When I was a wee lad, a four-cylinder full-size pickup was an unheard of idea. Truck buyers looked askance at any gas engine that wasn’t a V8. That’s obviously changed in recent years.
While I’ve already had a crack at the redesigned Silverado in Wyoming earlier this year, that drive focused on the V8s. So Chevy brought media to suburban Phoenix for a go-round in the four-banger, with the Chevrolet Colorado Bison also on hand to test (more on that next month when the embargo lifts).
Full disclosure: Chevrolet flew me to Phoenix/Scottsdale and paid for my hotel and meals, and they left lovely snacks in the room.
Before I could even drive the Chevy, a PR person was guiding me to a Ford F-150 Supercrew XLT with two-wheel drive and the 3.3-liter V6. Next to that truck sat a Ram with e-torque and a four-cylinder Silverado. The message was clear: Drive them back to back to back and see which was “best.”
A 10-minute test loop consisting of only right turns and suburban streets can only tell you so much, but it became clear that the Ford was outmatched by the other two. A hesitant throttle marred the driving experience, and down-market materials made the Ford feel like something I’d get for the economy price at a rental lot. While I’ve been impressed with upper-trim F-150s, the XLT doesn’t do value well.
The Ram Big Horn with the 3.6-liter was much more pleasant to drive, thanks to a responsive throttle and pleasing exhaust note. The materials also were much nicer — not the full-zoot cabin, of course, but pleasant enough.
My experience with the Chevy was much the same. As I noted earlier, the Ram has a nicer cabin across the board in terms of style, but the materials are almost on par. Like the Ram, the 2.7 has a quick throttle response, and the turbo four-cylinder (310 horsepower, 348 lb-ft of torque) offers plenty of grunt for around-town duty.
Tech-spec obsessives will note that the Ford offers up 290 ponies and 265 lb-ft of torque, while the Ram clocks in at 305/269.
I’d be interested to see how the Ford with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost four compares – that truck has 325 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. It feels like Chevy stacked the deck a bit, especially since the XLT can be had with the 2.7 and still remain in the same price range.
We eventually left Scottsdale’s strip malls behind for the desert, and the Silverado struggled a bit as we climbed mountain grades, despite the turbo’s help. Keep it close to sea level, and the four-cylinder has more than enough power for around-town duty. Towing capacity is listed at 7,200 pounds. Unlike in Wyoming, no towing demo was available.
On-road ride and handling with the 2.7 was about the same as I experienced in the V8-powered trucks. The ride is generally smooth, at least for a truck with an empty bed, but then again, Arizona’s roads are also generally smooth. Gentle curves pose no challenge, and the steering feel is about on par for the class.
If fuel economy matters to you, the 2.7 achieves up to 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with two-wheel drive and up to 19/22/20 with four-wheel drive.
The overall package makes sense – the turbo four offers a fuel-economy boost over the V8-powered trucks, and while the Ford and Ram have better maximum highway MPG numbers with two more cylinders, the 2.7 is on par in terms of power delivery in most settings.
My beef with this truck is two-fold. Complaint number one is that the infotainment system and interior styling remain inferior to the Ram (although my phone had no connection issues this time), even if they’re fine on their own merits. Complaint number two is that the four-cylinder’s availability is limited to specific trims – the LT and RST. While I understand that cost constraints are likely preventing the 2.7 from being available with other trims, it’s still a bummer, because you won’t be able to get this engine without sacrificing some of the upper-trim content.
That’s not to say these trims are bare bones. The LT I drove for half a day had nearly $4,000 in options tacked on to its $40K base price. Those options included dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, USB ports in the second row, remote start, trailering package, park assist, lane-change alert, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. That’s on top of standard features such as keyless entry, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and in-car Wi-Fi.
Like the V8 versions, the four-cylinder Silverado is a pretty solid truck on its own merits. Still, it doesn’t turn heads the way the Ram does, and while it makes the Ford look bad when equipped with the 3.3, it may not fare so well against the 2.7 EcoBoost.
That sums up the 2019 Silverado experience – well-built trucks that are quite pleasant to drive but fall short of the competition in significant ways — styling versus Ram, power (at least on paper) versus the Ford.
Truck buyers being as brand loyal as they are, that may not matter. If you’re a Silverado owner who just gets the new Chevy every few years, you’ll be in good hands should the four-cylinder be your engine of choice. But if you’re a comparison shopper, the choice will be much tougher.
[Images: © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]