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First Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 2.7L

Can a small engine really power a big truck?

by on Nov.19, 2018

The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado features a new 2.7-liter turbo four with cylinder deactivation.

It takes a big engine to make a big truck owner happy — or so went the conventional wisdom among full-size pickup manufacturers until recently.

That strategy has been changing rapidly, in large part reflecting the arrival of some surprisingly peppy, albeit downsized, turbocharged powertrain packages, such as those from Ford’s EcoBoost family. More than half of all F-150s now go out the showroom door with a six under the hood. Now, we’re beginning to see not only competitive V-6 options, but even four-cylinder alternatives, such as the new 2.7-liter Chevrolet is unleashing with the arrival of the 2019 Silverado.

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An engine of that size, with or without a turbocharged kick, might have seemed entirely unlikely just a few years ago, but a day of driving the Silverado 2.7L through the desert badlands outside Phoenix last week proved that big things really can come in small packages.

We should pause here to point out that despite their displacement, the new Chevy powertrain is not meant to go up against Ford’s own 2.7-liter EcoBoost. That’s a six, for starters, and a high-revving six that is meant to compete with the most powerful V-8 you can get in an F-150. It also carries a hefty premium while the 2.7 liter Chevy offering is a turbo-four and replaces the old 4.3-liter V-6 the bowtie brand used in its base Silverado.

The Silverado 2.7L can tow up to 7,200 pounds in certain configurations.

(GM adds Silverado ZH2 to military-ready line-up. Click Here for the story.)

It helps that the full-size truck has undergone a complete makeover for 2019. And, though Chevrolet decided not to mirror Ford by switching over to an “aluminum-intensive” body, engineers still managed to put the new Silverado on a serious diet, shaving off as much as 450 pounds, depending on the version. The 2.7L comes in at 380 pounds lighter than the prior-generation truck with the V-6.

(The GMC side of the family follows the same course with the 2019 Sierra. And that truck will eventually get the new 2.7-liter turbo, as well.)

The new engine is offered in two trim packages, the Silverado LT and RST. And lest you think buyers will be sacrificing much of what a full-size truck is expected to do, a look at the specs reveal it’s a surprisingly competent offering. The turbo engine musters 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque, pushing power through an eight-speed automatic to all four wheels. It’ll get you to 60 in a not-shabby 6.8 seconds – about 0.5 seconds faster than the old V-6 – while delivering an EPA-rated 20 mpg City, 23 on the Highway.

It’s not the most fuel efficient small engine gas package, however, that credit claimed by the V-6 version of the also new-for-2019 Ram 1500, which gets 20 in the City and 25 on the Highway. And Chevy’s own 5.3-liter V-8 actually gets one mpg more on the Highway, though its combined rating falls behind by 2 mpg.

The interior of the new Silverado 2.7L gets a significant update for the 2019 model year.

What’s more impressive is that this long-stroke engine delivers its full torque from just 1,500 RPMs all the way up to 4,000.

(Click Here for more about truck sales leading GM to quarterly profitability.)

Chevy engineers had to get creative to pull it all together. The turbo may be aimed at relatively base-level buyers, but it boasts some impressive technologies. That includes variable-valve timing, and a dual-volute turbocharger. We’ll skip the full technical details but it works something like the twin-scroll technology used on some other engines, smoothing things out to minimize turbolag and make the engine more responsive to driver input.

The 2.7L also makes use of cylinder deactivation, allowing it to operate – hard as it might seem – on just two cylinders when power demands are light.

The new 2.7-liter turbo four feature cylinder deactivation, meaning its literally running on two cylinders at times.

Numbers are one thing but we’ve seen impressive data from vehicles that are just plain unpleasant to drive. Not so the Silverado 2.7L. The truck proved to have a lot of grunt when you pressed to throttle down to the floor, letting us pull off a series of sweat-free passes on twisty Arizona highways. Better yet, there was none of the hunt-and-seek problems we’ve experienced on a number of other recent vehicles that have paired advanced transmissions with relatively small engines. Even on uphill climbs the Silverado seemed to find the right gear intuitively, holding it unless and until the driver called for a burst of additional power.

As with the rest of the Silverado line-up, you’ll be able to mix-and-match cabs and beds. The downside is that to get the max out of the 2.7L – 7,200 pounds of towing capacity, with a 2,280-pound cargo load – you’ll need the Regular Cab model and, for now, it’s only available to fleet customers.

As one of the base options, any Silverado using the 2.7-liter engine will be short on luxury features, though we were nonetheless impressed with the way Chevy has upgraded Silverado across the board. It features a more refined and less generic appearance, inside and out. Functionality is likewise improved with details like the twin gloveboxes and WiFi. And if you’re willing to option up a bit you can get some useful features, such as the industry-first electrically operated tailgate.

There are plenty of new safety technologies, as well. And the big touchscreen is a lot easier to use than some competitors, especially with the big volume and tuning knobs.

(To see more about the new Chevy Silverado turbo-four nabbing the top fuel economy rating, Click Here.)

For a base price of $38,395 plus delivery fees, the new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 2.7L Turbo is likely to draw a lot of interest as it starts rolling into showrooms across the country.

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