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Does the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado Miss the Mark?

The new truck is lighter and feels quicker, but it has taken some steps backward

2019 Chevrolet Silverado driving

There’s no question: GM added some impressive hardware to help it in the ultra-competitive pickup truck war by redesigning the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado. But was that enough to make it a strong competitor in a tough category?

Sure, the version with the V8 engine feels quick off the line, answering one of our chief criticisms of the dull, flat-footed previous generation. And it can easily handle core pickup truck duties without breathing heavily.

But this big Chevrolet is a letdown with a ride that’s stiff and uncomfortable by today’s pickup truck standards when the bed is empty. We also think the Chevrolet’s controls and infotainment system have taken a few steps backward, while its competitors are charging ahead. All of this adds up to a disappointing remake.

The Silverado faces some tough competition from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, and today, “good” often isn’t good enough. This new truck may satisfy Chevrolet loyalists, but based on our first few hundred miles behind the wheel, it’s not likely to attract buyers from other brands.

These are our first impressions, before CR’s formal testing begins.

What we bought: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Crew Cab 4WD
Powertrain:
355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine; eight-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive
MSRP: $42,600
Options: $4,285 (5.3 V8 engine, All-Star package, trailer brake controller, 18-inch wheels)
Destination fee: $1,495
Total cost: $48,380  

How It Drives

The 5.3-liter V8 engine and new eight-speed automatic transmission work together superbly, making the Silverado feel responsive and satisfying to drive. The transmission delivers timely and quick shifts, and together, this powertrain combination is a vast improvement over the previous generation.

More Truck Road Tests

It is disappointing that a basic four-wheel-drive Silverado doesn’t have the low-range gearing needed for serious off-roading duties. But it does have a “lock” feature that sends equal power to all four wheels to help get the truck out of challenging, slippery situations, such as through mud or a loose-gravel incline. We like that the four-wheel-drive system has an Auto mode that can be left engaged indefinitely. Off-road enthusiasts must look to the Z71 Off-Road package or Trail Boss models for the necessary rock-crawling hardware.

The new Silverado’s handling is sound. It feels responsive and is not nearly as clumsy as the F-150.

But the Silverado LT’s ride left us unsatisfied—especially after driving the new Ram 1500. The Chevy’s base suspension creates quick, abrupt motions over bumps when the bed is empty. As a result, the truck feels more like a bucking horse than a refined machine. Once we hauled some 300 to 400 pounds of cargo in the bed, the ride settled down some. By contrast, the Ram 1500 has a more refined ride that better absorbs road imperfections and impacts. 

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

Inside

Buyers will certainly want to consider adding running boards; without them, it’s a steep climb to get into the Silverado’s cab. Once inside, we found the cabin fit and finish to be just ordinary. The gear selector, for example, is an old-school lever mounted on the steering column—reminiscent of models from the 1970s. And it has a clunky shifting action.

The cloth front seats are basic and squishy. They lose support over longer drives and have only two-way lumbar support. We think that our nearly $50,000 truck should have more supportive seats. The backseat is huge, giving passengers plenty of room to stretch out.

GM redesigned its infotainment system, which is now in use on a number of models (such as the GMC Terrain we recently tested). The good news is that this system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The bad news is that the screen has small text and requires drivers to make a long reach to get to the onscreen presets. The system lacks some of the phone functionality we enjoyed in the previous-generation version. And we were disappointed that our pricey Silverado didn’t come with satellite radio; even our tested $18,000 Hyundai Accent came with Sirius/XM with three months of free listening.

One feature we appreciate is that all the windows can be opened using the remote key fob. We wish that the same control could raise them as well. This could be handy in the case of rain, allowing you to close up the vehicle from indoors. The truck we bought has a handy powered liftgate that can be lowered (but not raised) with a press of a button. 

Safety and Driver-Assist Systems

Our truck didn't have much of Chevrolet's advanced safety equipment, including forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert, making it a dubious value. In comparison, Ford has announced that forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard on the F-150 for 2019. GM should make these essential features standard. 

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

CR’s Take

The new Silverado takes some steps forward and a few too many steps backward.

We’re impressed that GM cut more than 400 pounds from the outgoing Silverado by using more aluminum and high-strength steel, and the weight savings helps the new truck move out smartly. This approach may also contribute to improved fuel economy. We’ll know more when our testing is complete.

We’re disappointed at how much more it costs to get the latest safety and creature comforts that are now standard equipment in vehicles that cost a lot less. The seats and infotainment features are lacking, and the ride quality is not up the high standards set by the Ram 1500. 

We’ll learn more about this new model as we complete the remaining break-in miles, and we will report our findings after completing a battery of 50-plus tests at the CR Auto Test Center. 

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