Test Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Chevrolet calls this the Trail Boss. It’s maybe not as visceral as Raptor, or as charmingly rogue as the Rebel, but I knew I needed to take this one to its natural habitat. Sadly, the two-inch lift meant that it was too tall to park in my usual spot at the mall. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. I took the Trail Boss down my favorite logging roads to see how it handled working for the weekend.

You’ve already guessed that the Trail Boss is the off-road special of the Silverado. It’s available on Custom and LT trim levels, as an add on. It starts by adding the Z71 off-road pack. That one’s available on every trim of Silverado and gives Rancho shocks, hill descent control, low-range for the transfer case, automatic locking rear diff, skid plates, and a heavy-duty air cleaner. Plus stuff Chevy doesn’t really mention. Like the Z71 mats. Trail Boss gives you a 2.0-inch lift straight out of the factory floor, and 18-inch alloys with Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires. Oh, and great big trail boss stickers on the flanks of the bed.

My tester had the off-road appearance pack adding that oh so very 1990s Sport Bar on the bed, a soft tonneau covers, and a set of step bars that kinda cancel out much of the lift’s increase in height.

On the trail, the lift gives you appreciably more clearance to get over obstacles. Like rocks both big and little. Skidplates lurk under the engine and transmission and offer protection for what the lift can’t help you avoid. It’s the plates that help get you back home when your judgment wasn’t quite, well, like a boss. The tires are pleasantly aggressive for when you’re scrabbling on rocks and over gravel. Like the name says, they’re durable, too. Thanks to the rubber, you won’t need to worry quite as much about those rocks punching through and flattening your day.

On the pavement, the tires and the suspension changes make for a squishy ride. Which is why more pickups don’t come with them anymore. It goes beyond not encouraging you to throw the Trail Boss into corners. It’s squirmy over bumps, and if you hit the right combination – like say two diagonal bridge expansion joints in quick succession – things get positively squirrelly. Like two hands firmly on the wheel upset. If you’re planning on spending all of your time on the blacktop, then the Trail Boss might not be for you. It’s definitely not aimed at you.

That’s because of what the tradeoff gets you. The bouncy jouncy highway ride turns into something much more controlled when you add big body motions. Like jolting down dirt roads and potholes at speeds more like 40 mph than 65 mph highway speeds. Rugged tires mean that you’re not staring down at every single pebble on the trail when you should be more worried about your line. Or about kicking head-sized rocks up at the underbody. This is a big beast for wheeling, but it doesn’t seem to mind. You won’t get a luxury car ride when the roads turn to tracks, but you will be comfortable during off-road hijinks. Though next time I’ll bring a travel mug, because my full to-go cup from the drive-through is definitely not trail rated.

If your work is off the beaten path, then this is a great way to get truck work done. No sacrifices to towing and payload like Power Wagon and Raptor, it’ll hold 2,130 lbs in the bed and drag 12,200 off the bumper. I used it as an off-road office too. The 110-V plug in the bed (and one up front) kept my laptop charged, and the OnStar 4G LTE hotspot that worked through the truck’s built-in antennas let me work in places where my cell thought it was still 1999. I did wish for the Sierra’s MultiPro tailgate desk, but the front seat in the Silverado slides so far rearward that just about anyone should have room for a computer on their lap. And still room for another typer in the back.

The Silverado might not match the fancy interiors of the Ram and F-150, but in the case of an off-road truck like this, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The giant Z71-logo floor mats catch plenty of dirt and mud, and they’re easy to toss out the door and hose off. And the rest of the interior is hard plastic that you’re not going to worry about getting dirty. Or worry about damaging when you clean it. Getting rid of all of that spilt coffee was a snap too. The touchscreen is small, but the infotainment system is quick and responsive. And it’s on the small size, especially in this massive dash, but below it are buttons, knobs, and dials that are easy to use with all but the heaviest gloves. If you’re missing the 1990s and older pickups, then this is isn’t it but it’s as close as you’re going to get in the way of the interior.

Underhood is the 5.3L V8 and it’s linked to an eight-speed automatic. My tester came with a GM Performance exhaust system and while it sure did sound good at start-up and idle, it droned quite a bit on the highway. I’d pass on the loud pipes, and the air filter box that came with, especially with the $3,109 (CDN) price. The engine and gearbox are very responsive, and the eight-speed shifted well. There was the occasional hard shift, but nothing that was a bother. Or unusual for a transmission with this many speeds. Fuel economy on-road was better than I had expected, especially with these tires, but of course four-wheel drive and off-road lowered it about 1L/100 km.

While the Trail Boss has a low-range transfer case, and hill descent control, it doesn’t have any of the other usual suspect off-road gizmos. No terrain modes, no off-road mode, no locking diff. On the other hand, it was just fine without them.

The Trail Boss is a bit of an odd duck. The lift and ride aren’t extreme enough to let it leave trails screaming for mercy like the Raptor, or straight-out intimidate boulders into moving out of the way like Ram’s HD Powerwagon. But it’s still impressively capable on dirt and rock trails. Thanks largely to the ability of the Goodyear Duratrac tires to take much more abuse than the passenger-car like tires that now shoe most pickups and the skidplates that let you clang over rocks without worrying that you’re damaging your $70,000 truck. Well, at least not damaging it too badly. This one’s more like the boss of the trail rather than the boss on the trail. And it’s a boss that’s worked its way up through the ranks. It’ll handle trail layoffs, and delegate trail TPS reports, but it used to work a machine 9-5. It’s not afraid to get its tires dirty, but you’ll be reminded of that dirt, by way of the on-road ride, Monday to Friday.

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