Getting to know the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado.

Getting to know the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado.

July 13, 2020 0 By Ray Bohacz

Completely redesigned last year… does “Like a Rock” still apply?

Author’s note: The FMD test Silverado was optioned with the upscale High Country trim package. Most potential agricultural buyers who plan to use the truck as a work vehicle would not choose that package. This road test will look beyond that. The Silverado High Country will be evaluated on its worthiness as a pick-up truck to serve the agricultural community and not as a luxury personal use vehicle.

A road test of a pick-up truck for the agricultural community cannot be written without recognizing the deeply rooted loyalty in rural America. Contrary to what other truck brands may claim, or more accurately, wish for, the bond is most durable between Chevrolet and Ford owners.

Both companies have earned over 100 years of kinship with farm families. For many, Century Farm status is about land ownership but is intrinsically linked to the trucks that partnered with them.

For the 2019 model year, General Motors completely redesigned the Silverado line (along with its sibling, the GMC Sierra).  The parts of the truck that are not new were highly massaged and tweaked to raise the bar in performance against the competition.

The question that needed to be asked is, will the updated Silverado still function as a farm or ranch truck? Or did its focus change from work partner to city slicker?

Our Havana Brown Metallic with Jet Black leather upholstery High Country was a four-wheel-drive crew cab configuration that will answer that question.

The mechanicals

The test truck was fitted with the 5.3-liter ECOTECH 3 V-8 and the Hydra-Matic 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission. An optional 6.2-liter V-8 engine is offered.

Both are equipped with the GM Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) technology.

This system allows the number of cylinders operating to be varied based on engine load. It accomplishes this by disabling the valves via the lifter. 

The following is what General Motors told the FMD.

The cylinder deactivation technology enables the engine to operate in 17 different cylinder patterns to optimize power delivery and efficiency.

“General Motors first introduced its Active Fuel Management (AFM) cylinder deactivation system in 2005. Dynamic Fuel Management is a natural progression of the technology,” said Jordan Lee, Small Block chief engineer. “Dynamic Fuel Management enables only the cylinders needed to deliver the power you want, seamlessly delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy.”

Compared to Active Fuel Management, which alternates between eight- and four-cylinder modes, DFM features 17-cylinder patterns. That higher authority mixes cylinder patterns constantly to optimize efficiency and power delivery at all speeds.

During an industry-standard test schedule, the Silverado 2-WD with the 5.3L V-8 and DFM operated with fewer than eight active cylinders more than 60 percent of the time, 9 percent more than a comparably equipped outgoing model with AFM.

DFM is powered by a sophisticated controller that continuously monitors every movement of the accelerator pedal. It runs a complex sequence of calculations to determine how many cylinders are required to meet the driver’s requested torque. It can make this determination 80 times per second.

An electromechanical system deactivates and reactivates all 16 of the engine’s hydraulic valve lifters, controlling valve actuation. The system uses solenoids to deliver oil pressure to control ports in the lifters, which activate and deactivate the lifter’s latching mechanisms.

When a cylinder is deactivated, the two-piece lifters effectively collapse to prevent them from opening the valves. When the cylinder is reactivated, solenoids send an oil pressure signal to the control ports on the lifters. The latching mechanism restores normal function, allowing the valves to open and close.

“The increased variability of Dynamic Fuel Management means the engine will operate more often with a reduced number of cylinders, which saves fuel across the board,” said Lee. “Better yet, the transitions are transparent. Because the system is torque-based, you’ve always got that satisfying feeling of power on demand that comes from Chevy’s Gen V Small Block V-8 engines.”

The 5.3L V-8 with DFM is SAE-certified at 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque and is gasoline direct-injected.

The 6.2Lwith DFM — the most significant and most potent gas V-8 in the segment — is SAE-certified at 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque.

The new Hydra-Matic transmission features enhancements designed to improve shift quality and a new centrifugal pendulum absorber torque converter. It reduces vibrations to improve smoothness, particularly during cylinder deactivation events.

Both engines are built at General Motors’ Tonawanda Engine Plant in Buffalo, New York.

Our subject truck was assembled at the award-winning Roanoke (Ft. Wayne), Indiana facility in the heart of the Corn Belt.

The rear axle ratio is 3.23:1 and included an automatic locking design. The transfer case is the GM AUTOTRAC with two-speeds.

I was impressed to see that a 170-ampere alternator was part of the engine package and an advanced variable volume, variable pressure, engine oiling system.

A smart charging system is also employed that infinitely controls the alternator output.

The GM STABILITRAK enjoys trailer sway control and a hill-start assist program.

