In the age of the 12-inch touchscreen and advanced turbocharged pickup truck, the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 keeps it old school.
General Motors’ latest flagship truck brushes flashy trends to the side, instead honing toughness and capability that’s endeared it to a loyal customer base.
The 2019 Silverado has nearly 7 inches more bed width over its predecessor. The number of tie-downs grows to 21. There’s 3 more inches of rear legroom.
On the capability side, maximum towing capacity improved by 5 percent up to 12,200 pounds. Maximum payload capacity bumped up 11 percent to 2,500 pounds.
The Silverado is available now in two familiar V8 engines with a slightly updated V6 to follow later this year.
It is not without a sprinkling of some showy features. There’s an available power tailgate, loads of towing technology and an innovative cylinder deactivation system for improved fuel economy.
The truck will also launch a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in late 2018 and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel in early 2019.
But the bulk of the Silverado prioritizes usability.
“That’s where we spend our time,” said Hugh Milne, marketing manager for the Silverado. “We’re always about functionality over just gimmicky stuff.”
The Silverado will need every trick it can find as the pickup fights for market share in a highly competitive segment that includes the Ram 1500 and ultra-popular Ford F-150.
Full-size trucks from the Detroit Three are the top-selling vehicles in the U.S. and accounted for 11.5 percent of all vehicle sales in 2017, according to industry firm Autodata Corp.
Chevrolet opted not to install an ornate interior and massive touchscreen, unlike Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new Ram 1500. It also decided against completely revamped powertrains and advanced safety, like Ford Motor Co. and its F-150.
“Chevrolet tends to be kind of conservative,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit.
The 2019 Silverado aims to please return buyers looking for familiarity. Silverado has the highest customer loyalty rate in the full-size truck segment, according to industry research firm AutoPacific.
More than 76 percent of Silverado 1500 buyers had previously owned a Silverado. The next closest models are the Toyota Tundra with 73 percent and F-150 with 69 percent.
“It’s not wrong to focus on the people that are already there,” Brinley said. “The difficulty could be in bringing new buyers to the brand.”
Chevrolet also opted to slowly roll out the 10-speed automatic transmission, developed in tandem with Ford, that is nearly standard on the F-150. It is only available on Silverados with the 6.2-liter engine for now.
But the truck is more advanced than it lets on.
Updated electronic power steering delivers accuracy that does not feel overly boosted like other similar systems. The braking is now fully electronic, instead of hydraulic, and extremely responsive to the touch.
General Motors also increased the amount of aluminum and high-strength steels in the construction of the 2019 Silverado. This led to a reduction of up to 450 pounds in overall weight. The new truck is noticeably lighter and stiffer than its predecessor.
As a result, the Silverado is very pleasant to drive. In a mid-level Silverado RST crew cab with the 5.3-liter V8 engine and 8-speed transmission, the truck felt crisp and easy to maneuver at 8,000 feet of elevation over the Teton Pass in Wyoming. The ride is comfortable thanks to supportive cloth seats and a new suspension. The engine, at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, is not exactly thrilling but plenty confident and capable.
The sumptuous High Country trim with the 6.2-liter V8 and 10-speed transmission was a better driving experience, even towing a 6,000-pound trailer. In towing mode — activated by a small knob to the left of the steering wheel — the truck holds onto gears longer, maximizing available torque and descending hills without wearing out the brakes.
Towing the trailer affected acceleration as expected, especially considering the elevation, which saps power from naturally aspirated engines more than turbocharged ones. The load also totaled half the Silverado’s maximum capacity, and the 6.2-liter engine — at 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque — focuses on muscle rather than speed.
Crucially, the Silverado felt confident under towing, a big deal to potential customers.
According to a 2016 study by the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association, 78 percent of GM full-size pickup owners tow items such as personal watercraft or trailers. Seventy-five percent tow large items like campers and boats.
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado combines strong traditional bones with technology focused on driver assistance features. But its lack of a giant leap forward could make its price tag hard to accept.
The 5.3-liter RST trim that we tested was priced at $44,500. Options pushed it to $47,575 plus $1,495 for destination. That is nearly $50,000 for a truck with a functional but unremarkable interior and without features such as navigation or blind-spot monitoring.
The 6.2-liter High Country we tested was priced at $56,300 and came to $60,795 before destination. This truck featured higher-quality interior materials and added leather seats, a premium Bose sound system, two-speed transfer case and blind-spot detection. But unlike the Ford and Ram, GM’s adaptive cruise control is unavailable on Silverado.
There are less expensive versions designed to attract younger buyers. Pricing for the Silverado Work Truck single cab starts at $28,300 before destination. The new Custom trim costs $34,600. Its off-road version, the Custom Trail Boss, costs $39,500.
Chevrolet expects the Silverado LT to be the volume trim with a price tag of $36,900. The model is available in the LT Trail Boss trim, which comes standard with the 5.3-liter engine and 8-speed transmission.
On a small off-road course in Idaho the LT Trail Boss traversed scraggly rocks, scaled steep inclines and splashed through mud puddles with performance to spare. At $45,900 for the double cab and $48,300 for the crew cab, LT Trail Boss is priced comparatively with the Ram Rebel and brushes right up against the ultra-capable F-150 Raptor.
Since the Silverado is not offering leading advanced technology or safety features, Chevrolet is relying on its wide lineup of trims to attract new buyers, Brinley said.
The truck also leaves room at the top end of the segment for a pricier luxury version that could be coming down the line.
“All of the automakers are in a position where trucks are making them a lot of money,” she said. “None of them can afford a misstep.”
Editor’s note: To facilitate this report, Trucks.com attended an event where General Motors Co. hosted travel and lodging.