"Why don't they just make a basic truck anymore?" the rancher asked me.
I was in northwestern Arizona on vacation, but it could've been anywhere, anytime. It's a question I've answered a hundred times and an example of why I usually don't mention where I work unless someone specifically asks. It always ends up dominating the conversation.
The simple answer is that the majority of truck buyers have decided they want a minimum level of modern convenience. Truck enthusiasts wax poetic about crank windows, manual transmissions, and push-button AM/FM radios, but if that's what actually sold, they'd still be available. On the face of it, you'd think manual windows would be cheaper than powered units, but that's only true for the physical parts. When an automaker is ordering a small batch of parts, thousands instead of hundreds of thousands, the price goes up because it's a special order. Beyond that, it's an extra bin of parts that has to be transported to the factory and integrated into the assembly line, and which line workers have to be trained to install and doors have to be designed to accommodate. Put all those costs together, and it's considerably cheaper to just make power windows standard. It's the same reason manual transmissions are disappearing.
That said, basic new trucks do still exist. We just call them "work trucks" now. Yes, they come with power windows, automatic transmissions, and color infotainment screens, but they're otherwise as close to a blunt instrument as you're going to get with zero miles on the odometer. Whereas others dress them up with names like "Tradesman" or "XL," Chevrolet just calls it what it is; the "WT" in 2019 Chevrolet Silverado WT stands for "work truck."
Don't assume "work truck" means "dirt cheap," though. Today's trucks get pricey quickly, even the base models. Although it's possible to get a single-cab Silverado WT for just under $30,000 with zero options, you're likely to pay significantly more. Our tester, the kind of crew-cab long-bed you'd see in the fleet lot, rings in at about $36,500 to start and nearly $39,800 with all-wheel drive. (Note: Because the transfer case on our tester doesn't have a low-range gear, we refer to it as all-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive. True four-wheel drive with low range is available on other Silverado models.) Our truck has a couple options on it, like the Work Truck Convenience Package that includes niceties like cruise control, keyless entry, a power-locking tailgate with remote release, heated power mirrors, and a rear window defogger. Fancy stuff. We also picked up rubber all-weather floors for maximum durability. Plus, it looks better than any other Silverado, with its black, Chevrolet-stamped grille and steelies. Total cost out the door: $41,125.
Those rubber mats cover the smallest transmission hump in the segment, which means the person stuck in the middle of the front bench seat has somewhere to put their legs (though it's too bad the rear floor isn't flat like the competition). That and the standard 7.0-inch, color infotainment screen preloaded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the highlights of an interior Christian Seabaugh called "a rolling OSHA violation."
Hang on. Work trucks are supposed to have basic interiors, obviously. There's a difference between basic and bad, though, and Chevrolet came down on the side of bad. Actual park benches would make more comfortable seats than the benches Chevrolet installed in this truck. We feel sorry for any tradesperson who spends their entire shift behind the wheel of one of these. Pair the uncomfortable, unsupportive driver's seat with a steering wheel so close to the dash that even I, with my short legs, have to get up on top of the pedals to reach it comfortably, and you have a match made in a chiropractor's dream. Manual seats are fine, but these only slide and recline. You can't raise or lower them, a problem for shorter drivers because the dash is very tall and the seat is so low even 6-foot Miguel Cortina complained about it. A comfortable driving position simply does not exist.
Resigned to that, you start looking around and seeing what else you don't get. Namely: storage. Unlike work trucks from Ford and Ram, there's nowhere to put anything in the Silverado WT. There's no storage under the front middle seat, no storage in the front armrest when the middle seat isn't in use, no bins in the rear floor like in a Ram, no extra pop-out cupholders on the floor between the front seats like in a Ford, just a pair of dinky glove boxes barely big enough for more than one pair of gloves.
The cost-cutting doesn't get any better from there. One USB port for six passengers, all of whom will have cell phones they want to charge at the end of a shift, is behind the times. Taking out the steering wheel buttons and making you reach through the steering wheel rim to turn a little knob to change screens is ridiculous. Spending money on a fancy infotainment screen and saving it on speakers with all the fidelity of an '80s boom box makes no sense. If this were simply the way work truck interiors are, it would be one thing, but when Ford and Ram work trucks come standard with considerably nicer interiors, it just makes Chevy look cheap. That would be fine if it was cheaper than the other trucks, but it isn't. Instead, as Seabaugh put it, "It's a middle finger to the working stiffs who'll have this truck forced on them by penny-pinching fleet managers."
