hearts, but neither is it a complete disaster — especially in a market segment with few models to choose from.

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO - DESIGN

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The redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado shows what happens if you put the Camaro’s face on a pickup truck. But not the classic Camaro face — it’s more like the 2019 model’s, the one with lots of extra curves and pinched shapes. That’s the one Chevy has rushed to simplify for 2020 after disastrous feedback. The Silverado isn’t quite so controversial, but it’s tough to call it attractive. Chevy pushed inwards at the center of the headlights and taillights, and while it catches your eye, it’s not in a good way. It reads like Chevrolet was desperate to make the Silverado look brand-new but didn’t have a good idea of how to do it. Erring on the side of conservative would have probably been the better approach. Still, from a distance, the Silverado is more about imposing size than the details of its headlight design. And the blocky front end keeps the silhouette looking like a no-nonsense truck.

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The interior design is more conservative. It’s subtly different from the last generation Silverado, but nothing about it jumps out as a radical advance. If the old Silverado had used the new interior and vice versa, neither cabin would have looked out of place for its era. Of course, part of that is because the Silverado already had a decent-looking dashboard — fewer fussy details than the Ford F-150, and user-friendly controls, despite a potentially intimidating volume of buttons to either side of the steering wheel. The wheel does now sit dead center in front of the driver’s seat, addressing a longtime complaint among OCD types.

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The interior’s plastics remain basic; some buyers might prefer that vibe to over the luxuriously finished Ram, but even they won’t appreciate the ill-fitting center console panels — especially at $58,630 as tested. Still, the overall ambiance is more pleasant than some fierce critics suggest, thanks to the inoffensive design and airy feel. And all models have a well-designed infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, which measures 8 inches on most models and 7 inches on the entry-level Work Truck and Custom trims.

Keep in mind that Chevy’s sister brand GMC sells the same truck as the Sierra, with revised styling and similar (though slightly higher) prices. It’s worth checking out both to choose your preferred aesthetic.

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO - UTILITY

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Chevrolet makes much of the new Silverado’s plus-size bed capacity, perhaps because it’s a rare area in which it clearly stands apart from the competition. Chevy made some clever design tweaks to widen the bed by a useful 7 inches — a more helpful way to add volume than by raising the bed’s sides. It’s also available with a power-operated liftgate, though like other modern pickups, it’s agreeably light even when you operate it manually. Bed choices are 5 feet 8 inches, 6 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet.

But even if those are its main standout points, the Silverado remains highly competitive in other capability metrics, too, with ample towing and payload capacities. Manufacturers keep upping these numbers more for bragging rights than owners’ necessity; most half-ton pickups are in a similar range. The Silverado 1500 maxes out at 12,200 pounds of towing and 2,280 pounds of payload, but it varies by body style and powertrain. The tested Silverado 4WD crew cab with the 6.2-liter V8 engine is near the top; with the Max Towing Package, it can reach 12,100. (The 6.2-liter 4WD Double Cab is the absolute leader.) The same vehicle has a payload capacity of 2,130 pounds.

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Cabin space is also generous in the tested crew cab model. The seats are well-shaped — better than some competitors, especially in the rear — and offer acres of space for front and rear passengers. Like in other large pickups, the rear seat cushion can flip up against the rear seatback to create a large cargo hold within the cabin. The Silverado also includes a storage cubby under the rear seat, along with hidden cubbies within the seatbacks.

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO - HOW IT DRIVES

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Some critics have blasted the redesigned 2019 Silverado’s ride quality while lionizing its competitors. Based on our experience, there’s much less difference. The tested vehicle included the Z71 off-road suspension and big 20-inch alloy wheels, both of which would make the ride stiffer. But at least unladen (we didn’t have occasion to add the full 2,130 pounds of payload), it was in line with other half-ton pickups we’ve tested.

