2019 Chevrolet Silverado

The third-generation Silverado wasn’t flashy in appearance or construction — in fact, it looked similar to its predecessor. Whether that was strategic or not, the old model came across as a familiar friend that was a bit technophobic and a little too set in its ways.

This all-new 2019 Silverado 1500 treads an altogether more aggressive path. It’s here to strut its stuff with a bold new look and gobs of tech — both under the hood and in the cabin. And yet, after a few days behind the wheel in this latest model, the Silverado seems like it’s held on to the essence of what made the old truck so endearing.

GM hasn’t abandoned what worked in the past. Instead the company has taken a hard look at the Silverado’s genetic makeup and executed substantial and effective changes throughout. The 2019 Silverado finally feels like the brand-new truck that it is.

Before I even get on the road, though, I have to discuss the Silverado’s new appearance. It’s… not for everyone. While the old model looked like a safe, evolutionary facelift of the previous-generation pickup, this new truck is unlikely to be confused for its forebear. Its bluff, upright new nose has swagger by the bushelful.

The way the design’s fenders wrap into the face is particularly likely to polarize opinions. Those steel fenders jut decisively into the grille, underlining the Silverado’s newly narrowed, glowering headlamps. The protrusions look a bit like anthropomorphized versions of the eye black that football players wear. Those same fenders extend downward, resting over the bumper fascia in unusual fashion thanks to integrated air curtains that guide currents around the front wheels to curb drag. (Despite hitting an inch higher, airflow has has improved on the new truck by seven percent.)

Combined with the 2019 Silverado’s more prominently sculpted wheel arches and a longer wheelbase, the visual takeaway is that this is one massive pickup. Even though its overall footprint is similar (it’s only around 1.5 inches longer), the Silverado looks larger than before, and more imposing than its Ford and Dodge rivals.

This Chevy’s appearance might not sit comfortably with everyone, but I suspect it’s going to go over well with pickup shoppers. In an unsubtle age where tailgates are emblazoned with billboard-sized brand lettering and today’s lifted brodozer style has even infiltrated Whole Foods parking lots, it’s a look that should find plenty of fans. If nothing else, given the Silverado’s ubiquity (Chevy sold nearly 600,000 last year), the design’s initially jarring quality probably won’t last.

I mentioned the 2019 Silverado 1500’s longer wheelbase, and indeed it’s stretched its legs by up to 3.9 inches. Ride quality is improved, and fortunately the Silverado’s front overhang has been shortened to avoid making its turning circle larger, improving the arrival angle for improved off-roading in the bargain. A shorter front overhang and reworked steering geometry mean that this longer truck doesn’t necessitate a bigger turning circle.

That bodywork isn’t just more deliberately sculpted, it’s smarter, too. The Silverado wears aluminum swing panels — its doors, hood and tailgate are skinned in Al13. The entire truck’s makeup is an impressively optimized mosaic of varying grades of high-strength steels and aluminum. Chevy’s engineers have scalpeled away 88 pounds from the bodywork and a further 88 pounds from the chassis, too.

After years of producing overweight vehicles, GM finally accepted the gospel of lightweighting a number of years ago, and has since become a leading disciple. Chevy says when you compare crew-cab V8 models, this new rig tips the scales at around 450 pounds less than its predecessor, the result of an exhaustive gram-by-gram analysis.

If its newfound lightness has you thinking this 1500 is somehow less capable, think again. Nowhere is that more evident than in its bed, which benefits from a clean-sheet overhaul. New stamping methods and higher-grade steel has enabled a bed that’s not only stronger, it’s seven-inches wider and it’s deeper, too. Compared to last year’s model, the resulting roll-formed Durabed offers 10 more cubic feet of space in short- and standard-box guise, and a whopping 14 more cubes in long-box form. Depending on configuration, the Durabed is around 20 percent more capacious than rivals.

There are lots of changes outside, but the 1500’s new interior might just be its biggest quality-of-life upgrade. The outgoing Silverado’s cab was a decent place to spend time, especially because for most of its life, it was the quietest truck in its class.

However, the old truck’s cabin had a number of fundamental blind spots, including its lack of a telescoping wheel, or keyless entry and start. It may sound trivial, but it’s amazing how old a vehicle can feel simply by forcing you to push a button on a separate fob to unlock a door — let alone requiring slotting and twisting a key in the ignition to bring its engine to life.

GM has remedied those deficiencies, and added higher-quality materials and contemporary finishes. There’s also new available tech including a smartly executed multicolor head-up display, USB-C (and standard USB) ports and so on. Chevy seems to recognize that more and more people are stepping out of luxury cars and climbing into high-end pickups and SUVs, and it’s unwilling to sacrifice connectivity and features while doing so.

The Silverado’s new infotainment system combines crisper, more modern graphics and fonts with minimized latency between commands. While base models receive seven-inch touchscreens, many models will feature eight-inch units, and the available navigation system features single-line address entry and sharper-looking maps. Apple CarPlay and Android auto are aboard, too. The new system isn’t as visually impressive as the optional gargantuan 12-inch vertical Uconnect hub in the Ram, but it’s plenty big.

It’s not just front-seat passengers that are treated well. The Silverado’s aforementioned larger cab primarily works out to three inches of added rear-seat leg room on four-door crew cabs (swelling from 40.9 to 43.9 inches). Whether you regularly ferry backseat passengers or not, that extra floor space will come in handy when it comes time to stash groceries or tools out of the elements. And speaking of stashing, the entire cabin has more stowage space, including twin gloveboxes and novel second-row seatback storage bins.

While most shoppers will select mid-grade models such as Custom and LT (we drove the LT), the 2019 Silverado offers a broader array of trims to better tailor appearances and capabilities to your needs. There’s a new RST street-truck model with body-colored detailing and massive 22-inch wheels, as well as the new Trailboss. The latter adds a two-inch factory lift atop the Z71 Off-Road pack, kitting it out with skid plates, Rancho shocks, knobby tires and a burlier appearance.

GM will offer the 1500 with the buyer’s choice of a new 2.7-liter turbo four-cylinder, its aging 4.3-liter V6 or an updated 5.3-liter V8. The High Country is spec’d with GM’s full-house 6.2-liter V8, featuring a seamless new Dynamic Fuel Management cylinder-deactivation system that lets it run on anything between one and all eight cylinders as demand warrants.

GM claims city mileage figures will climb around five percent higher on V8 models, noting that a four-wheel-drive 6.2-liter V8 like my test truck is earmarked to get 16 mpg city, 20 highway and 17 combined.

A 3.0-liter Duramax diesel will also be offered soon.

An infotainment app on the optional Advanced Trailering System allows for the creation of different trailer profiles. ATS not only presets the brake gain for specific trailers, it keeps track of mileage, fuel economy and transmission temps, too. Once you’ve got your trailer hooked up, there’s an option group that uses additional sensors to keep tabs on trailer tire temperatures and pressures for added safety.

Another tech topic where the old Silverado lagged rivals was in terms of both active and passive safety gear. The new model greatly improves things. It’s available with forward collision alert with low-speed automatic emergency brake, lane-keep assist and blind-spot alert. Plus, this new truck offers significant technological improvements in visibility, including more powerful LED lights with automatic high beams, an available surround-view camera system and a digital rearview mirror.

The (big) bottom line

Sadly, much of the active safety gear remains optional, even in top trims. And of course, none of this technology comes cheap. MSRPs on base 2WD Work Trucks start a smidge under $30,000.

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