Car Reviews First Drives

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 2.7T First Drive: Mighty Mouse

Why the Silverado 2.7T work truck may be the best deal in the lineup

Why the Silverado 2.7T work truck may be the best deal in the lineup

Quick question: Are you the fleet manager at your company? No? Then the Chevrolet Silverado 2.7T probably isn’t for you. Wait! Keep reading, weekend warrior! You should take a look at it anyway. Why? Because the 2019 Silverado and its 2.7-liter turbo-four are built to work as hard as possible for as little money as possible.

Now the standard engine on the LT and RST trims, the 2.7T effectively replaces the long-running 4.3-liter V-6, which is now only available on the base WT trim for fleets that don’t like change. That’s your first clue what this engine is about. The next one comes from the window sticker: 310 hp and 348 lb-ft. The old 4.3 produces just 285 hp and 305 lb-ft.

The 2.7-liter’s output is also more than the competition offers. Ford’s base 3.3-liter V-6 makes 290 hp and 265 lb-ft, while Ram’s new mild-hybrid 3.6-liter V-6 makes 305 hp and 269 lb-ft. Point for Chevy there, though both the Ford and Ram out-tow the Chevy by thousands of pounds (7,200 versus up to 12,900 (3,266 vs up to 5,851 kg)) and the Ford can handle about 30-percent greater payload than the other two (3,270 pounds versus up to 2,280 (1,483 vs up to 1,034 kg)).

Other numbers on the window sticker also muddy the water: 18-20 mpg (13.1-11.8 L/100km) city, 21-23 mpg (11.2-10.2 L/100km) highway, and 19-21 mpg (12.4-11.2 L/100km) combined depending on configuration. The old 4.3 in the last-generation truck (the 2019 model hasn’t been rated yet) was 17-18 mpg (13.8-13.1 L/100km) city, 22-24 mpg (10.7-9.8 L/100km) highway, and 19-20 mpg (12.4-11.8 L/100km) combined depending on configuration. Not much of an improvement to you and me, but when we’re talking about fleets of potentially thousands of vehicles, a one mpg improvement could save big money over the lives of those vehicles. Although Chevy is quick to point out it didn’t need a hybrid system to get that fuel economy, the 2.7 does employ auto engine stop/start, variable valve lift, and cylinder deactivation.

But what about the competition? The 3.3-liter F-150 returns 18-19/23-25/20-22 mpg (13.1-12.4/10.2-9.4/11.8-10.7 L/100km) while the 3.6-liter Ram nets 19-20/24-25/21-22 mpg (12.4-11.8/9.8-9.4/11.2-10.7 L/100km). All right on top of each other, so no real argument for any of them there.

In truth, the Silverado’s 2.7-liter engine doesn’t make the case for itself on paper. It makes it behind the wheel. Knowing full well it still has 4,700 pounds (2,132 kg) of truck to move despite the weight lost during the redesign, Chevy engineers tuned this thing for torque, torque, and more torque. Sliding camshafts with different profiles and a small, twin-scroll turbo that gets evenly spaced exhaust pulses from the paired inner and outer cylinders work to make big, steady power throughout the rev range. Throttle response is immediate and turbo lag is imperceptible. Chevy’s dyno chart says the torque drops off as it approaches its startlingly low 5,700-rpm redline, but you wouldn’t know it from behind the wheel.

Chevy also says it’s a full second quicker to 60 mph than the old 4.3, and I believe it. Per our past testing, that would put it at 6.4 seconds, the same as the optional 5.3-liter V-8 and less than half a second behind the big 6.2-liter V-8. Regardless of the number, it feels much more responsive than the 5.3. The two engines share the same eight-speed automatic, but here again the 2.7 shines. Paired with the 5.3, we found the eight-speed clunky and stubborn about shifting down. The 2.7 and the eight-speed, though, feel like they were made for each other. Shifts are buttery smooth, it’s always in the right gear, and it’s not shy about downshifting when it needs to.

Thing is, it doesn’t need to that often. Unless you have your foot to the firewall, the 2.7 rarely sees more than 2,200 rpm as it surfs that wave of torque. Cruising at 70 mph (113 km/h) up a seven-percent grade, it hummed right along at 1,700 rpm without a downshift. The cams slide seamlessly into their high-lift profiles, the turbo huffs up some 22 psi, and it just goes with a pleasant snarl and no turbo whistle. Passing uphill, it drops a couple gears and scoots right around whatever’s in your way. Going down the other side, it likewise drops a couple gears when you touch the brakes and leans on its surprisingly high 10.0:1 compression ratio to keep you from gaining speed. Critically, at no point does the engine ever feel stressed.

These impressions came with an empty bed and just two guys in the truck—we’re eager to see how it handles towing and hauling, but there wasn’t an opportunity during this drive.

Chevrolet did, however, provide competitors’ trucks for a short back-to-back evaluation. Putting its LT trim against Ford’s XLT and Ram’s Bighorn, the Silverado 2.7 shined in throttle response and outright power. Ram’s 3.6 makes its power up high and has to be wrung out, while Ford’s 3.3 just feels slow. On the other hand, the Ram self-reported better fuel economy on Chevy’s prescribed driving route than the Silverado, 22.8 mpg (10.3 L/100km) to 20.8 mpg (11.3 L/100km) (19.8 (11.9 L/100km) for the Ford). The Ram’s coil-sprung rear axle also rides substantially better, and it has by far the best interior.

That all might influence my decision if I’m buying the truck just for me. But if I’m buying a company work truck, the conversation changes. Chevy’s superior bed volume, abundance of hard-mounted tie-downs (three at each corner), and standard bumper steps make it a better hauler. The remote tailgate release in the cab comes in handy. It’s also the easiest to tow with, provided you can live with its lower tow rating. The trailer-detecting reverse camera, trailer light test, and trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring make hooking up and pulling a breeze.

So no, the new Silverado 2.7T wasn’t meant for the weekend warrior, and it won’t save you a bundle at the pump. This truck is built to save fleet managers money whether they’re running five trucks or 500. It might not be the one you put in your own driveway. But if your boss is going to put you in a stripped-down work truck eight hours a day, this is the right tool for the job.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado (2.7T)
BASE PRICE $38,395-$43,595
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 5-6-pass, 2-4-door truck
ENGINE 2.7L/310-hp/348-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4,700 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 147.4-156.9 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 231.7-241.2 x 81.2 x 75.3-75.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.4 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 18-20/21-23/19-21 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 169-187/147-160 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.91-1.01 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. December 2018