There’s something about Jackson, Wyoming that keeps me coming back. Oh, that’s right, it’s vehicle manufacturers. In the past two years I’ve been here driving the Rolls-Royce Dawn, Chevy Camaro, BMW R1200 RS, and now the latest iteration of Chevy’s full-size pickup. Not that I mind. I mean come on, a cabin in the mountains, plates full of smoked meats, and whiskey next to a bonfire that would make Hephaestus proud, why wouldn’t I look forward to a trip to this most glorious of destinations.
The jumping off point for our adventure was the Spring Creek Ranch, a collection of cottages perched atop the East Butte overlooking the Snake River valley. The cabins, divided into four apartments, are rustic with exposed wood beams, a fieldstone fireplace, western artwork gracing the walls, and woolen blankets with native patterns draped across the bed. Each has its own balcony which I sat upon working on a story on my first afternoon there while being serenaded by a chorus from the cattle below.
Chevrolet brought us to Wyoming to test the new Silverado because this state loves its trucks. I know most people think of Texas when you mention pickups, but no state has a higher percentage of trucks on the road than the Cowboy State. 36% of all the vehicles sold in Wyoming are pickups. When you spend any time here, you understand why. Ranching, farming, mining, oil and gas dominate the economy. If you work in any of these industries, you drive a truck. It doesn’t hurt that the rugged landscape and notoriously wicked weather put a premium on traction, so 4X4s are practically a requirement for year round residents. With that as a backdrop I set out in Chevy’s pretty much all-new pickup to see if it could handle the wilds of Wyoming.
Sliding behind the wheel of an four-wheel drive, jet black Silverado LTZ crew cab, I fired up its 6.2L V8 engine and after adjusting the power seats and mirrors, pulled the column mounted shift lever into drive, engaging the first of its 10-speeds as I headed down the mountain to the valley floor. East Butte Road cuts back and forth across the face of the hill with a series of switchbacks and while I wasn’t driving quickly, it did highlight a big change from the previous generation Silverado. Thanks to the strategic used of different grades of steel, high-strength steel, and aluminum, the Silverado is 450 pounds lighter with a frame that stiffer and stronger. This allows the suspension to be calibrated for a more supple ride, while the truck feels lighter and more nimble – which is surprising because the wheelbase is four inches longer.
As I cruised down Jackson’s main drag past the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar across from the Town Square, I saw a few Range Rovers and G-Wagons on the streets, but for the most part the truck vibe in this resort town is low key. F150s, Rams, Silverados, and Sierras are the trucks of choice with Explorers, Expeditions, Tahoes, and the occasional Escalade making up the bulk of the SUV scene here. Even the coasties who come to Jackson to get in touch with their inner cowboy eschew more luxurious rides, so the new Silverado fit right in, even with its updated and modernized sheetmetal.
Chevy designers walked a fine line between incorporating new, more sculpted body panels while maintaining a strong, square-jawed look. The front overhang has been shortened and the wheel arches are now rounded instead of square (a look I never really liked). The front fascia wears a two-bar grill and narrow LED headlamps that feel like their borrowed from the Camaro, giving the truck a wide, aggressive stance. Some have criticized the new look as not “macho” enough. I don’t see it. It’s not as blocky as the old design. While it’s not as unique as the Ram or classic as the F150, I think this look works and it ties the Silverado in more closely with Chevrolet’s crossover and passenger car design DNA.
The doors and hood are aluminum, but the other body panels are all steel, including the box which features even stronger high-strength steel for 2019. It’s also bigger which Chevrolet has made sure everyone knows. They increased the box volume by increasing the height of the bed walls and reducing the space between the box wall end the rear fenders. According to Chevy, payload capacity has been increased by 340 pounds in the crew cab models. As full-size trucks have gotten bigger, that payload become tougher to load and access thanks to the high bed height. If you’re under six feet tall, you’ll have trouble reaching into the bed over the side walls, so you have to open the tailgate and use the bumper steps to get anything in or out. But there are plenty of tie-downs – 12 permanent and 9 moveable – to secure anything you put in the bed. My LTZ model also included a power lift gate that you can raise and lower via buttons on the dash and key fob. It also locks with the door locks.
