The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a full-size four-banger

The big news from Chevy for 2019 is not the mid-engine Corvette. It’s the Silverado. Like other pickup trucks, the Silverado comes in a large variety of cab, bed, driveline, and trim configurations. But the one thing that stands out in the new line-up is the availability of a four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

When Ford introduced its EcoBoost engines in the F-150, the pickup faithful clung to their V8-powered rigs and cited Charlton Heston and his “cold dead hands”. In time, however, people have warmed up to the smaller turbocharged powerplants. But a four-cylinder in a full-size? Is this some kind of a sick joke?

Nope. And you shouldn’t consider it as such, either. The 2.7-liter in-line four makes 310 horsepower at 5,600 RPM and 348 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,500 RPM. Power is sent to either the rear or both axles via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The truck is quick off the line and at that point no one would really know what was hiding under the hood. If it wasn’t for the cute whistling noises flowing out from under the hood, that is.

This Silverado cruises smoothly on the highway, but hard highway acceleration is not its forte. To accelerate at highway passing speeds, the transmission must kick down a gear or three, boost must build up, and then it finally goes. All of that in turn makes for slow throttle response. In fairness, Ford’s EcoBoost and its ten-speed transmission do similar things yet those are currently a bit more refined.

The second letdown of the four-banger comes at a place where it should excel – the pump. In its press material, Chevy says “the 2.7L engine offers 14% more torque and 13% better city fuel economy and it is more than a full second quicker 0-60 mph than the 4.3L V-6 it replaces.” Maybe so, but what isn’t mentioned is that a similarly configured model with the 5.3-liter V8 gets better highway gas mileage at 22 MPG versus 21 MPG for the four-banger. At 18 MPG in the city, the four bests both the V6 and V8 models by two MPG.

Lastly, and rather not surprisingly, this 4×4 double cab model is rated to tow 6,700 pounds. That is not a lot for a full-size pickup. But if towing is your thing, skip the four-banger and opt for one of the other Silverado models, which are capable of towing as much as 12,100 pounds.

Having spent significant time going through Chevrolet’s provided data, the payload of the turbo-four equipped model does not seem to differ from the other models, at about 2200 pounds, give or take a few pounds based on the configuration.

In my four days with this truck, I unfortunately was unable to attach a trailer or load up the bed with anything more than a doorbell camera. I therefore do not know how this engine responds to additional weight. Another issue was a random check engine light – it would come and go. I felt like it had something to do with the transmission, as the shifts seemed jerky when it was illuminated.

Image Source: tfltruck.com

With the all-new truck, one would expect an all-new interior. And the interior is all new but to see all this new I had to search for a picture of the previous generation truck and do a comparison. The two are very similar in terms of layout, features, and the unmistakable General Motors feel of it. Other than a few minor ergonomic shortcomings in this console-less three-passenger front bench seat model, there is really not much to complain about. It’s when one drives the Ford F-150 or the new RAM 1500, does the Chevy interior seem inferior in terms of its layout and the materials used. The Bose audio system is pretty good.

The exterior design is more aggressive than modern. It’s an angry truck and many men will like it for that very reason. Where once trucks were designed with purpose, this rig was designed with that aggresive style in mind. The double cab model has front-hinged rear doors, which is a better solution than Ford’s suicide rear doors. There also seems to be more space in the rear seat area. But as with other truck makers, if moving people around in the back seat is the goal, go for the crew cab.

The bed of this truck was sprayed with a black liner. In the bed are 12 handy tie-down points, bright LED bed lights, and a 120v household receptacle. On the locking tailgate is a light that cleanly illuminates the hitch area. The tailgate itself does not have a handle but rather a push-button switch to open it.

One thing that really made me scratch my head was the price of this truck. This was a fully-loaded LT model. In Chevy’s hierarchy of models, the LT falls mid-pack at best. And yet this truck had an MSRP of $48,590. Dealers set final prices and actual sale prices will probably be much lower but that’s still a lot of money.

This version of the all-new 2019 Chevy Silverado left me a little disappointed. It looks too angry, the four-cylinder turbo engine is more of a novelty as isn’t any more efficient than a V8, and the interior looks like a carry-over from the old truck. Much like the Nissan Titan I reviewed some time back, it’s not a bad truck on its own. The issue is that the pickup truck market is the most competitive in automotive universe and it feels like the Silverado is lagging behind the Ram and Ford.

[Disclaimer: Chevy provided the truck for the purpose of this review. Unless noted, all images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2019.]

23 Comments

  1. Did you note real-world MPGs? Knowing that turbos can be a little more volatile, I’d be curious to see if in actuality, the four performs just as bad as the eight (which is surprisingly thrifty – I’ve seen something like 22-23mpg on the highway at 70mph, and not really trying to be careful), or if GM’s deliberately sandbagged the figures a little so they don’t have a bunch of irate customers expecting 30mpg or something while still driving like the gas pedal is a switch.

