The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was new for 2019, but in the crucible of full-size-truck competition, it feels like it’s been around for far longer than that. Ram is out there with an air suspension and a million-dollar interior, while Ford will sell you a hybrid F-150 that can run your house as a backup generator. The redesigned Silverado introduced some interesting new powertrains—a diesel I-6 that’s EPA rated as high as 33 mpg highway and a turbocharged four-cylinder that will tow 9600 pounds—but most Silverados are still built with pushrod gas V-8s. If you tell someone, “I have a Silverado with the 5.3-liter V-8 and a six-speed automatic,” you could be talking about a 2021 or a 2009 model. More than any other full-size truck, the Silverado leans on tradition.
Although the 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 is powerful enough and will probably run halfway to forever, Silverado RST buyers can spend an extra $2495 and get the much lustier 6.2-liter V-8. Besides making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, the 6.2-liter also brings a 10-speed automatic transmission, compounding its advantage over the 5.3-liter RST and its eight-speed. Plus, it allows you to say, “My truck’s got the Vette engine.” Which isn’t exactly true but isn’t totally wrong, either.
The RST trim is almost your cheapest path to the 6.2-liter and the 10-speed. A four-wheel-drive, crew-cab, short-bed RST with the 6.2 starts at $52,735, while a Custom Trail Boss is $48,390. The RST is fancier, while the Trail Boss gets a two-inch lift and off-road attitude. Even with our RST’s $3280 Redline package (blacked-out trim with red accents, 20-inch black wheels, a bedliner, and side steps), Bose premium audio, a driver assistance package, and the Multi-Flex tailgate, our test truck’s sticker price was $60,180, making it something of a budget hot rod.
The Redline accoutrements boldly announce “quick truck over here,” but a basic RST with the 6.2 would be a bona-fide sleeper. At the test track, our four-wheel-drive crew cab ran to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and clipped the quarter-mile in 14.0 seconds at 100 mph. That’s a lot of hustle for 5421 pounds of Silverado. And it sounds good doing it, too, the transmission’s closely spaced ratios keeping the big V-8 on the boil. It’s a good thing that the RST’s four-wheel-drive system features an automatic mode, because in rear-drive mode you regularly bark the tires even when you’re trying to be judicious with the throttle. The rear diff is an Eaton automatic locker, so at least you won’t be doing one-wheel peels.
Even though the Silverado’s suspension isn’t groundbreaking—independent with coil springs up front, solid axle with leaf springs at the rear—the truck’s on-road comportment is surprisingly sophisticated, and it hung onto our skidpad with a decent-for-a-truck 0.74 g of lateral acceleration. General Motors’s ride-and-handling engineers certainly know how to get the most out of their hardware, but when you hit a bump midcorner and feel the signature judder of an unladen leaf-spring rear end, you realize that even the best tuning can’t emulate coil springs. Or air springs.
But new suspension designs cost money, and the Silverado feels like the result of a mandate from management along the lines of: “Make this great. Your budget is $3.” That Bose premium sound system? It has seven speakers. And a modest speaker count isn’t necessarily a proxy for muddy sound quality, except in this case it is. The plastic trim on the doors, created with three layers of printed film, is apparently supposed to resemble a metal lattice embedded in layers of wood. (For the real thing, see Audi.) Instead it looks like someone scribbled over the trim with a black Sharpie. The interior’s clever touches, such as the rear seatback storage compartments or the dashboard toggle switch that rolls down all four windows, are the products of creative thinking rather than a lavish budget.
Another product of creative thinking, the six-position Multi-Flex tailgate ($445 and known as the Multi-Pro on GMC Sierras) is capable of deploying as a raised work bench, a bed extender, or steps. It can even hide a built-in stereo system. But it does present a potential problem. If you have a hitch on the truck—even, say, a two-inch drop hitch that’s below the bumper—opening the tailgate to its step position will cause the top panel to hit the hitch. This we learned the hard way. Yes, our bad. But we’ve also never encountered a truck that can dent itself. The takeaway is that, if you trailer, maybe the standard tailgate is the one for you.
And if you habitually buy a Silverado every five years, an RST with the 6.2 will feel like a pleasant evolution of prior trucks, quick and powerful and hewing to a still-reasonable price. The problem is that the rest of the truck world is moving on, and even a 5.4-second sprint to 60 mph is no longer a distinguishing feature. In fact, that’s the same time we recorded from a 2021 Ford F-150 Lariat Powerboost, which can be had for similar money, gets 24 mpg on the EPA combined cycle (to the RST’s 18 mpg), and includes a 7.2-kilowatt onboard generator. And no, that truck doesn’t roar with big-displacement V-8 thunder. But when the lights go out, we know which one we’d rather have in the driveway. Tried and true has its place, but sooner or later Chevy needs to try something new.
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