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2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Test Drive Review
Steeped in Americana, as much a part of the fabric of the country as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie, pickup trucks like the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado are designed for work, play, and everything else in between.
Full-size pickup trucks are the unofficial vehicles of the United States of America. Bristling with underhood muscle, they tow, they haul, and they look good cruising Main Street as the sun sets on a balmy Friday night.
One of the most popular vehicles in the country, the 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 follows its 2019 redesign with several updates. It continues waging war against the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 for the hearts and minds of American truck buyers. Highlights of the changes include a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder engine, greater availability of popular powertrains across trim levels, a new bed-view camera, and a camera-based adaptive cruise control system.
While these improvements certainly help to make the 2020 Silverado more appealing, they don’t address this truck’s primary flaws.
Look and Feel
Thanks to a wide range of design details—different grilles and finishes, various wheel sizes and styles, and black, body-color, or shiny bumpers—every version of the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado has a distinctive appearance.
You choose between Regular Cab, Double Cab, and Crew Cab styles, and trim levels including WT (Work Truck), Custom, LT, RST, LTZ, and High Country. Off-roading enthusiasts can add a Trail Boss treatment to the Custom or LT. The Silverado's MSRP ranges from $28,500 all the way up to $57,100, not including the $1,595 destination charge.
Given how popular off-road performance trucks are, Chevrolet provided a Silverado LT Trail Boss for this review, equipped with a previously unavailable 6.2-liter V8 engine and four option packages: Midnight Edition, Convenience Package II, Leather Package, and Advanced Trailering Package. These extras inflated the test truck’s price to $59,185, including the destination charge.
With its black paint, black wheels, and blacked-out exterior trim, our test truck had a custom appearance. But neat freaks need not apply. Impossible to keep clean, a Silverado decked out like this will require plenty of work in order to look its best. And that’s especially true if you use an LT Trail Boss for its intended purpose, which is to get muddy.
Generally speaking, I like the Silverado’s styling. Some trim treatments, wheel designs, and paint colors work better than others, but that’s true of any full-size pickup. Where Chevy needs to improve the Silverado’s aesthetic is on the inside.
Industrial in appearance, the Silverado’s cabin expresses a raw architectural strength, like the steel frames of a new building under construction. Unfortunately, Chevy conveys this using silver trim that is obviously plastic rather than metal, and the surrounding surfaces are jarringly busy due to their layered, modular nature. Even in comparison to the aged Toyota Tundra’s plastic-fantastic interior, the Silverado comes across as dated and unrefined.
Aside from leather seats, nothing about the test truck’s cabin suggested the price should be closing in on $60,000. That’s a problem when you’re asking people to pay so much money for a vehicle. Yes, the interior needs to withstand plenty of abuse and offer quick and easy cleanup, but there is a way to achieve those goals while simultaneously offering a cohesive, modern design with tight and clean panel seams and gaps.
Depending on the truck’s configuration and trim level, Chevrolet offers a choice between five different engines and three different transmissions for the 2020 Silverado.
New for 2020, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel 6-cylinder cranks out 277 horsepower at 3,750 rpm and 460 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm. The EPA reports that the diesel engine returns up to 27 mpg on the highway, but it can cost up to $6,705 extra depending on the truck's trim. With LTZ and High Country trim, the ask is relatively nominal ($2,495), making the engine a worthy alternative to gasoline.
This year, Chevrolet broadens the availability of the Silverado’s turbocharged 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, 6.2-liter V8, and 10-speed automatic transmission. One beneficiary of this change is the LT Trail Boss, and the test truck had the optional 6.2, which costs $2,495 and replaces the standard 5.3-liter V8.
Generating 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, the 6.2 is a satisfying engine that produces impressive thrust accompanied by a commanding exhaust note. Use the Autotrac 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system’s Auto mode, and the Silverado accelerates with authority, limiting potential wheelspin no matter what kind of surface you’re on.
When that surface is pavement, the LT275/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires make a whirring sound regardless of your cruising speed. They’re part of the Z71 Off-Road Package that comes standard on the Trail Boss, which also includes an off-road suspension with Rancho shocks and a 2-inch factory lift, skid plates, a locking rear differential, hill descent control, and more.
On a short but rugged trail, the LT Trail Boss worked brilliantly, its capability limited only by its size and length. This is where the all-terrain tires are most useful because on the pavement they’re somewhat limited in terms of outright grip. This trait, combined with steering response that is a beat or two behind driver input, means it is easy for the LT Trail Boss to run wide in corners and curves.
If the handling is so-so, the ride quality impresses. Plus, the truck tracks arrow straight on two-lane farm roads that stretch out ahead for miles, the V8 effortlessly lugs the Silverado up and over mountain passes, and the test vehicle averaged 16.8 mpg with Autotrac in Auto mode, coming in just under the official EPA rating of 17 mpg in combined driving.
For reference, in the fall of 2018, I reviewed a 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss with the standard 5.3-liter V8. That truck returned fuel economy of 13.8 mpg with Autotrac in 2-wheel-drive mode, but that result came while using a different testing loop. Still, I suspect that in the real world the 6.2 doesn’t work quite as hard as the 5.3. It’s the engine I recommend.
