General Motors turned to an unlikely source to add power to its 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: a smaller engine.
The company developed a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. It offers an improvement of 25 horsepower and 43 pound-feet of torque compared with the 4.3-liter V6 it replaces.
The new engine is packed with innovative technology and gives the 2019 Silverado 1500 a lively driving experience. Its fuel economy rating, however, is not a strong point. But Chevrolet believes the engine delivers bang for your buck.
“It gives us a good starting point in the heart of the market,” said Tim Herrick, the Silverado’s chief engineer. “It’s not our volume engine, but it’s important to the portfolio.”
Chevrolet started with an aluminum four-cylinder engine designed for trucks, Herrick said. Engineers added a slate of high-tech features.
The engine includes direct fuel injection and variable valve timing to maximize performance and efficiency. It also has Active Fuel Management, which conserves fuel by disabling two of the four cylinders when they aren’t needed. The system is imperceptible to the driver.
Automatic start-stop is included and operates without much intrusion. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The biggest technology upgrade is the turbocharger itself. Chevrolet called upon automotive supplier BorgWarner and its “dual volute” turbo.
Dual volute turbochargers traditionally are used in heavy-duty diesel trucks. They can improve response time during acceleration by capturing exhaust gases that are normally lost, funneling them back into the engine. BorgWarner took that design and converted it for gasoline engines in light-duty pickups.
The result is a smooth and powerful driving experience.
The 2.7-liter engine is fairly responsive, and the turbocharger spools up quickly. It delivers a punch when the driver digs into the throttle, especially considering it’s a four-cylinder powering a full-size pickup.
The truck is best under steady acceleration before settling into a consistent speed. The engine is responsive but prefers to build its power rather than roar ahead. Shifts from the eight-speed automatic, while not particularly quick, are smooth and contribute to a crisp ride.
The four-cylinder engine is quiet – truck enthusiasts will not mistake it for a V6 or V8. But there is a growl under acceleration that may surprise regular pickup drivers. It gives the sensation of a gutsy motor. There is only a faint turbo whine in certain situations.
“It’s got a character that we really like,” Harrick said.
As with other versions of the 2019 Silverado, the truck has excellent steering and brake feel for a full-size pickup. The 2.7-liter engine weighs 80 pounds less than the outgoing V6 it replaces, and the difference is notable.
One concern is a mechanical droning sound that entered the cabin during a test drive. It occurred while the truck loped along in city driving. It stopped abruptly when coasting and returned with slight pressure on the throttle. It is likely from the transmission, engineers said.
Another concern: gas mileage. The 2.7-liter Silverado does not deliver the fuel economy benefit customers might expect.
In two-wheel drive models the truck is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 20 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined. The 4×4 models offer 19 city, 22 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
On a 91-mile test drive mostly at highway speed, a 2WD Silverado showed 22.5 mpg on its digital display.
The figures are only slight improvements over the outgoing V6 engine rating of 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. The V6 is actually rated 1 mpg higher on the highway.
And the numbers are down compared to the competition’s base offerings. The Ford F-150 uses a 3.3-liter V6 with 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The Ram 1500 uses a 3.6-liter V6 mild hybrid with 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The numbers are glaring, especially since the all-new Silverado used lightweighting techniques to reduce its curb weight by up to 450 pounds over the previous generation.
Despite the truck’s lighter weight, the engine is capable of traditional truck work. The 2.7-liter Silverado has a maximum towing capacity of 7,200 pounds and a maximum payload rating of 2,280 pounds. The test drive did not offer an opportunity to tow or haul.
Chevrolet knows that some customers will have concerns about a four-cylinder truck, but it hopes to convince them that the new engine is perfectly capable.
“We don’t have delusions of grandeur that this is going to take over the market – the heart of it is the V8s,” Herrick said. “But it’s a great insertion point for us.”
The 2019 Silverado 1500 LT with the 2.7-liter engine in its base extended double cab and standard bed is priced from $38,395 with destination charges. Upgrading to a crew cab with a short bed adds $2,400.
The LT price is $4,700 more than the base WT trim and $2,300 more than the Custom trim with a 7-inch color touchscreen and 20-inch wheels. Both trims use the old 4.3-liter V6.
The sporty RST trim with the 2.7-liter engine is priced from $40,295 including destination charge. It adds keyless start, LED headlamps and taillights and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
The 2.7-liter engine is available in the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 now. It will also be available in the upscale 2019 GMC Sierra 1500.
Editor’s note: To facilitate this report, Trucks.com attended an event at which Chevrolet hosted travel and lodging.