Chevrolet, the teevee informs us, is in the middle of “Truck Month,” which means you can supposedly get great deals on 2018 Silverados.
Those trucks, of course, are being cleared out to make room for the 2019 models, such as the Silverado 4WD LTZ Crew I recently drove through parts of Idaho and Wyoming … on Chevy’s dime, no less. Now that’s a great deal.
Actually, I was but one of dozens and dozens of journalists who were shuttled in and out of the Jackson, Wyoming, airport to get first looks at (and drives of) the 2019 Silverados.
There were eight different types of Silverados is six varying engine/transmission configurations from which to choose; I went with the LTZ because it appeared to be the type of pickup for someone who does a lot of commuting on Southern California freeways, although it could also pull a trailer or go four-wheeling in the mud for fun.
The night before my test drive, Chevrolet’s truck division brass gave a dinner presentation about how their company has been the best selling truck manufacturer for four consecutive years and the only one in the industry with four pickup lines. In addition to the Silverados being made available to journalists the following day, Chevy has three more coming out by the end of the year.
Hundreds of “Truck Legends,” which is how Chevy refers to buyers who have purchased multiple model years of its pickups, were treated to sneak peaks of Silverados at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in 2016 as well as last year, which coincided with the 100-year anniversary of Chevrolet trucks.
So why Wyoming and not Texas in 2018? Because of data showing a whopping 38 percent of drivers have trucks as their main vehicle in the Equality State compared to 20 percent in the Lone Star State.
In the Silverado, they would be exposed to “the best driving truck ever built,” according to Tim Herrick, Chevy’s executive chief engineer of Full-Size Trucks, who added the 2019s are 450 pounds lighter, three percent longer, three percent more leg roomier, 20 percent larger in cargo capacity, a half second quicker at 0-60 miles per hour and five percent more efficient in city miles per gallon of gas burned.
Lighter but longer and quicker but more fuel efficient? That sounded fishy but then again I’m no engineer. (I don’t even play one on TV.) Part of how Chevy achieves the unachievable was featured in a display of the multiple materials–from aluminum to composite materials to solid steel–that is used to create the 2019 Silverado frames. Basically, it comes down to only using the strongest materials where one must and the lightest materials where one can.
Next to that was a display on Dynamic Fuel Management, which throws out the old 4-cylinder/8-cylinder model for small block engines in favor of 17 different patterns–from a single cylinder up to any combination including all eight–that automatically engage depending on the particular driving conditions for maximum efficiency. Or at least that is what I took away after a Chevy DFM whiz dumbed it down for me.
Pickups have obviously come a long way since I was a kid bouncing in the passenger seat of my dad’s rusty old work truck. I looked forward to seeing how far they have come during my test drive that would begin in Jackson Hole, continue into Idaho and through the Grand Tetons and finally finish at the start.
At the halfway mark, I was to let another journalist who had been riding shotgun take over behind the wheel, but guess what? My riding partner never showed up. I got the black beauty all to myself for the entire loop.
My breaking-in period would be the first leg of the journey from Jackson Hole to Victor, Idaho, where I was to stop for coffee. I did my best to pay attention to the Silverado’s performance, and to be honest the conditions were quite similar to what we have at home given I was in the middle of the morning commute.
Other than riding higher, I felt no differently driving the Silverado as I do in any muscle or luxury car with an eight-cylinder engine. In the LTZ Crew, that would be a 6.2-liter Ecotech3 V8 with the aforementioned DFM that made no noticeable difference in performance, just as the engineer had told me. That particular engine is a $2,495 option, by the way.
It gets a government rated 16 miles to the gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway for a combined 17 mpg. Annual fuel costs are estimated at $2,650 and you’ll spend $6,250 more for gasoline over five years than you would for the average new vehicle.
The ride was comfortable in my jet black leather seat. Standard on the LTZ are leather appointed 40/20/40 split bench front seats that are adjustable 10 ways with lumbar support and a memory setting for the driver. The front seats can also be heated as can the 60/40 folding bench rear seats with setback and under-seat storage.
However, my test truck had the $1,550 LTZ Convenience Package that includes heated and ventilated front bucket seats. Also included in the package are two USB ports, a universal home remote, the powered tailgate (up and down) and a rear power sliding window with a defogger, which I could see coming in handy around these parts in the snowy winters.
The automatic shifting from lower to higher gears and back down again were smooth on the Silverado. Climbing in elevation over the curving road actually reminded me of the many trips I have made up to the San Bernardino Mountains, only I usually did it in gutless wonders that could not possible pass other vehicles with as much ease as the Silverado did. I also never got any of that jarring movement that can knock your head against the back of a headrest and dislodge a filling.
From Victor, it was on to Alpine, Wyoming, and for some reason the navigation system had me arriving at my destination–only there was no destination there to arrive at. Seems there should have been given navigation is part of the $1,070 LTZ Convenience Package II, which also includes wireless charging (which I could not use with my iPhone anyway) and a Bose Premium Sound System. Meanwhile, I could not for the life of me get my iPhone to connect with the LTZ’s hotspot, which is a standard feature but, in my experience, useless when I really needed it in a somewhat remote area with no service.
