2019 promises to be a pivotal year in the full-size pickup segment, as a new generation of two of the main combatants—the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500—is set to arrive. GM decided to showcase the virtues of its pickup on Canada’s newest highway, which links Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk in the Arctic Circle. This 138-kilometre unpaved road was inaugurated in November after four years of construction, and the tundra turned out to be the ideal place to put the 2019 Silverado’s claims to the test.
This segment is a veritable clash of the titans, so it’s no surprise that the manufacturer really studied the competition while preparing this generation of the Silverado. Comparisons are inevitable, so let’s begin by looking at how the updated Silverado sets itself apart.
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Style-wise, you’re unlikely to confuse it with the previous generation. It features an entirely reworked, aggressive front end with slim lights set in the top part of the grille. That gives the vehicle a lot more personality, especially in the off-road versions, which also come with the red tow hooks that fans so appreciate.
The liftgate, prominently emblazoned with the Chevrolet logo, is more angular than before. In some versions, you can now lower and raise it automatically from inside. The footwells in the rear bumper are back, but bigger to accommodate even the biggest boot sizes. It’s a shame that the MultiPro liftgate and carbon fibre bed are exclusive to the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500. We really like the dual exhaust integrated in the bottom of the rear bumper—another nice touch that now makes the Silverado more attractive than the Ford F-150.
Ram and Ford in the Crosshairs
The Silverado’s primary objective is to steal market share from the Ram 1500, which has set the benchmark for stylish, well-equipped and affordable variants. That job falls to the Custom Trail Boss version, which comes at a reasonable price and with nice equipment to appeal to buyers looking for a more stylish model. It comes with the Z71 package, a raised suspension (two inches) and oversized 18-inch tires. Our test model had an optional rear arch and the effect was excellent. You can also get the LT Trail Boss that includes a glut of extra equipment.
While the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is going after the Ram and its most affordable versions, it also wants to steal market share from the F-150 and its high-end versions. Thus, the Silverado LTZ and High Country are tasked with competing with the best Ford has to offer, but we must say that the High Country’s cabin is still no match for the Ford F-150 Platinum’s. Neither the plastics, trim nor the overall layout give the same impression of luxury.
Believe your eyes: the new 2019 Silverado’s wheelbase is four inches longer, translating to an extra inch of bed length and three extra inches of legroom for the passengers in back. It’s roomier, but the floor is still not completely flat despite an improvement compared to the previous generation. Significant use of aluminum and lighter materials helped shave off 204 kilograms (450 pounds), helping enhance the vehicle’s capabilities, which are now in line with what the competition is offering.
Two New Engines
GM also wants the Silverado to stand out with more evolved engines. The basic mill is still the 4.3-litre six cylinder that produces 285 horsepower and can tow 8000 pounds. The larger engine remains the 5.3-litre V8 that generates 355 horsepower. With dynamic fuel management and the eight-speed automatic gearbox, this engine can tow up to 11,600 pounds.
At the top of the line, there’s still the 6.2-litre V8. Not just for the more posh versions, it delivers 420 horsepower to help you tow up to 12,200 pounds. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the Trail Boss versions, which would have created a competitor for the Ford F-150 Raptor.
Two new engines will also be offered later this year. GM is taking the plunge into turbocharging with a 2.7-litre four cylinder that almost offers as much torque as the 5.3-litre V8. Its fuel efficiency could make it very popular, especially in Quebec where it allows you to avoid paying the annual tax on large-displacement engines. The same applies to the 2.7-litre Ford EcoBoost. Finally, the most fuel efficient of the lot will be a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six, paired with a 10-speed gearbox.
All about comfort
For the 138 kilometres that make up this unpaved highway, the Silverado was at the top of its game. Despite ubiquitous potholes, the chassis remained very rigid while, from the inside, it felt like we were driving on a paved road. GM’s edge over the competition is its comfortable ride, and this new generation only proves the point—especially where cabin soundproofing is concerned.
Having shed those unwanted pounds, the Silverado’s accelerations are now a little faster—by a half-second according to the manufacturer. The 5.3-litre engine remains efficient and delivers more than enough power. The eight-speed gearbox is more pleasant and more linear than the old one, and the shifting is smoother. Fuel economy is one of GM’s strengths, and adding the latest technologies to the 5.3-litre engine only made it better.
While the Ram offers a rear coil spring suspension, GM has kept its rigid axle and leaf spring suspension. This is more efficient when towing and when the vehicle is loaded, but with the extreme lightness of modern-day beds, the rear of the vehicle tends to bounce when going over bumps in normal driving conditions. It’s always a question of compromise. The numerous turns on our ride gave us a chance to appreciate just how precise the steering is in Auto mode, which automatically transfers torque to the front wheels when you lose grip, giving you a better sense of safety.
New high-tech gadgets have been added, but what really caught our eye was the towing app that allows you to create trailer profiles with electric braking command settings, a checklist and maintenance information. The backup camera lets you see the trailer at all times, and you can even link the system to an additional camera behind your trailer. For the time being, there are no extended rearview mirrors, even with the max towing package. However, GM is promising to have them in 2019.