Driving impressions

The images in this primer were supplied by Chevrolet since the week that the Silverado was on the Bohacz Farm, was met with rain, snow, and ice. Not perfect photography weather.

Early the next morning, after picking up the High Country, an empty 275-gallon IBC tote was loaded into the bed. The Chevy would be tasked to make two back-to-back round trips to my AgroLiquid dealer, The Mill, in Maryland, to pick up both my planter and broadcast fertility program.

As with other current pick-up trucks, the Silverado’s higher ride height makes loading heavy or bulky items more complicated than they need to be. In contrast, I can pack a tote in my 2002 Ford Ranger very easily by myself… not so with the Silverado. I got it in, but the task is much harder for one person than with my old Ford.

On the plus side, the Silverado is fitted with 12 fixed tie-downs, and the factory Durabed spray-in liner meant that things would not be moving around too much.

I cannot see how there would be any load that could not be appropriately secured, efficiently, and quickly with the abundance of tie-down hooks.

The body redesign is subjective, but I liked the square cut and blunt front end. I found it did not offer a defined point to where the truck body ends, making it more difficult until you get used to it. You tend to look out over the horizon instead of the relation of the vehicle to an obstacle.

Within one mile of the farm, I was on I-80 heading west into Pennsylvania to pick up I-81 through the mountains and eventually I-83 to Maryland. Though not the Rocky Mountains, I-81 offers some steep and long grades that are a good test for an engine and transmission, especially when the tote is filled on the way back.

Once on the highway, it does not take long to recognize the excellence that GM achieved in moving the air over the Silverado’s body. The truck is extremely quiet and devoid of any wind noise, even with the large towing-style mirrors hanging out in the breeze. This prompted me at a rest stop to study the truck’s body more than I did the evening before.

It became quickly apparent that the silence I was enjoying was the result of extreme attention to a reduction in the coefficient of drag… this thing spent countless hours in the wind tunnel, and it shows.

The ride was extremely compliant on smooth roads. As I have seen with other modern pick-ups, that quickly disappears with a series of quakes, shudders, and trembles over rough pavement. As an engineer, I recognize that it is tough to balance load capacity and unladen ride quality.

My prejudice was amplified because the test vehicle was a $61,000.00 luxury and an intended personal use pick-up truck. I would have been more forgiving if it were a work truck package.

The 5.3L V-8 and 10-speed automatic transmission can only be described with one word, outstanding. I am a stickler for drivetrain performance, smoothness, throttle response, idle quality, and other attributes. Try as I may, I could not critique one aspect of this combination.

Working in concert with the advanced aerodynamics, the driveline returned 27.1 mpg on the way down to Maryland at a legal 65 mph.

The truth be told, I did have some angst about the High Country’s ability to carry the load back to the farm though.

Would the truck have the bumper practically on the ground when the tote was full? Would it become light in the front end? The driveline that so impressed me on the way down, would it disappoint once it was put to the task? Well… that was soon to be seen.

With the Chevy backed under the filling station, Tim Hushon set the controls to create the 9-way mix of Agro Liquid products, which would go into my planter, 265 gallons worth.

I am proud to report that the Silverado laughed at it. The body hardly moved… it simply did not care. The hallmark of a real farm truck!

Back on the road, the Chevy continued to impress. The chassis handled the load as if it were a week’s worth of groceries. The little 5.3 V-8 pulled the mountains as if the truck were empty, never once coming out of 10th gear while returning just shy of 26 miles for every gallon of 87 octane E-10 in the tank. The DFM system was totally imperceptible.

I must use an engineering term to describe this drivetrain… it is a HONEY!


This is what I liked:

  • Excellent drivetrain
  • Seamless integration of advanced engine control logic
  • Acceptable service and maintenance access to the engine
  • Aerodynamics and quiet cabin
  • Superb build quality
  • True farm use payload capacity
  • Fuel economy

This what I did not like:

  • Hard to judge where all areas of the body end
  • High load (lift) height
  • Dashboard too busy and complicated
  • The owner’s manual is 498 pages.

This is what I nitpicked:

  • Jittery ride unloaded
  • Interior materials on the High Country not up to the price
  • I feel the DFM system will be very maintenance sensitive due to its complexity.

A few years back, the Chevrolet pick-up truck celebrated its 100th birthday.

Based upon putting 1,100 miles on the 2020 Silverado in a farm work setting in two days… if the good Lord does not return before then… there will be 2120 Chevy pick-ups working alongside America’s farmers and ranchers.

No higher compliment can be paid.

Well done, Chevrolet!