The all-new all-American pickup is a mean offroader.
In recent years, pickup trucks have transcended their function as utilitarian work vehicles, morphing into symbols of personal expression in our size-obsessed, American culture. When it comes to full-size trucks, there is a clear and obvious pecking order - the Ford F-150 is the king while the Chevy Silverado comes in at a distant second with the Ram nipping at its tail.
Dethroning the Ford is a daunting task, especially considering how diverse the F-150 lineup is. The F-150 Limited provides sumptuous luxury, while the hardcore Raptor offers unparalleled off-road performance. But the Silverado is all-new for 2019, so perhaps it stands a chance. We tested a 2019 Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss to find out.
As soon as you walk up to it, the Trail Boss makes a big impression. Whether that impression is good or bad is kind of up to you. I am not a fan of the 2019 Silverado's aggressive front end styling, tiny headlights, and massive front grille, though I think the Trail Boss does a lot to offset this on other trim levels. People seemed to be firmly on one side of the styling debate, though most of the people I talked to appreciated the aggressive nature of the Trail Boss.
The wheels and grille and blacked out, though larger two-tone wheels are also available. My tester wore a mundane shade of Summit White and I believe a more interesting color like red would increase the Trail Boss' curb appeal. Black would also pair nicely with the blacked out grille and wheels, creating a more stealthy aesthetic.
Surprisingly, Chevy only offers one engine choice on the LT Trail Boss, a 5.3-liter Ecotec V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic sending power to four-wheel-drive. The larger, more powerful 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic isn't available on the Trail Boss, though we did test an LTZ trim model with this engine if you're interested to hear how it fared. You can also get a smaller 4.3-liter V6 producing 285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque on the lower Custom Trail Boss trim, though I'll come back to that trim when discussing pricing.
The 5.3 V8 in the LT Trail Boss produces a healthy 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque while achieving fuel economy figures of 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined. In my week of testing, I struggled to match the 17 average figure even with plenty of highway driving.
GM's Direct Fuel Management technology is included on the LT Trail Boss and can shut down cylinders to run on as few as two in order to save on gas. Chevy says the Silverado can run on 17 different cylinder patterns, meaning it runs as a V8 less than 40% of the time. I found the system to be imperceptible when it shut down cylinders. The truck also includes a stop/start system, which shuts down the engine when it comes to a halt.
Frankly, this engine felt adequate, though it didn't provide the world-shaking rumble I expect from a V8 pickup. The Trail Boss never felt sluggish, though it can't match the muscle provided by the 6.2-liter engine. If you like to pull stuff, the Trail Boss offers between 9,400 to 9,700 pounds of towing capacity depending on which bed size you opt for. While on the subject of towing, Chevy has made the task easy for novices with special towing modes on the backup camera and handy checklists on the infotainment system.
The big three American automakers realize how difficult it is to steal customers away from each other, so they each attempt to stay true to their core fanbase. For GM, this means an interior that won't feel out of place for previous Silverado owners who will therefore be happy to hear the new 2019 model is almost identical to the 2018 MY truck.
If you like your trunk simple and old-school, the Silverado is the truck for you. Chevy hasn't bothered with a giant touchscreen like the new Ram 1500. Instead, the Silverado has big, chunky buttons, which you can easily punch with a glove on. Some may appreciate this theme of "if it 'ain't broke don't fix it' but others may look at the plasticky dashboard and crave more luxury.
Along with the Nissan Titan, GM is also the last of the full-size truck manufacturers to use an old-fashioned column shifter. This frees up the center console for oodles of storage and even allows for the option of a three-person bench seat if you forgo a few options.
As I alluded to, the Silverado's interior comes littered with handy storage areas. The center console offers plenty of space as does the large cubby hole beneath the armrest. Each of the doors has multiple pockets and Chevy has even included an extra storage space above the glove box. If you don't have enough room in this truck, you may have too much stuff.
Moving to the back seat, the seat bottoms lift up to create a nearly flat load floor and Chevy has cleverly carved out hidden storage space in the seatbacks. Of course, one of the main reasons why you buy a truck is the bed and the Trail Boss is available with either a 69.6- or 79.2-inch bed. This version of the Silverado includes a power-opening tailgate, which can be operated from the cabin or the keyfob. The tailgate drops down automatically and its a breeze to close due to its lightweight aluminum construction.
