Will a Turbo Four-Cylinder Engine Be Good in a Full-Size Truck?

The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado marks the first time a 4-cylinder engine has been featured as the base engine option in a full-size pickup truck. In a market where bigger is often synonymous with better, it’s a surprising choice. While some might call the new drivetrain configuration downright ridiculous, others consider it to be an innovative decision with ample benefits to back it up.

If nothing else, most truck enthusiasts can agree that Chevrolet is keeping things interesting. Of course, curiosity isn’t enough to sell a vehicle, so you’re probably wondering if the Silverado delivers the goods, or if it’s an experiment that will be soon forgotten. Surprisingly, the turbo-4 banger holds its own but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should pick one up.

Six Powertrain Options

Chevy purists can breathe a sigh of relief—you’re not limited to the turbo-4. Recognizing the need for choice, Chevy decided to offer the 2019 Silverado in five other drivetrain configurations: a 4.3-liter V6, a 6.2-liter V8, a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder diesel, and two versions of Chevy’s classic 5.3-liter V8. Whether you’re commuting or hauling, you’ll be able to find an engine that suits your needs.

The LT and the slightly pricier, street-styled RST trims include the 2.7-liter turbo-4 standard. You have your choice of a 2X4 or 4X4 configuration. The turbo-4 delivers a surprisingly robust 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the V6 puts out 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, despite its additional two cylinders. So if you were worried about a loss of power, rest easy!

Pickup truck driving in water

How the New Engine Feels

So, how’s she drive? Better than you’re probably imagining. This new iteration of the Silverado is lighter and more agile than previous models, and the turbocharged engine really accentuates that. You can hit 60 mph in just 6.8 seconds — an impressive feat considering the old 4.3-liter V6 is slower by a second.

Now, it’s worth noting that although the turbo-4 delivers ample power for light-duty truckin’, it’s not going to fill the shoes of your V8; however, if you were planning on going for the V6, it’s absolutely worth your time to take the turbo-4 out for a test drive. You might be surprised by how focused and energetic it feels. Turbos are fun, plain and simple. If the idea of a full-sized pickup with turbo piques your interest, you’re probably not going to be disappointed.

Although the turbo-4 seems to be a success in the Silverado, you might not want to run out and replace your old truck’s V6 with one, as the 2019 Silverado has been designed and optimized with the turbo-4 in mind. Yes, Chevrolet seems to have done a remarkably good job making the seemingly-strange engine choice work, but it may struggle to keep up in a heavier truck.

The Downsides

If you’re looking for a zippy truck that’s a blast to drive, the turbo-4 should treat you right. That doesn’t make it a V6-killer, though. The V6 and V8 still have their places, especially if you plan on putting your truck to work. The V6 offers 100 pounds more towing power than the turbo-4’s 7,000-pound rating, although that number is still nothing to scoff at, all things considered.

Another aspect where the turbo-4 engine lacks is in fuel economy. It’s disappointing, as you might expect excellent efficiency from a 4-cylinder, but that’s just not the case. At 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway (2WD) and 19/22 mpg (4WD), the gas mileage isn’t terrible by any means. It’s just not the efficiency you’d hope for from a 4-cylinder. That said, the turbo-4 does offer the best fuel economy out of all of the 2019 Silverado’s available engine configurations.

When it comes to fuel-efficient cars and trucks, sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get the performance you’re seeking. There are comparable trucks that outperform the 2019 Chevy Silverado’s efficiency, regardless of which engine you choose. Ford’s F-150 with a V6 delivers an average of 26 mpg and the Dodge Ram 1500 gets 25 mpg. So, if efficiency is your first priority, you may want to look at your other pickup options.

Another important factor to consider is the additional heat produced by a turbocharged engine, especially if you live in a hot climate. While the excess heat shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, especially because you can combat high temperatures with heat shields, it’s still worth mentioning if you’re looking for a daily driver for long hauls on a regular basis.

The Final Verdict

So, should you take the plunge or stick with tried-and-true configurations? If the idea of a Chevy Silverado with a turbo-4 intrigues you even in the slightest, you owe it to yourself to take one out for a spin. Try to leave all preconceived notions at home and judge its performance just like you would with a V6. Sure, you might not win bragging rights among your big truck-lovin’ buddies, but the snappy, surprisingly powerful performance more than makes up for it.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking to haul, tow, and maybe even go off-roading, you’ll probably be better off finding something with a V6 or V8. The turbo-4 is remarkably powerful considering its size, but at the end of the day, it’s still a 4-cylinder. Think about how you use and abuse your truck, and pick your engine size accordingly.

Finally, if you’re thinking about tossing a turbo-4 into your current pickup, it’s probably best to stick with the classic configurations. While it could be a fun experiment, a 4-cylinder may not be able to power a heavier truck adequately. The 2019 Silverado is 400 pounds lighter than the previous year’s model, and the weight difference definitely helps the turbo-4 out.

In short, the 4-cylinder works for the Silverado, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for every truck. Still, Chevy absolutely deserves credit for going out on a limb and trying something new. Try it. See if you like it. If not, there are plenty of other options out there.

Author Bio:

Jordan McDowell is a writer, second amendment rights advocate, and a certified gearhead. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation. You can find him at motorcycle shows and races.