The suspension jiggles a bit on smooth pavement and sometimes takes bumps harshly, so you know it’s a high-capability truck rather than a luxury car. But the same is true of other pickups and body-on-frame SUVs. If anything, the tested Silverado did better than most on smooth pavement. Some critics’ harshness might be skewed by the even bigger 22-inch wheels on the top-of-the-line High Country model that’s popular in Chevy’s fleet of media vehicles. The Silverado’s steering and handling are also competitive for a big truck, with it feeling much less ponderous and disconnected than the aging Toyota Tundra.

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The tested Silverado’s 6.2-liter V8 engine was also a strong point. It packs class-leading performance specs — 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission — into a truck that’s also lighter than many competitors. Not only does that mean you can win races on the drag strip, if that’s your sort of thing, but also that the Silverado feels especially relaxed in routine driving. The engine doesn’t roar when you fire it up or accelerate gently.

The Silverado’s base engine is a 4.3-liter V6 with 285 horsepower. A newly available 2.7-liter four-cylinder features 310 horsepower and is the only turbocharged four in this class, and the only gasoline turbo in the Silverado line. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder is also available. At the heart of the Silverado lineup is a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, with the 6.2-liter V8 limited to high-end trim levels.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado Lineup
4.3L V-6 w/AFM (6-spd.) 5.3L V-8 w/AFM (6-spd.) 2.7L I-4 Turbo w/AFM (8-spd.) 5.3L V-8 w/DFM (8-spd.) 6.2L V-8 w/DFM (10-spd.)
Horsepower 285 355 310 355 420
Torque 305 383 348 383 460
Max towing 8,000 11,000 7,200 11,600 12,200
Max payload 2,500 2,430 2,280 2,190 2,100
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Silverado fuel economy slightly trails comparable Rams and F-150s, while tying the Nissan Titan and topping the Tundra. Only the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter F-150 lags, though Ford offers its EcoBoost turbo to blend power and efficiency. The tested Silverado 6.2-liter 4WD has EPA ratings of 16 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. Moreover, it’s the only truck in its class to recommend premium fuel; the Ram’s V8 wants mid-grade, while every F-150, Tundra and Titan is happy with regular, as are the other Silverado engines. The tested truck averaged 18 mpg in a week of mixed driving.

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO - PRICING

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The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado is priced from $29,895, with models ranging from base regular-cab work trucks to comfortably equipped four-door Double Cabs, to extra-lavish crew cabs with plus-sized interior volume. For this review, we focused on well-equipped crew cab models and checked the Silverado’s price against competing models, where it was pretty similar.

For a four-wheel-drive Silverado crew cab with the 5.3-liter V8 engine, power-adjustable cloth seats, a fully featured infotainment system and a decent-looking exterior — that is to say, not coated in black plastic and with Home Depot rental truck wheels — the sticker price came to $47,615. That’s within $1,000 of the comparably equipped F-150, Ram and Sierra, though about $3,000 more than the Titan and $6,000 more than the Tundra. Online purchase-price estimators suggest that you can knock about $6,000 to $8,000 off each truck’s sticker price with rebates and haggling, except the Titan that’s more like $5,000 off as of this writing.

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We also checked prices on more luxuriously equipped models like our 6.2-liter LTZ test vehicle, adding leather seats, a sunroof, all available safety gear and the top-of-the-line powertrain. Those requirements brought the Silverado to $56,970, which is several thousand dollars less than the comparable F-150 or Ram, and about $1,000 less than the Sierra. It’s some $7,000 more than the Titan or Tundra, though the Nissan isn’t offered with a sunroof or the Chevy’s advanced safety features. As on many GM models, an automatic emergency braking system is limited to optional equipment on high-end models; it’s standard on the Tundra and F-150. We expect these comparable price levels to vary somewhat depending on the options you desire, but the general trend should remain that the Big Three domestic trucks are clustered somewhat close together while the two Japanese models cost significantly less.