The 2019 Silverado's wheelbase is 3.9-inches longer than 2018 model and the truck is 1.6-inches longer overall. Chevy says this extra space has been given to the bed and the rear seat, which now offers 35.2-inches of leg room.
During the entire week I drove the Trail Boss, one question came up more than any other - how does it compare to the Raptor? In short, it doesn't. The Trail Boss may look aggressive enough to take on the Raptor but it lacks the power and heavy-duty shocks to get the job done.
Don't get me wrong, the Trail Boss is incredibly capable and the truck was faultless when I took it on a muddy Florida off-road trail. Still, if you want to drive 70 mph over soft sand while you pretend to be a Baja racer, the Raptor is still your best option. The Trail Boss is more of an alternative to a Ram 1500 Rebel, F-150 FX4, or Tundra TRD.
All Trail Boss models include the Z71 Off-Road Package, which adds Rancho shocks, hill descent control, underbody transfer case shield, recovery hooks, and high capacity air cleaner. In addition to this package, the Trail Boss receives a locking rear differential, skid plates, two-inch lift kit, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires.
If your goal is to conquer a mountain, the Trail Boss is the right tool for the job. If your goal is to find a parking space at the mall while rushing to complete your Christmas shopping, good luck. The Trail Boss is massive, even for a truck, making tight parking maneuvers feel like a game of Tetris on the hardest level. This is much the same story with the truck's on-road manners as all of the off-road equipment hinders the Silverado's road feel. At 70 mph on the highway, it feels acceptable but stray up to 80 or 90 mph and you'll need copious amounts of steering input to keep it straight.
Like most trucks, the ride is squishy and feels rough over torn up pavement. The off-road tires likely contribute to the rough ride and create tremendous road noise at high speeds. If all you use a truck for is to haul large amounts of stuff on long stretches of highway, there are far more comfortable alternatives even within the Silverado range. However, if most of your driving takes place where there are no roads, the Trail Boss starts to make sense.
To be fair to the LT Trail Boss, it is a heck of a lot cheaper than a Raptor. My tester rang in at $56,790. While the Raptor starts at $52,855 load up on leather, heated seats, and other options to put it on an equal playing field and the price balloons to around $70,000.
If the Trail Boss has piqued your interested, the LT Crew Cab model starts off at $48,300 before options. My tester included a few affordable packages, which when combined, add up to a substantial amount. The Convenience Package for $1,655 adds front heated bucket seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, and second row USB ports.
Stepping up to the Convenience Package II for an additional $1,420 adds a home remote, sliding rear window, 120V power outlet in the cabin and the bed, eight-inch infotainment system with voice recognition, HD radio, HD rear camera, and Bose premium audio. The Safety Package I is a bargain at $890 for parking sensors, lane change alert, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Combing through Silverado trims is as daunting as ordering off the Cheesecake Factory menu but if you know exactly what you can live without, you can save some money. If you like the sound of the Trail Boss' off-road capabilities but could do without some of the fancy technology and leather seats, I am going to tell you the best way to buy this truck as cheaply as possible.
Instead of opting for the LT Trail Boss, go for the cheaper Custom Trail Boss. You'll still get the aggressive looks, two-inch lift, and off-road ability but you'll only pay around $41,000 if you opt for the V6 Double Cab. I would still suggest the V8 engine, though I hope Chevy will offer the upcoming 3.0-liter Duramax diesel in the future.
The biggest changes when you step down to the Custom Trail Boss are a different grille with the word 'Chevrolet' spelled out, a six-speed automatic instead of an eight-speed, and no Direct Fuel Management system. Depending on what engine and cab configuration you opt for, the Custom Trail Boss can save between $3,000 and $8,000 off the price of the LT Trail Boss.
I'm not a traditional truck buyer or an off-roading enthusiast. My kind of automative-related fun is typically relegated to a winding back road or a race track. If you want an aggressively-styled off-road truck but don't want to pay the insane dealer markups currently found on the Raptor, the Trail Boss is a compelling option. However, in an effort to please loyal Silverado owners, I don't think Chevy changed enough on the 2019 model to make it stand out in the competitive full-size truck segment.
The 2019 Chevy Silverado LT Trail Boss feels like a single purpose truck aimed at owners who spend a lot of time off-road. Therefore, it earns a ranking of Worth A Look.