Google Assistant-powered cabin tech
Last year’s 8-inch display and physical gauges have been replaced by the massive 13.4-inch Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster. The entire dashboard has been reshaped around these larger screens, but the Silverado manages to keep nearly all of its physical controls for climate, volume and various other functions intact.
Chevrolet Infotainment 3 is based on Android Automotive OS and integrates various Google services, such as the Google Play app store and Google Assistant voice commands. Android Automotive OS is different from the more common Android Auto. The latter runs on your phone and is projected to the dashboard’s display; Android Automotive OS is baked into the hardware and uses the vehicle’s onboard OnStar Services connection for data, so it works even if you leave your phone at home. Of course, wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity are still supported, which is great for multiple users who share a vehicle, prefer Apple’s software, or just don’t want to fuss with setting up various user accounts.
Speaking of user accounts, the system works best when you’re logged into Google, which you can do directly on the touch display. The login process is similar to setting up an Android account for the first time and even supports two-factor authentication via SMS, authenticator app, a notification sent to an Android phone or, most surprisingly, even hardware security keys via the Silverado’s USB ports. Once logged in, users can opt to give Google access to your location and data for destination suggestions, personalized reminders and other functions. You can also set a PIN to secure that private information from other drivers.
Logging into the system also grants access to Google Maps, which is the primary onboard navigation app for the Silverado. This syncs recent and saved locations, contacts and more automatically. Map and traffic data are pulled from the cloud, but can be cached offline just like the familiar phone app. The system will automatically download and periodically update map data for areas that you frequently drive, like near your home or office, or you can manually download street data for off-the-grid areas where you plan on driving.
One of the core benefits of baking Android into the dashboard is installing applications from the Play Store. This is a curated version of the Store showcasing vehicle-appropriate media apps, such as music, news and podcast players. Apps can be downloaded and stored onboard, appearing in the list of audio sources alongside satellite radio, terrestrial radio, Bluetooth and USB media for easy access.
In the same way that Google Maps serves as the primary navigation software, Google Assistant handles all of the Silverado’s voice command functions. The software works with or without a data connection — though it’s able to handle much more complex, natural voice commands when connected to the cloud — with either the tap of a steering wheel button, the Google Assistant icon that’s persistent on the left edge of the touchscreen, or by speaking the “Hey, Google” command. Google Assistant can be used to initiate phone calls, send text messages, set destinations for navigation, access Google Home smart devices and control many of the Silverado’s creature comforts. Just say, “Hey, Google, set the temperature to 69 degrees” or “listen to 88.5 FM.”
The Google Assistant integration is so cleverly thought out that, if the cabin fans are blowing at full speed, saying “Hey, Google” will temporarily quiet them so the microphones can more clearly understand your command, resuming the previous speed when you’re finished talking. Neat.
Creature comforts and driver-assistance tech
In the Silverado’s cabin, you’ll find a standard wireless phone charger on the center console and both USB Type-C and Type-A ports on the dashboard. In the bed, there’s a 120-volt AC inverter that can power tools and small appliances. Remote start allows drivers to precondition the cabin on especially hot or cold mornings.
Upgrading to the Trail Boss Premium package ($4,000) adds leather trim, spray-on bed liner, perimeter lighting, a power lift and release tailgate and more. However, my example has the $445 Multiflex tailgate, which requires the removal of the power option. Heated seats are standard and my example should have featured a heated steering wheel, but supply chain shortages meant that it shipped without it. Chevy includes a $25 credit for the trouble with a provision for a retrofit once parts stock returns to normal levels.
The Chevy Safety Assist driver-aid suite is also standard for 2022. That gets you automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and a following distance indicator. However, opting for the aforementioned Premium package steps the game up with a surround-view camera system, rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking and pedestrian alert, and helpful trailering features, including a hitch-view camera, hookups for a dedicated trailer camera and extended blind-spot monitoring that covers the length of a trailer.