I suppose I could have engaged an OnStar operator–capability is standard on the LTZ, subject to OnStar’s terms–but I opted instead to simply call my hosts, who easily guided me to lunch at one of the most unusual housing developments I have ever parked a loaner truck in. It’s called The Refuge, and the way it was explained to me was that for $5 million, a buyer gets a nice home with an attached hangar and a new airplane inside that hangar.
If that still sounds expensive, know that there is a landing strip nearby, time is money and think of the savings from not waiting in TSA lines; that alone is worth five mil.
These pads must be popular because new ones were being built near a hangar that serves as a community gathering place. Next to that was a display of a Silverado set up to pull a helicopter. Flaunt it if you’ve got it, baby!
Also in Alpine, journalists were given the opportunity to test Silverados four-wheeling in the mud or pulling trailers. I opted out of both, figuring that every-day motoring and duty that requires a rear bed match the needs of most Southern California pickup drivers. Plus, I had an errand to run and a faint hope of making the 90-mile drive back and forth to Yellowstone (an idea I sadly would have to give up due to time).
For those who are interested in how the 2019s fare at four-wheeling, here is a video demonstration someone else shot from the muddy test course while I noshed in that community hangar about 100 yards away. That is followed by a second someone else’s video of Herrick on the 2019 Silverado’s trailering abilities.
From Alpine it was back to Jackson Hole, on a trip filled with some of the most magnificent scenery I have ever taken in, something anyone who has snaked on the highway around the Snake River can confirm.
There were long stretches where I could see no vehicles in front of me and none in the rear-view mirror. The only signs of life were the rapids riders visible on the river below. Above me were blue skies that went on forever, and I got to gander at them through the power sunroof, a $995 option.
I had some personal errands to run in Jackson Hole, and that allowed me to practice parking the Silverado and hear the assorted warning beeps that accompany city driving. (Now we’re in SoCal conditions!) The high-definition rear vision camera is among the standard safety features that also include teen driver mode and Stabilitrak with trailer sway control and hill start assist.
However, my LTZ tester included two optional safety packages. For $890, you get front and rear park assist, both of which came in handy when I tried to squeeze into a tight parking space at Snake River Brewery (where I only went to take pictures as I would never drink and drive, officer). That first safety package also includes rear cross traffic alert and lane change alert with side blind zone alert.
A $745 safety package includes forward collision alert, following distance warning, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, low speed automatic forward braking and Intellibeam automatic high beam. Also part of that package is front pedestrian braking and a safety alert seat that vibrates to alert the driver. Both kicked in when I almost hit a guy in a crosswalk a couple blocks from the brewery (where, again officer, I was not draining ales).
Continuing on just beyond town, I took the windy road into the National Elk Refuge, where I did not see any Cervus canadensis but I did take in more amazing scenery. Keeping me entertained inside the entire trip was Little Steven’s Underground Garage satellite channel. A three-month SiriusXM subscription is standard on the Silverado, as are the HD radio, six speakers, Bluetooth/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capabilities and the eight-inch diagonal HD color touchscreen with voice recognition you can use to control it all.
Also standard are 120-volt power outlets bedside and on the instrumental panel as are: a rear seat reminder; keyless open and start; auto-dimming rear view mirror; dual zone climate control in the front and heater and air conditioning vents in the back; and power windows with express up and down in the front and express down in the rear.
The heated, leather steering wheel with audio controls is standard, but one thing I did not like about the LTZ setup was my inability to see the four gauges on the instrumental panel behind the wheel, no matter how I contorted my neck. I suppose they are not that important, since the same information can be flashed on the color screen, but it still bothered me. I could have repositioned the steering wheel–tilt and telescoping is a standard feature–but I was already comfortable with the steering wheel position.
All season tires are also standard, but on my tester they were wrapped around 20-inch polished finish wheels that are an $1,100 option. Also standard are: capless fuel fill; rear wheelhouse liners; black front recovery hooks; auto-locking differential; single-speed transfer case; 12 fixed Durabed tie downs (with each corner rated at 500 pounds), power/heated outside mirrors with perimeter lighting, puddle lamps and a memory setting as well as all your assorted LEDs (Durabed lighting, front fog lamps, reflector head lamps, daytime running lights and signature tail lights).
Chevy offers warranties of three years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first) bumper-to-bumper and five years or 60,000 miles for the powertrain (limited). Roadside assistance, courtesy transportation for service and a first maintenance visit for an oil change, tire rotation and multi-point vehicle inspection are also included.
The base price on the LTZ is $48,700, and to me it seems like a lot of pickup for the money. Then again, my judgment could have been clouded by the comfort, convenience and safety features of my test vehicle, with came in at $57,545 with the options or $59,040 when you add in the $1,495 destination charge. Then again, if Chevy would like to loan it out again, I’d gladly drive it from here to Jackson Hole come ski season.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.