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500 KEY COMPETITORS

2019 Ford F-150

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The best-selling F-150 can’t be accused of resting on its laurels. It was the first half-ton truck to focus on turbocharged engines and lightweight aluminum body panels, in a market segment that typically favors old-school bruisers. Those efforts give the F-150 an efficiency edge over the competition, even as the current generation approaches its fifth year on the market. Ford has kept improving the F-150 over its lifespan, upgrading powertrains, adding standard safety features and overhauling the infotainment system. That said, its ride, handling and interior decor are unremarkable in the class, and some truck buyers will prefer more traditional engineering.

Read our full review on the 2019 Ford F-150

2019 Ram 1500

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The Ram has overtaken the Silverado in the pickup sales race with its almost ridiculously wonderful levels of luxury — notably, the beautifully designed and artfully finished cabin, and its available 12-inch infotainment screen. The Ram makes you wonder why the other trucks can’t look this good inside, and why such big vehicles keep leaving economy-car-size screens floating in the center of a giant dashboard. Of course, some folks might scoff at the Ram’s posh interior, even though things remain both sturdy and user-friendly. And the latest Ram dialed back the model’s famous exterior design flair. Moving past the aesthetics, the Ram’s once-storied Hemi V8 engine no longer stands out for acceleration or fuel efficiency in this less-than-svelte truck.

Read our full review on the 2019 Ram 1500

2019 Nissan Titan

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Where the F-150 and Ram separate themselves from the Silverado by finding a way to dazzle, the Titan follows more of the Chevy’s “just get the job done” playbook. It covers the basics: a wide range of body styles and price points, a choice of basic work trucks or lavishly equipped luxury models, class-competitive ride and handling, and even decent gas mileage. But its heavy weight cuts down on its hauling capability, even in the heavier-duty XD model; it’s missing notable luxury and technology features like a sunroof and automatic emergency braking; and, in general, it easily fades into the background as you think about top trucks on the market. Think of it as a value play, the same approximate qualities as the Silverado for a few thousand dollars less. It’s not quite as good, but you can potentially get a good deal.

Read our full review on the 2019 Nissan Titan

2019 Toyota Tundra

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The Tundra takes the Titan’s mere adequacy to a further extreme. The oldest half-ton pickup on the market, it dates all the way back to 2007 with only modest updates along the way. It delivers ample old-school flavor from its big roaring 5.7-liter V8 engine, which remains strong for power but has fallen to the back of the pack for fuel economy. It does still have the same extra-comfortable cabin as the class leaders, and plenty of capability. And depending on options, it’s often less expensive than comparably equipped competitors — particularly now that Toyota has added a suite of advanced crash-avoidance technology as standard equipment. But the rest of the truck has still aged, from its disconnected-feeling steering to its tiny infotainment screen to its basic interior decor. If you don’t need the latest and greatest in those categories, you might get a great bargain.

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Tundra

2019 Honda Ridgeline

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The Ridgeline, a pickup version of the Honda Pilot crossover, is typically considered a competitor to the midsize Chevrolet Colorado rather than the full-size Silverado. But if you’re shopping for a big truck just to get a spacious interior — rather than extra-capable abilities and/or a traditional big-truck vibe — the Honda’s minivan roots give it full-size roominess without the bulkiness or cost of a Silverado and its ilk. This is a smooth, polished vehicle rather than one bursting with character. But it can still do some light-duty truck work, and it costs many thousands of dollars less than a Silverado and other half-tons.

Read our full review on the 2019 Honda Ridgeline

2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500 IN A NUTSHELL

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Bragging rights are a big deal in the pickup segment, and the Silverado cedes those to the F-150 and Ram in key areas. But pickup buyers who prefer tried-and-true engineering over cutting-edge technology will appreciate the Silverado’s hearty naturally aspirated big-displacement engines. And those who don’t need or don’t want an extra-fancy luxury experience can appreciate the Silverado’s not-quite-lavish interior decor. Meanwhile, even those who don’t have a strong stance on those areas might find the overall Silverado package to be the right fit. There’s a reason the Silverado has slipped to No. 3 in the pickup sales race — but the remaining buyers are also still getting a decent truck.

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