AutoBlog 4/9/2019 - A four-cylinder pickup truck is usually a sad-looking thing on tiny steel wheels with a lawn mower and some rakes sticking out the back. It's nothing someone aspires to. And yet, this 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Double Cab painted a brilliant red drew numerous unsolicited compliments of "Hey, nice truck" despite having a mere four cylinders taking up minimum real estate in its huge engine compartment. There's no badging on this Silverado to indicate it has the optional 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and the LT is a chrome-clad, volume-selling model — not some gardener special with a face of black plastic.
So there's no visual tell, but there sure is an audible one. At idle and start-up, this is a much quieter truck than one firing twice as many cylinders. At full throttle, it has the warbling whir of a hot hatch rather than the roar of a V8. This is more a matter of cognitive dissonance than an actual problem — you expect a truck to sound a certain way, and when it's so profoundly different, you take notice.
Once underway, though, the not-so-little four-cylinder that could mostly fades into the distance. You don't really hear the engine when cruising, but you do hear the dual-volute turbocharger, and it's odd. Almost diesel-like. Although you don't really notice yourself making tiny throttle applications to maintain speed while cruising, you will eventually notice the turbo reacting to them. Initially I thought I was suddenly driving by some songbirds, or that there was some electronic interference on my podcast, but nope, it's the turbo waste gate. At best it's unusual, at worst, it's annoying.
So why put up with it? The 2.7-liter, available in the LT and RST trims, produces 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. That output lies between the base V6 (285 hp, 305 lb-ft) and those trims' optional 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft). It can tow 7,300 pounds and has a payload capacity of 2,280 pounds. It can even hit 60 mph in an estimated 6.8 seconds, and it certainly felt that quick in our Double Cab test truck.
It's therefore difficult to doubt its capability, and thanks to having fewer cylinders, a smart eight-speed automatic and active fuel management (it can run on only two cylinders), the 2.7-liter Silverado achieves an EPA estimated 18-20 mpg city, 21-23 mpg highway and 19-21 mpg combined depending on cab and drivetrain. That's the best among non-diesel engines (such as the one eventually offered in the Silverado), and in theory, can save you an EPA-estimated $250 per year compared to a Silverado with the 5.3-liter V8, which achieves between 17 and 19 mpg combined.
On my 70-mile evaluation route that's a mix of city and highway driving, our four-wheel-drive turbo Silverado achieved 19.4 mpg. That largely confirms our specific truck's 20-mpg EPA combined figure, but a two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 with the Hemi V8 and eTorque mild-hybrid system managed 18.7 mpg on the same route. The EPA says that should get 19 mpg combined regardless of drivetrain. From this small sample size, it sure seems like a 48-volt mild hybrid system is a better way of achieving superior fuel economy without sacrificing capability than a giant turbocharged four-cylinder.