New Chevy Silverado grows to a leading role

Chevy photoThe Trail Boss is a popular variation of the next-gen Silverado, specially outfitted for rugged off-road travel.

When a company modernizes a pickup truck, it gains a potent new weapon in the fiercely waged war to dominate a major part of the American vehicle market. Lumped together as a group, pickups outsell every other type of personal transporter out there. Only a few of the most popular, more affordable crossover utility vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V mount any kind of challenge to the popularity of pickups.

The latest, most potent new weapon in the pickup war now belongs to Chevrolet. The General Motors division brought out a new, next-generation version of its standard-duty Silverado 1500 large pickup truck late last summer, about 10 months ago. The company built in improvements intended to attract current Chevy owners to the new model that now offers them more truck. The upgrades also aim to make this next-generation Silverado more attractive than its two big competitors, the Ford F-Series and Fiat Chrysler Ram – even though the 2019 Ram is also a new, next-generation model that also arrived last year, but about six months earlier than the new Chevrolet.

“The Silverado is larger and taller than it was before. People love how smooth and quiet it rides. They like the larger pickup bed in back,” summarized Charles Daher Jr. sales manager at Commonwealth Chevrolet in Lawrence.

The larger size of the 2019 Silverado translates to both more cabin space for occupants, and more area for cargo in the back box. But while expanding its dimensions, Chevy also cut the weight of the larger truck, which helps reduce fuel use. The new model weighs up to 450 pounds less than its predecessor, due primarily to lighter weight material, such as aluminum fenders, doors and hood.

New metals and innovative construction techniques also contribute to the Silverado’s larger back cargo box, by enabling Chevrolet to widen the load floor without impinging on its side structure. Aided by higher sides as well, the Silverado’s back box now has greater volume than any other standard-duty pickup, topping some by as much as 20 percent, according to Chevy.

“The bed is more square now. It’s more usable, which helps for things like getting plywood in and out,” explained Daher. “Not only can you put more stuff in, but it’s more protected because of the higher sides. And you can tie it down better.”

Its expansion in size includes an increase of nearly four inches between front and back wheels. The measure that helps the new Silverado provide a smoother ride – the longer wheelbase allows more recovery time before rear wheels reach bumps after front wheels clear them. In addition, the 2019 model travels on a lighter weight, more capable suspension that is winning praise for the calm, controlled and responsive ride it provides.

The new Silverado also carries thoughtful features that aim to elevate it above other trucks. Its expanded box comes with 12 sturdy tie-down loops welded in place. Higher priced models feature a power tailgate that eases the strain of dropping and raising the back opening.

The 2019 Silverado offers the customary array of cab and cargo box styles. They include short box and long box back ends, plus two-door single cabs, extended cabs with partial rear doors and occasional-use backs seats, and crew cabs with four doors and full back seats.

Its range of engines and transmissions spans six combinations, all available with either two- or four-wheel drive. A 4.3-liter V6 and 5.3-liter V8, both with six-speed automatic transmissions, carry over from the prior Silverado. In addition Chevy offers four new engine choices. A turbocharged four-cylinder motor and eight-speed automatic are calibrated for gutsy load-toting. A 5.3-liter V8 and eight-speed automatic come with a new fuel-management system that automatically shuts down as many as six of the engine’s eight cylinders, depending on driving demands, to save gas. A more powerful, 6.2-liter V8 and 10-speed automatic uses the same fuel-sparing technology. Chevy also offers a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine with 10-speed automatic transmission.

In addition, Chevy sells the new pickup in a wider array of trim levels than the prior version. Its eight options get drivers closer to the feature configuration they prefer, noted Daher of Commonwealth. Therefore more buyers get just the right truck for them, without making their own alterations that might void the pickup’s warranty, he explained.

The Chevrolet dealer is part of Commonwealth Motors of Lawrence, which also operates Honda, Kia, Nissan and Volkswagen dealerships.

“They can get it almost personalized from the factory, which keeps it under warranty,” Daher said.

The popularity of Silverado’s new Trail Boss version alone, available at two price levels that run from $43,795 to $50,195, is making the expanded lineup successful. Specially equipped for off-road use, the Custom Trail Boss and LT Trail Boss, ride two inches higher than other Silverados. They come with under-body skid plates, rough-terrain shock absorbers and large off-road tires.

At Commonwealth, Trail Boss versions are selling as fast as new inventory arrives.

“We can’t get enough,” stated Daher. “The Trail Boss is definitely a hit. It has the rugged look that a lot of people want in a truck.”

Another noteworthy success for Chevrolet is the larger cabin size of four-door, five-passenger crew-cab Silverado versions.

“Its back seat is bigger than a full-size sedan,” Daher said. “It’s huge back there.”

Chevy reports that about 75 percent of Americans buying new Silverados right now are opting for the expanded crew cab. Some of that preference for the passenger-maximizing cabin comes from the fact that for a while the crew cabs were the only new, 2019 models available. The car brand started out making only crews when its factories began producing the new Silverado last year. Full supply of regular and extended-cab models didn’t begin till March, just four months ago.

A preference for the crew cab also reflects how pickups today have become family vehicles.

“It makes it easier for guys to have their work truck and make it their personal car as well,” said Daher. “They just clean out some dirt and put away some tools, and it fills in as a family car.”

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Vehicle type: 2- and 4-door, 3- to 5-passenger, rear- and four-wheel-drive pickup truck

Price: $29,895 to $58,195 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 6 years/100,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance; 2 years/24,000 miles free scheduled maintenance

Base engine: 4.3-liter V6

Power: 285 horsepower at 5,300 rpm; 305 lb.-ft. torque at 3,900 rpm

Base transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 126 inches (with regular cab)

Length: 210 inches

Width: 81 inches

Height: 76 inches

Weight: 4,474 pounds

Fuel capacity: 24.0 gallons (with crew cab)