Pre-Production Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Dynamic Fuel Management
How Chevrolet Engineers Reinvented Cylinder Deactivation... Again
An all-new truck deserves a plethora of all-new technologies, and that’s exactly what Chevrolet’s new-generation half-ton pickup, the 2019 Silverado 1500, has delivered.
Getting the job done, whatever it may be, is the ultimate goal whether you’re a lawyer, a construction worker, or a schoolteacher. Getting the job done requires many things, but it primarily demands the proper knowledge and the right tools. These basic, yet fundamental concepts were evident at the General Motors Milford Proving Ground in the outskirts of Detroit, where Chevrolet gave us a sneak preview of the all-new 2019 Silverado 1500 and its revamped lineup of engines, which now includes an all-new turbocharged I-4 and new efficiency technologies.
Chevrolet knows a thing or two about providing its customers with the right tools for the job. After all, the Silverado is one of the bestselling vehicles in America, only trailing behind its archenemy, the Ford F-150. As a result of its own success, Chevrolet didn’t need to go back to the drawing board for its next-generation truck, it simply needed to evolve the concept as a whole, tailor it to its customers’ demands, and add something unique that would give it an edge over the competition.
That “something” is called Dynamic Fuel Management, or DFM for short. DFM is the evolution of Chevrolet’s Active Fuel Management technology (AFM), which was first deployed in the brand’s 5.3L V-8 engine back in 2005. Since then, AFM has been introduced into four different engine families and applied to a variety of vehicles ranging from full-size SUVs like the Suburban to legendary sports cars like the Corvette. In regard to the 2019 Silverado 1500, DFM will be standard in the 5.3L V-8 as well as the 6.2L offerings. The all-new 2.7L turbo four will retain AFM.
The modern version of the 13-year-old technology is extremely complex, as we found out during the driving part of our program at Milford, but it aims to deliver a simple concept: a wider optimal operating range for an ideal balance of power and fuel efficiency. Unlike AFM, DFM features deactivating lifters on all eight cylinders rather than four. Furthermore, it boasts a total of 17 cylinder deactivation layouts rather than AFM’s two—the outgoing small-block engine could either run on V-8 or V-4 configuration only. To put it in simpler terms, DFM can seamlessly rotate which cylinders are deactivated during each engine cycle, and it can allow the engine to operate in a variety of cylinder configurations.
“DFM is like having the right-size engine for whichever driving condition the customer requires at the time,” said Jordan Lee, Chevrolet chief engineer of small-block engines. “You’re only going to use the amount of cylinders you need at the time, therefore maximizing fuel economy every step of the way.”
After a brief introduction to these concepts, we were led to an area adjacent to a larger-than-life skidpad, where a mix of double- and crew-cab 2019 Silverados were parked. At first glance, the trucks looked just like the ones Chevrolet had debuted at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in January, but unlike those stationary models, these we could drive.
Getting behind the wheel of the new truck is a much more pleasant experience thanks to the simple fact that the steering wheel has been properly centered. A quick glance at the interior confirmed that although it had been overhauled, it’s still very much typical Chevy design—but that’s not a bad thing at all.
The biggest difference between the 2019 Silverado that the consumer will be able to buy and the one we drove is a large black box that sat atop the dash, right above the infotainment screen. This unique meter of some sort was designed to show us the DFM’s 17 distinct firing fractions in real time, or try to at least, as Chevrolet claims that the computer can determine a new DFM cylinder pattern every 1.5 milliseconds.
A hefty stab of the throttle quickly reflected a “1” on the meter, meaning that we were using all eight cylinders. Other fractions like 1/3 and 3/8 quickly began populating on the small screen as we made our way through the predetermined driving route, which included some areas for heavy acceleration, braking, and cornering. For example, if 1/3 flashed on the screen it meant that DFM would permit one combustion event for every three potential combustion cycles; 7/9 meant seven combustion events, followed by two time-outs; and 3/5 meant three bangs and two breaks. You get the picture.
Those unusual fractions mean that in many cases, the firing cylinders alternate with the deactivated ones for even wear and tear as well as a more natural NVH profile: Gone are the days of an usual stutter or grumble from the exhaust, as is found in the 2018 truck when switching from V-4 to V-8.
The V-8 in the new truck, which is mostly carryover save the DFM bits, delivers 355 horsepower, awarding us with small-block–typical acceleration off the line. Auto-stop/start transitions have been refined, and while the engine’s idle stop/start is clearly audible, it’s also nearly instantaneous and accompanied by almost no vibration. These brief stops that simulated stop-and-go traffic also highlighted how seamless DFM works in the background. It’s safe to say that those who don’t know of the DFM’s existence will never actually notice it. Much like throttle delivery, braking is also surprisingly modular and there’s lots of pedal feel—two qualities that aren’t often associated with pickup trucks.
Outside of powertrain performance, it’s the suspension and its effect on overall driving dynamics that stand out the most. Thanks to a 4-inch-longer wheelbase than its predecessor and improved suspension tuning, ride quality was superb, offering sharper and more responsive handling while maintaining the Chevy-esque plushness we’ve come to expect. The truckmaker claims the new Silverado's 0-to-60 time is 0.5 seconds faster than the outgoing truck and that it’s spent considerable time in the wind tunnel improving aerodynamics. So far, both claims appear to be true.
We’ll reserve our praise for the overall finished product when we have the opportunity to put it through its paces in a more formal manner. But for now, all we can do is give Chevrolet a big thumbs up.