Buyers can also spec adaptive cruise control as a $500 a la carte option. It works remarkably well with the lane-keeping system, which is surprising on a vehicle this large with a lifted suspension. Adaptive cruise works in stop-and-go traffic and does an excellent job maintaining a consistent distance at low and moderate speeds. It can even smoothly handle drivers cutting in without jerky braking. Sadly, the Trail Boss is not available with General Motors’ new Super Cruise hands-free highway assist system; that top-spec tech can only be had on the High Country trim.
Duramax 3.0-liter turbodiesel
The Trail Boss comes standard with four-wheel drive but can be optioned with any engine available for the 2022 Silverado — that includes the 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V8s, and even the 2.7-liter turbo four-cylinder. My example has the 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel I6 under the hood mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This inline six-cylinder makes 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That’s the lowest horsepower of the available engines, but it ties with the 6.2L V8 for the most torque. That said, the turbodiesel delivers torque much more linearly, peaking at just 1,500 rpm versus the gasoline engine’s 4,100 rpm.
The increased curb weight of the beefier block technically lowers the maximum trailer rating by 100 pounds versus the big V8, but it’s still a respectable 9,000 pounds in total. Payload, on the other hand, is up 200 pounds to 2,385. Cranking out max torque so close to idle, the diesel is still the preferred engine for more relaxed and efficient trailering of heavy loads. Its performance should also give the diesel an advantage for low-ratio rock and trail crawling.
The EPA estimates the diesel’s fuel economy at 21 mpg combined, breaking out to 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. I averaged 21.3 mpg during my nearly 250 miles of easy highway testing. That’s a touch short of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s 24 mpg combined, but also better than the gasoline-only Ford F-150 Tremor’s 18 mpg combined figure.
Like a boss
The Trail Boss has a number of enhancements over the Silverado LT, including chassis, suspension and rolling stock upgrades aimed at making it more off-road ready. That starts where the rubber meets the road with standard 18-inch wheels wrapped with LT275/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac mud-terrain tires. Optional 20-inch wheels are available, but that feels more like a Trail Middle-Manager than a Boss.
Ground clearance is boosted with a 2-inch lift on Z71 off-road monotube shocks, while the undercarriage receives protection in the form of standard skid plates. The 4×4 system upgrades with an auto-locking rear differential and an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case. Hill-descent control helps keep the shiny side up when coming down from a big climb. The Trail Boss also features a heavy-duty air filter that should last longer in dusty conditions and, of course, bright red recovery hooks.
The Silverado’s solid axle rear suspension is very truck-ish and bouncy over uneven surfaces, but pretty decent steering feel and a surprisingly street-friendly tune on the lifted dampers make for an even and comfortable ride around town and on the highway. Road noise from the knobby rubber is noticeable enough that I probably wouldn’t pick this spec as a dedicated commuter, but not so much that it’d be a deal-breaker for weekend warrior types. Overall, the Trail Boss’ off-road upgrades don’t compromise too much in the way of daily livability.
Pricing and competition
The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss 4WD starts at $53,695 including a $1,695 destination charge. With the diesel engine, premium package and a handful of upgrades, the as-tested price climbs to $63,070. That’s quite a bit more than the cheapest $36,395 regular-cab WT base model, but also a fair bit cheaper than the $72,870 High Country we tested earlier this year.
More importantly, the Silverado is less expensive than a comparably equipped Ram 1500 Rebel with its diesel engine (around $66,030 with options). The Ford F-150 Tremor is even more expensive at around $70,005 comparably equipped, and it isn’t available with a diesel. That said, Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is a peach of a petrol power plant and, for around $1,995 more, the Tremor can also be had with BlueCruise, Ford’s hands-free answer to Super Cruise — a feature even Trail Bosses must live without.
Even die-hard fans of the Bow Tie badge will want to at least test drive the Ford — but don’t dismiss the Chevy too soon. The updates to the cabin and, more importantly, the Google-powered dashboard tech make the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss a more competitive pickup than ever before for light off-road and daily driving duties.