First Look: Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss

2019 chevrolet silverado trailboss
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss features a two-inch suspension lift for improved offroad performance.Chevrolet

Like most truck manufacturers nowadays, General Motors conducted market research before it embarked on a redesign of the popular Silverado full-size pickup line. “What we learned,” said Tim Herrick, executive chief engineer of full-size trucks at a preview of the new line in Wyoming, “was that our customers wanted more custom choices.”

In other words, the one-size-all mentality wasn’t going to fly.

That's why the 2019 Silverado is now available in eight models with six different engine/transmission combinations. Last week I wrote about the High Country trailer-towing package. This time around I'll focus on the Trail Boss.

This model adds offroad equipment to the LT package, consisting of a two-inch suspension lift and the Z71 Off Road Package (locking rear differential, skid plates, Rancho shocks, 18-inch wheels, and Goodyear Duratec offroad tires). The 4x4 model I drove was equipped with the 5.3 EcoTec V8 with an eight-speed transmission. It also had a two-speed Autotrac transfer case, which makes shifting between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive easy.

The engine uses what GM calls Dynamic Fuel Management. The system monitors the movement of the accelerator pedal and then calculates just how many cylinders are required to deliver the required torque. The idea is to provide the needed power to go up and over a steep mountain pass (or tow a boat or negotiate tough terrain), but then disengage cylinders when full power isn’t needed. Doing so helps you save on fuel costs. In my day-long drive, which included steep passes in the Teton Range and some offroading, the transitions were seamless.

When I got to the offroad course I was joined by Aaron Pfau, a chassis control development engineer. As we entered the course, I asked him, “Just what makes the Trail Boss special for offroad hunters and fisherman?”

“The Trail Boss edition gives you a two-inch lift for improved ground clearance,” he said. “A revised front-end approach angle also improves ground clearance. Our team has done extensive offroad testing with the truck, and though it’s not intended to be a hard-core dedicated offroad vehicle, it has a lot of valuable features that help it perform at a high level both on and off the road.”

In my experience, an extra inch or two of lift is really beneficial. You don’t need a massive lift with huge, oversize tires to get to a deer stand or a waterfowl blind. Sometimes it’s the last couple of hundred yards that are the most difficult, and that’s where you get hung up. In that case, park the truck before you get stuck, unload your gear, and walk in.

Pfau agrees. “For most guys, this two-inch lift is just the ticket. And we have something else as well. If you opt for the vehicle with a single-speed transfer case, we will give you what we call Terrain Mode. It uses active braking to emulate the low-speed traction of a two-speed system. It’s mildly aggressive. Essentially, you can get similar or the same throttle resolution that you would in four-low, but without, obviously, the torque multiplication.

“We also have three different levels of Terrain Mode. There’s an aggressive mode for dealing with a demanding offroad trail as well as a much lighter mode, which would be ideal for pulling a boat trailer off a launch ramp. All of this is controlled from a button on the dash that takes the place of the four-low button. When you’re in four high, just press the button and enter the mode.”

At this point, as we were crawling over some rocks, Pfau asked me, “Notice anything else?”

“Yes,” I said. “I can’t believe how quiet the cab is.”

“That’s by design,” he said.

Turns out customer research indicated Silverado owners wanted improved interiors as well, including better insulation from road, engine, and exhaust noise.

Lastly, given that pickup trucks are supposed to be able to haul a lot of gear, Chevy made a number of improvements to the bed, including increasing the cargo volume by 20 percent and installing more tie-downs. There are now 12 fixed tiedowns that can handle up to 500 pounds each as well as nine moveable tie points for more cargo flexibility. The tailgate is also available in four versions—a standard manual gate; a standard gate with lift assist, a gate with lift assist and automatic release, and a power up/down gate.

The list price for the Trail Boss is $48,300. If you’d like to go whole hog on accessories such as an 8-inch color touchscreen, front bucket seats, and a sliding rear window (just to list three such options), the price moves up to just over $54,000.