    Otherwise though, the new truck just doesn’t seem to be a more compelling package than the model it replaced, nevermind a 10-year old GMT900

    1. Not really because I spent so much of my driving in dense traffic that my mileage is usually significantly lower that anyone outside of the island of Manhattan.

    2. Real-world MPG is a significant point of argument. In my experience, V8s can easily meet their EPA mpg numbers without a deliberate hypermiling effort, but turbo fours rarely come even close to theirs in real driving. The mpg gap isn’t nearly as broad as it appears on paper.

  2. So a 4 cylinder with the power of a V-6 and the fuel economy of a V-8. As opposed to the 4.3L V-6 in my 2011 Silverado Work Truck. It offers the power of a 4 cylinder and the fuel economy of a V-8.

    1. And I suspect all the longevity of an overworked turbo 4. I’ll stick with an understressed normally aspirated 8, thanks.

  3. Notice that Ford, in the marketing of its boosted sixes, and Chevy with this inline four, do not explicitly reference the engine configuration. Ford hides the word “V6” behind the name “Ecoboost”, and Chevy doesn’t note its turbo 2.7 as a “four”. They only refer to them by engine displacement. Either they think the public is too stubborn to accept new technology with a lower cylinder count, or else they think we’re too stupid to know the difference if they don’t mention it.

    Regardless, Chevy is clearly trying to shout with the Silverado’s aggressive (read: ugly) outward styling, but whispers quietly and quickly when the subject turns to the engine. If you’d told me thirty years ago that a four-cylinder would eventually make this much power, I’d have called you a fool. Chevy’s S-10 Iron Duke, at 2.5L of displacement, made a mere 92 hp and 130 lb ft that year. This new engine is 8% larger but has roughly three times the power. It should be celebrated, but will likely be sneered at.

    I can’t throw stones, though, because I’m the type that genuinely appreciates the Ecoboost Mustang and lauds Ford for building it, yet I wouldn’t drop coin on their pony car without the V8. And it’s not for lack of cylinders or performance– it’s the sound. Something as seemingly insignificant as sound. Maybe the public, like me, is pretty stupid after all.

    1. It’s also funny how the Ecoboost now seems to be pretty well accepted, but having the same 2.7L capacity with 2 less cylinders is enough to make people’s brains explode. Then again perhaps they have factored in the GM execution?

      On the fuel economy, you get to the point where it takes so much fuel to move so much metal. There must be a case where the small turbo engine has a significant advantage, but it doesn’t seem to be in normal driving. Even in situations where the turbo isn’t needed the V8 will be deactivating cylinders to match it.

      1. Good point about the fuel needed to move a given mass. Regardless of displacement and pressure, we’re still talking about combustion of gasoline to do work. An engine’s fuel economy depends on how you use it and how well it can adapt to a variety of situations for most efficient operation. A small turbocharged engine is likely more flexible in this regard, but if you ask for all its got, it can drink fuel like a V8. Fortunately, most turbo fours are lighter than V8s, so there is some argument that the burden is lighter, but with full-sized pickups, the overall difference is less significant.

        Personally, I don’t find driving a turbo four very satisfying unless I’m flogging it, but give me a V8 and I’m happy to lope along and enjoy the soundtrack, with the occasional sprint just for kicks. The way I drive, it’s unlikely that I would stretch a gallon of fuel much further with the smaller pressurized engine.

        1. Not to mention the durability issue. The V-8 only has to rev probably about 2/3 the RPM to do the same job as the I-4. Plus the I-4 has the complexity of the turbo. Many people still remember the turbo cars of the 1980s and early 1990s with somewhat fragile turbos that required extremely diligent oil changes.

  4. Getting an I-4 to do this is pretty amazing, too bad GM is running it in the same vehicle against arguably one of the best engines ever made. The follow on variants of the LS based V-8 are simply outstanding, and at the volumes they are produced, you’re not going to save much by making a smaller engine, if they save anything at all.

    It seems a long time since GM made a product that wasn’t seriously compromised versus its direct competition.

  5. I was thinking initially that– for a non-diesel– this was a pretty big four-cylinder engine, but the Tacoma 2.7 immediately came to mind, and then I remembered Porsche had a 3L in the 944 (or 968?). And I believe the old IH Scout fours were bigger than that.

    However, I had forgotten completely about this 28.4L beast:

    This thing scares the hell out of me. A mere 290 hp, but 2000 lb-ft of torque! And it’s big even compared to commercial diesels. I wonder why it lacks exhaust manifolds?

    1. The experience of seeing and feeling this thing at close quarters at Goodwood is unlikely to ever fade from my brain. One hundred and nine years old, one hundred and thirty two miles per hour. Godlike.

      1. Wow. A lot going on in there.
        I’m guessing beyond the using the available space, there was a push to fill the bay with something.

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