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First Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss

Posted in Features on October 2, 2018
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Photographers: Courtesy of Manufacturer

When the all-new ’19 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was revealed at the Texas Motor Speedway by helicopter way back in December 2017, it was the polarizing Trail Boss edition that Chevy chose to debut. Looking futuristic, the new Silverado had its fair share of detractors, and lots of questions lingered as to whether the ’19 version would be worthy of the Silverado nameplate.

As we’ve found out more about the new truck, we’ve been incredibly impressed, and we finally had our opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new Silverado in Jackson, Wyoming. We drove the top-line High Country, but focused our seat time in the exciting new Trail Boss trim.

Overview

The ’19 Silverado is larger than the outgoing truck, with a wheelbase that has been stretched up to 3.9 inches and overall length that has been increased up to 1.9 inches. The truck has been fully re-engineered with a mixed-media strategy, combining different materials depending on need. For example, the bed floor is high-strength steel, while the swing panels (doors, hood, and tailgate) are made of aluminum. The new frame is fully boxed and is 10 percent torsionally stiffer, while weighing up to 88 pounds less than the old frame. These changes allow the truck to be up to 450 pounds lighter than a comparable ’18 Silverado.

Powertrains are both well known and all new. The 5.3L and 6.2L small-block V-8s return, matched with eight-speed and ten-speed automatic transmissions, respectively. Additionally, buyers can choose a high-output 2.7L turbo four-cylinder or a 3.0L straight-six turbodiesel. A 4.3L V-6 will also be offered.

Both V-8s use an updated version of Active Fuel Management, called Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM). DFM gives the venerable pushrod V-8s the ability to run on as few as one cylinder, and on any combination up to eight, depending on load and needs. What is most impressive is the fact that these cylinder deactivation modes are imperceptible to the driver, despite quieter cabins. Auto Start/Stop is unfortunately present, but all this technology results in a 16-mpg city/22-mpg highway/18-mpg combined rating for the 5.3L 4WD and 16-mpg city/20-mpg highway/17-mpg combined rating for the 6.2L 4WD.

A new bed design, dubbed the Durabed, features up to 20 percent more bed volume than the nearest competitor thanks to a bed floor that is up to 7 inches wider. The bed features 12 fixed tie-downs, as well as nine moveable ones, each of which has been strengthened from the previous bed. Four tailgates are offered: standard manual, standard gate with Lift Assist, Power lock/release with Lift Assist and auto release, and power up and down. Larger CornerStep bumpers that now accommodate steel-toe boots, task lighting, and a 120V outlet round out the bed upgrades.

Suspension is a familiar coilover IFS setup in the front and a solid axle in the rear, although a composite second-stage leaf is used in some models for weight savings and improved ride. Wheel travel has increased 1.18 inches versus the old truck.

Design

The philosophy of the design team was to re-imagine the Silverado as if the team were redesigning it for two generations in the future. Immediately apparent in the design is a menacing face that says to onlookers that this truck means business. New body lines have more than a passing resemblance to late-model Chevy cars, and the return of larger, rounder wheelwells should make wheelers happy. The front bumper and fenders incorporate air curtains, which aid aero, and the side mirrors are remotely mounted from the side glass down on the doors. This also improves aero, reduces wind noise, and improves visibility between the mirror and the body.

The Trail Boss looks like it is ready to brawl with its sinister, blacked-out front end—something it may have to do if a certain crosstown rival takes exception to the red towhooks.

Trim

Consumers will appreciate the eight trim levels that will be available: the high-value Work Truck, Custom, and Custom Trail Boss; the high-volume LT, RST, and LT Trail Boss; and the high-feature (and top-of-the-line) LTZ and High Country. Each trim was designed to appeal to a different buyer, with distinctive personalities and looks. Whether fleet is your thing, or you are looking to have the fanciest truck on the ranch, Chevy has you covered.

Chevy offers no less than eight trim levels of the Silverado for 2019.

Interior

The all-new interior will be a nice upgrade for those currently in a Chevy truck. It is nowhere near as radical of a departure as the exterior, instead focusing on a thoughtful layout and lots of features that improve upon the current truck. While the look is familiar, the dash features improved materials and enhanced ergonomics with some notable changes. The four-wheel-drive selector is now on the left side of the steering wheel above the headlight switch, while the trailer brake controller has moved to its proper spot on the center stack. Switchgear has a great tactile feel, and the next-generation 8-inch touch display houses the very latest system and fixes some legacy issues from the outgoing system with better CarPlay and Android Auto implementation.

The ’19 Silverado interior is upgraded with improved materials and a logical layout.

Tech-savvy passengers will appreciate the copious amount of USB-C and USB-A charging ports and a wireless charging mat that has moved from the console lid to the console and is compatible with the latest iPhone. Drivers will appreciate that Chevy centered the steering wheel to the driver seat and squared it to the driver, finally ending decades of unnecessary engineering obstinance. Other niceties include improved cupholders, hidden storage cubbies in the rear seatbacks, and a retained column shifter that keeps the center console open for storage. Strangely, the new truck lacks seatbelt height adjustability for the front passengers.