Form and Function
Equipped with leather upholstery and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with separately heated bottom and backrest cushions, our test truck proved comfortable for hours behind its heated steering wheel. That was great for me, but my wife wasn’t happy about the lack of a height adjuster for the front passenger’s seat. She felt like she sat too low in the truck and without as much thigh support as she prefers.
The Silverado Crew Cab’s back seat is positively cavernous, and while the seating position is rather low the 3-person bench seat offers impressive thigh support. Rear cushion heating is available, and passengers enjoy both USB ports and air conditioning vents. The test truck also had a power sliding rear window for added ventilation.
Storage is not a problem. Up front, the Silverado supplies dual glove compartments, a large center console bin with rails good for hanging file folders, sizable lower door panel bins, and more. In back, hidden within the rear seatback cushions, small compartments exist.
As far as hauling and towing capacity go, the 2020 Silverado 1500 is rated to haul up to 2,250 pounds of payload and 13,400 pounds of trailer, depending on the configuration. Our LT Trail Boss test truck could tackle 2,170 lbs. of payload and tow up to 11,300 lbs. with the Max Trailering Package installed. Chevy also says the Silverado’s cargo box offers more storage room than the competition thanks to its depth and high sides.
When you buy a 2020 Chevy Silverado, you’ll get a 7-inch or 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, each equipped with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Chevrolet Connected Access services, and a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. Upgrades include a high-definition display, navigation, SiriusXM 360L satellite radio, wireless device charging, and a 7-speaker Bose premium sound system.
It’s nice that Chevrolet provides so many features as standard equipment, but at this point, even an 8-inch display screen is on the smaller end of the modern technology scale. Also, the free trial periods to the features you really want, like WiFi, are exceptionally short, while Chevy provides 10 years of free remote diagnostics and maintenance prompts to get you into the dealership more frequently.
The test truck did not have navigation, so I did not run the voice recognition system through my usual list of test prompts to sample its effectiveness. The Bose sound system, which includes what Chevy says is “a Richbass woofer,” certainly does pump out plenty of bass. But it struggles to reproduce highs with as much clarity as you might like.
Carrying over from last year, the Advanced Trailering Package offers up to 15 different camera views of the hitch, the trailer, and the surroundings. It costs $250 this year but adds a trailer brake controller. The variety of viewing angles is remarkable and includes one called Transparent Trailer, which allows the driver to virtually see through a trailer.
New for 2020, a Camera Trailer Package is available for $250, including a cargo bed view camera system along with the advanced trailering system smartphone app. Additional visibility aids include a head-up display (HUD) and a camera-based rearview mirror, neither of which were on the test truck.
While a rear-seat reminder system and Teen Driver driving report card technologies are standard on the 2020 Silverado, Chevrolet needs to substantially improve its game in terms of safety.
The automaker can start by expanding its advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) to trim levels other than the LTZ and High Country. In order to get a forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, two safety features that have proven to reduce collisions, you need to pay for LTZ or High Country trim.
Similarly, those versions of the Silverado are the only ones with lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and the Silverado’s new camera-based adaptive cruise control systems. At least you can add a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warning to the Silverado LT and RST. My test truck, however, at nearly $60,000, did not include them.
One reason the ADAS needs to be more widely available is the Silverado’s imperfect crash-test ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the truck a 4-star overall rating due to 4-star performances for driver and front passenger protection in a head-on collision.
In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Silverado earned a Marginal rating for front passenger protection in a small overlap frontal-impact collision on the right side of the truck. On the left side, the rating for the driver is Good. Additionally, the IIHS says the Silverado’s headlights are Poor.
For an all-new design in 2019, these ratings are not as good as should be expected.
Rebates, incentives, and low-rate financing are common in the full-size pickup truck segment. Unless you’re getting one immediately following a redesign or choosing a low-volume, special model, you shouldn’t pay anywhere near sticker price.
With that said, sticker prices sure do seem out of line, especially for Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Ram trucks. Did you know a Ford F-150 Limited with most of the extras can cross the $75,000 mark? It’s as though these companies are baking big discounts into the pricing in order to make the deals more generous without eroding profit margin.
A loaded Silverado High Country reaches almost $72,000, but at least Chevy gives you your first scheduled service free of charge. At the same time, though, the Silverado’s short free trial periods to connected services and satellite radio are almost insulting.
Therefore, when viewed from this perspective, no, a Silverado is not cost-effective. But you might be forgetting that in large geographical regions of America, a loaded-up High Country with all of the option boxes checked is how you signal success to society. This is what many people will buy instead of a Mercedes.
Viewed in this manner, a $72,000 truck seems like a bargain. After all, that darling of gated suburban communities everywhere, the Mercedes-Benz GLS, starts at nearly $76,000 before you add so much as metallic paint or genuine leather. Factor in the Silverado’s ever-present deals, and suddenly you have a genuinely cost-effective luxury vehicle – if you don’t mind the acres of hard plastic coating the cabin.
What about when comparing the Silverado to other full-size trucks? Comparably equipped, most of them are priced in line with another, especially after factoring in the deals, and naturally, the Silverado 1500 is less expensive than the more luxury-focused GMC Sierra 1500. So, choosing the Chevy over another brand boils down to personal preference.
As a non-truck owner unaffected by the brand loyalties that run rampant in the segment, I like the Chevy well enough. But it’s not the light-duty pickup I would buy. My favorite is the 2020 Ram 1500. Your mileage may vary.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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