The good news is the Silverado WT excels at the one thing it's supposed to: work. Everything bad about the interior is offset by the bed, which does more than any competitor straight off the dealer lot. The extra payload space is obvious to the naked eye. The inside of the box is so wide, I can lie down sideways in the bed without bending my neck (I'm 5-foot-9). At the corners are three times as many tie-downs as any other truck on the market, making it easier than ever to secure a load. Likewise, the standard bumper corner steps and handholds make climbing in and out a breeze no matter what's in the bed, on the hitch, or hanging out the tailgate. The power-locking, remote-opening, soft-open tailgate (part of the convenience package) isn't a must-have, but you appreciate having it every time you use it.
Allowing the Silverado WT to make use of all that hauling capability is a tried-and-true 4.3-liter pushrod V-6 with all the torque Ford's and Ram's base engines are missing, and then some. It doesn't look like an earth-shattering difference on paper, but the Silverado WT gets up and moves with the slightest touch of the throttle, empty or loaded. That's great for towing and hauling, because the engine barely notices the difference. If we could just get the transmission to pay attention, we'd really have something. Alas, it leans on the engine to get everything done with torque rather than just downshifting, and when it does drop a gear, it starts hunting back and forth between the low gear it needs and the higher, more fuel-efficient gear it wants. Tow/Haul mode helps, but it isn't a silver bullet. Whatever the mode, it's all backed up by brakes that feel stronger than the truck even needs, inspiring plenty of confidence when towing or hauling.
It shows in the numbers. The Silverado WT needs a respectable 7.2 seconds to get to 60 mph and does a 15.6-second quarter mile at 88.7 mph, quicker than a base model Ford or Ram. It outgrips those trucks, too, pulling 0.77 average lateral g on the skidpad and running a 28.0-second lap of the figure eight at 0.62 average lateral g. Braking is surprisingly longer than the Ford or Ram, stopping from 60 mph in 126 feet. Just goes to show a good brake pedal doesn't always mean more stopping power.
That performance, though, comes at a cost. At 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined, it's enough to make a fleet manager run screaming off the lot. The good news is, it actually gets much better fuel economy, at least when it's not loaded. Our Real MPG team recorded 17.6/25/20.3 mpg city/highway/combined, making it almost as good as a Ford or Ram work truck's EPA-estimated fuel efficiency. The bad news is, the Ford and Ram work trucks outperform their EPA numbers, too.
Last but not least, there's the simple matter of how the Silverado WT handles itself with and without a load. Just driving to the job site, it drives like a truck. The ride is a bit brittle at times and bouncy at other times, but that's the trade you make for payload and towing capacity. Unlike other trucks, though, everything isn't automatically better when you put weight in the bed. Although weight irons out the brittleness, it exacerbates the bounciness so the rear end heaves up and down over the slightest bumps.
At the end of the day, the Silverado WT is the kind of work truck you need when you just need to get stuff done. It's not comfortable, it's not efficient, it doesn't drive that great, but it's got it where it counts. Between the torque and the do-anything bed, the Silverado WT does exactly what it's advertised to do and nothing more.
|2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 (WT Crew)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||90-deg V-6, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||OHV, 2 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||262.4 cu in/4,301 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||285 hp @ 5,300 rpm*|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||305 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm*|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.5 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs|
|BRAKES, F; R||13.5-in vented disc; 14.1-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||8.0 x 17-in steel|
|TIRES||255/70R17 112S (M+S) General Grabber HTS|
|TRACK, F/R||68.9/68.3 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||241.2 x 81.2 x 75.4 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||49.5 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,994 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||59/41%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||43.0/40.1 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||44.5/43.4 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||66.0/65.2 in|
|CARGO VOLUME, INTERIOR||48.9 cu ft|
|PICKUP BOX L x W x H||79.4 x 71.4 x 22.0 in|
|PICKUP BOX VOLUME||72.0 cu ft|
|WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES||50.6 in|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||2,006 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||SAE: 7,600 lb / VIN: 7,656 lb|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-60 (PAYLOAD) TOWING**||7.2 (8.6) 13.0|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.9|
|QUARTER MILE||15.6 sec @ 88.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.0 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,500 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$41,115|
|AIRBAGS||6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||24.0 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||17.6/25.0/20.3 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||15/20/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.15 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular|
|*SAE Certified **Payload: 722 lbs; Towing: 3,398 lbs|