Current Chevy truck owners will find the interior recognizable, useable, very functional, and much improved in almost every way. However, Chevy played it safe, and even in its top trim, the Silverado doesn’t represent the nicest interior on the market. That crown resides with the recently introduced Ram 1500. We won’t say the interior is a miss for Chevy by any means, but it doesn’t raise any bars, either.

Trail Boss

By far our favorite trim level is the Trail Boss. Available as a Custom or LT grade, the Trail Boss is much more substantial of a package than anything offered on the Silverado today. Starting with a factory-engineered 2-inch suspension lift (which will also be available from the dealer and can be added after purchase to any four-wheel-drive Silverado, regardless of trim), the Trail Boss adds a reshaped front bumper for an increased approach angle, monotube Rancho shocks, 32-inch LT275/65R18 Goodyear DuraTrac tires, the venerable G80 Gov-Lock mechanical rear locker, trendy red towhooks, and full skidplating. Other features include Electronic Hill Descent Control and a heavy-duty air cleaner.

The Custom Trail Boss offers all the mechanical goodness of the LT Trail Boss at a lower price point.

For those who don’t need such an aggressive tire, a 20-inch wheel and tire package with 275/60R20 Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires that measure out to 33 inches is optional.

Optional 33-inch Bridgestone Dueler ATs on 20-inch wheels are available for those who don’t need a tire as aggressive as the DuraTrac.

Highway

Our Trail Boss tester was equipped with the 355hp and 383 lb-ft 5.3L V-8, backed by an updated eight-speed automatic and the optional 20-inch wheel and tire package (Chevy saved the DuraTrac-equipped trucks for the off-road course). GM engineers put a lot of effort into ensuring that the new Silverado is not only capable, but also comfortable on-road. The improvement in the chassis is immediately noticeable from the first time you pull away from a parking spot. Whether driving over smooth highway or broken pavement, the Silverado remains composed and competent, with little head toss or body roll.

We also must commend the Silverado’s stellar steering. The Chevy electronic power-assist steering system, or EPAS, is perfectly weighted without any of the artificial feel of earlier systems. Benefits include the ability to adjust for crosswinds and road crown, and DuraTrac-equipped models even get a different “tune” to compensate for the resistance of the more aggressive treads. Chevy also nailed the brake feel with a short stroke and easy modulation to access the clamping force of the binders on the 13.5-inch front and 14.1-inch rear rotors.

Acceleration is good, although we wish there was a gear ratio option other than the standard 3.23s. We think the 3.42s from the Max Trailering Package or even the 3.73s from the lower-trim 5.3L/six-speed auto trucks would liven up the Trail Boss quite a bit, albeit at the expense of fuel economy—a trade-off we are willing to make.

Off-Road

We tested the Trail Boss over a specially prepared off-road course complete with a loose hillclimb, wet logs, boulders, and mud. While it wasn’t anything we would consider hard core, it was still a good indicator of just how well the traction aids, tires, and suspension work together. We even had a chance to test out the underbody protection, which we can tell you should be more than adequate for most users.

Coated in a thin layer of mud, and looking like a clay model, the Trail Boss shows off its unique design elements.

Because of the increased chassis rigidity, the suspension really performs well, and the extra wheel travel was apparent. The specially tuned Rancho monotubes do a really good job of controlling ride motions, while the traction control seems to be very responsive, all working in conjunction with the G80 mechanical rear locker to get the Silverado up and over the course. And to be honest, there were obstacles on the course that 95 percent of Silverados will never be taken over, but the Trail Boss handled them with ease.

We only had an opportunity to test the Trail Boss in a trail setting but have no doubt the upgraded suspension would be able to hold its own on a reasonably fast desert trail; however, don’t expect the Multimatic-like performance that is found in the Colorado ZR2.

The Trail Boss comes equipped with Chevy’s Autotrac transfer case, giving the truck an automatic four-wheel-drive mode in addition to 2-Hi, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo. While some Silverado 4x4s can be had with a single-speed transfer case, thankfully the Trail Boss is not one of them.

Our Take

Overall, the Trail Boss is an impressive truck that has serious off-road chops for the average consumer. While it elevates the Z71 to a higher level and gives most consumers a really comprehensive off-road package, we can tell you that Chevy left room for an even more potent truck to slot in above the Trail Boss. With an exceptionally well-engineered new platform, we’ve just begun to see where Chevy plans to take the Silverado.

Quick Specs (as tested)

Vehicle/model: ’19 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss Crew Cab 4x4
Base price: $49,795
Engine: 5.3L V-8 VVT w/Active Fuel Management and Start/Stop
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 355/383
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-spd auto
Transfer case: Autotrac
4WD system(s): Auto, 2-Hi, 4-Hi, 4-Lo
Frame type: Ladder
Suspension, f/r: Independent coilover shock with Rancho monotube shocks/solid axle with semi-elliptic, variable-rate, two-stage multileaf springs (includes composite second-stage springs on LT models)
Axle ratio: 3.23:1
Steering: Electronic-assisted power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13.5-in vented disc, 14.1-in disc
Wheels (in): 18x8.5
Tires: LT275/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac
Wheelbase (in): 147.5
Length (in): 231.7
Height (in): 78.4
Width (in): 81.2
Base curb weight (lb): 5,008
Payload (lb): 2,130
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.0
Fuel economy (EPA mpg, combined/city/hwy): 18/16/22

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