Chevrolet recently introduced a new 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder version of the all-new 2019 Silverado. As this is the first application of a 4-cylinder turbo in a full-size pickup, Chevrolet wants to make it clear that its new pint-sized mill is up to the task, so it flew me to Phoenix to experience the new 4-cylinder 2019 Chevrolet Silverado on a long driving loop through Tonto National Forest, and alongside its closest competitors from Ford and Ram.
GM’s new 4-cylinder should eventually see duty in a variety of vehicles, but for now, the engine is launching in the 2019 Silverado. The 2.7-liter turbo four makes 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque, which are both respectable figures. This is good for 20 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving in two-wheel-drive models, and 19 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined when you add four-wheel drive. These figures are somewhat disappointing, given that the Silverado’s available 5.3-liter V8, which carries only a $1,400 premium, makes more power while achieving identical or better highway fuel economy.
While neither Ford nor Ram offers a 4-cylinder engine in its full size pickup, both automakers do offer entry-level engines in their trucks that make comparable power and return similar fuel economy to the new 4-cylinder Silverado.
The first such example offered up for comparison was a 2019 Ram 1500 fitted with the venerable 3.6-liter "Pentastar" V6. In the Ram, the Pentastar V6 makes 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. While the Silverado employs downsizing and turbocharging, the Ram employs a mild hybrid system referred to as "eTorque," which helps save fuel on starts from a dead stop. With help from the mild hybrid system, 2WD examples of the new V6 Ram earn 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, while 4WD models earn 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
The F-150’s entry level engine is the tried and true 3.3-liter "Cyclone" V6. Equipped with the base engine, the F-150 makes 290 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, returning 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined with 2WD, and 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined when fitted with 4WD. Buyers may also cross shop the F-150’s 2.7-liter turbocharged "EcoBoost" V6, which can be had for a small, sub-$1,000 premium. Fitted with the 2.7-liter turbo, the F-150 makes 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, earning 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined with 2WD and 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with 4WD.
Driving the 4-cylinder Silverado alongside Pentastar V6-equipped Ram and 3.3-liter equipped F-150, I could hardly tell a difference in terms of day-to-day livability. Each truck had plenty of power for everyday traffic and, from what I could tell, for completing simple tasks. Altogether, the differences are marginal when it comes to these economical full-size trucks.
The Truck Itself
Altogether, the new 2019 Silverado is a charming truck. Its interior feels fresh and modern, on par with that of the new 2019 Ram 1500. The interiors of the Silverado and Ram are arguably a level above that found in the F-150, which was last fully redesigned for 2015, but did receive a mild update for 2018. The Silverado offers comfortable seats, pleasing ergonomics and an infotainment systems that is among the best in the industry.
The 4-cylinder Silverado is still equipped for truck-like duties, with a quoted towing capacity of 7,200 pounds and a 2,280-lb maximum payload capacity.
While you could tell there wasn’t a V8 under the hood, nothing about the driving characteristics of the new Silverado was particularly noteworthy, nor was anything offensive. As with most turbos, there was a bit of lag between the time you depress the accelerator pedal and the time you feel the full force of the engine’s 348 lb-ft of torque. Still, that torque was there, and it didn’t struggle to get the big truck going in a variety of situations. I did notice something odd though over the course of my two hours behind the wheel. Anytime I abruptly pulled my foot off the gas pedal as the engine’s 8-speed transmission began to downshift, the truck would continue to accelerate for a moment as the transmission completed the shift. My drive partner and I were able to replicate this a number of times throughout our long drive through Tonto National Forest. This isn’t anything that I think would ever result in an accident, but it was unsettling. I didn’t get a chance to ask the Chevrolet engineers about this phenomenon, but I have to think it has to do with engine and transmission calibration. This isn’t something that would necessarily turn me away from this powertrain, but it was a peculiarity nonetheless.
Altogether, like the other two trucks I sampled during the event, the Silverado felt completely fine with this downsized power plant. Sure, it doesn’t offer the growl of a V8, and there’s a bit of turbo lag, but for medium and light duty applications, the Silverado’s 4-cylinder was more than adequate. Chevrolet expects the 4-cylinder to make up about 10 percent of overall 2019 Chevrolet Silverado sales, which sounds about right, given that the 5.3-liter V8 can be had for only $1,400 more. Nonetheless, the 4-cylinder Silverado looks to be an excellent choice for fleets, rental car companies and buyers needing a simple, dependable work truck — applications where the benefits of a V8 are unlikely to be fully realized.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.