Inside the LTZ trim level gets you a lot of features in an understated package. Even the highest trim level – High Country – Silverado stops well short of luxurious. Maybe GM is trying to create more differentiation between the Silverado and the GMC Sierra Denali, but there’s no competition between the High Country and the top trims from Ford and Ram. The F-150 Limited and Laramie Long Horn are much more luxurious and comfortable trucks.
After grabbing a hot cup of joe from the appropriately named Cowboy Coffee Shop, I began my 70-mile drive over the Teton Pass and along the Palisades Reservoir to the day’s destination, the Alpine AirPark and Residential Fly In Community. These communities are becoming more common in areas where wealthy pilots like to live and vacation. The luxury homes with attached or adjacent hangars surround the runway and provide easy access in and out of the area for those with the financial wherewithal and aviation chops. Chevy leased out a hangar as our base of operations so I could test other models of the Silverado both off road and with a 6,000 pound trailer in tow.
Chevy is offering the Silverado in 6 models. The base trim is the Work Truck which is actually available in a regular cab. The next step up is dubbed “Custom” from the old C-10 days. Then there’s the mid-level LT and the RST street truck, the higher trim LTZ, the fully loaded High Country, and the off-road specific Trail Boss. There are six engine options overall. The base WT and Custom trucks get the venerable 4.3 liter V6 with a 5.3L V8 available. Both engines are bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. The base engine in the LT and RST is a turbo-four that’s more powerful and efficient than the V6 and you can get the 5.3L V8 with dynamic fuel management as an option. These trucks have an eight-speed auto, no matter which engine you get. The higher trims (LTZ, High Country, and Trail Boss) all come with a 5.3L V8 with the eight-speed. You can move all the way up to the 420 horsepower, 6.2L V8 with DFM and a 10-speed automatic in the LTZ and High Country. Early next year, a 3.0L inline six-cylinder diesel will be available on the LT, RST, LTZ, and High Country trucks.
After towing, off-roading, and then driving back to Jackson I was left impressed by the 2019 Silverado’s capability and comfort. It can tow more and haul more. It’s more efficient thanks to DFM – a technology that controls the engine allowing it to run on anywhere from two to eight cylinders in up to 17 patterns – and improved aerodynamics. It’s also roomier thanks to an additional 3.4 inches of rear seat legroom. I wish the interior were a little nicer. The leather, while durable, is a little too firm for my taste. And I’m really surprised you can’t get adaptive cruise control as part of the high end driver assist package. but hey, it’s a Chevy so “value” will always be a part of the equation.
The 2019 Chevy Silverado is a big improvement over the previous generation, and that’s a good thing because both Ford and Ram had leapt ahead in recent years. What we have now is a three-way horserace for full-size truck supremacy with very little separating the three brands. After spending a couple of days with the Silverado in Jackson Hole, I can say for certain there’s never been a better time to be a cowboy.
2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4WD LTZ Crew Cab
4-door, 5-passenger pickup truck
Base price: $48,700 excludes destination
Price as tested: $59,040
Major options: 6.2L engine and 10-speed automatic transmission ($2,495), LTZ convenience package 1: heated and ventilated seats, heated rear seats, rear sliding power window, power tailgate, ($1,550), 20” polished wheels ($1,100), LTZ Convenience package 2: navigation, Bose audio, wireless charging ($1,070), Power sunroof ($995), Safety package 1: park assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert ($890), Safety package 2: forward collision assist, lane keep assist, front pedestrian braking, auto high beams ($745), destination ($1,495)
Engine: 6.2L V8 Engine with Dynamic Fuel Management
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel drive with two speed transfer case and locking differential
Power: 420 HP
Torque: 460 lb.-ft.
Max payload: 2,100 lbs.
Max towing: 12,200 lbs.
Curb weight: 4,965 lbs.
EPA MPG: 16 city/20 highway/17 combined