I pitted a Ford F-150 against a Chevy Silverado in the ultimate pickup-truck showdown - here's the verdict

Ford F-150

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The King - the Ford F-150.

  • The Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado are the two most important trucks in the pickup truck-crazy US market.
  • I tested a $57,000 version of the newly redesigned Silverado and and $74,000 edition of the F-150, which was redesigned several years ago and refreshed for the 2018 model year.
  • The F-150 was more overtly luxurious, but the Silverado was a lot of truck for the money.
  • I gave the edge to the F-150, thanks to an incredibly potent, high-output turbocharged V6 engine under the hood.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

America might be widely regarded as the Land of the Car, but the truth is that pickup trucks rule the market here. Specifically, full-size pickup trucks - vehicles that occupy a vast and lucrative segment between smaller, midsize trucks and the hulking, heavy-duty haulers that are required for towing big boats and horse trailers.

For decades, the King of Trucks in the USA has been the Ford F-150. The F-Series was introduced right after World War II ended and ever since the Reagan administration, the F-Series full-sizer has been been the bestselling vehicle in America.Advertisement

Close behind - Avis to Ford's Hertz, Pepsi to Ford's Coke - is the Chevy Silverado. (And in point of fact, when sales of the Silverado and its mechanical sibling, the GMC Sierra, as combined, the General Motors' products sometimes beat out the F-150.) Brand loyalty is important; there are longtime Ford owners who wouldn't cross a gully to clamber into a Chevy cab, and vice versa.

But that doesn't mean the segment isn't ferociously competitive. Ford and Chevy have to contend not just with each other, but with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' RAM 1500, as well as backfielders such as the Toyota Tundra an Nissan Titan.

2019 Chevy Silverado

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The challenger - the Chevy Silverado.

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The point is that Ford and Chevy must keep their full-size pickups competitive, if they want to capture the millions of vehicle sales that are up for grabs every year in the US. In 2014, Ford took a big risk by revamping the F-150 to use more lightweight aluminum in its construction, to boost fuel economy. For the 2019 model year, Chevy followed with its own update to the Silverado.

I drove the new Ford back when its was rolled out, and I was impressed. For the 2018 model year, Ford refreshed the design, so although I had sampled the high-performance Raptor, I was overdue to revisit out the F-150. Ford was kind enough to loan me a well-equipped, 2019 $74,180 F-150 Limited. Meanwhile, I'd already tested a 2019 $57,000 Chevy Silverado.So who came out on top in this battle of giants? Read on to find out.Advertisement

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Up first for our consideration is the mighty Ford F-150 — the reigning king, the bestselling vehicle in the USA every year since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The champ. The legend. The icon.

Up first for our consideration is the mighty Ford F-150 — the reigning king, the bestselling vehicle in the USA every year since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.  The champ. The legend. The icon.

My Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew was very well optioned, with an added Limited package that took the price above $74,000.

My Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew was very well optioned, with an added Limited package that took the price above $74,000.
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The "Agate Black" paint job and shimmering chrome highlights gave this pickup a near-luxury vibe. As you can see, my tester came with a short bed. We generally don't get the longer box for our review vehicles.

The "Agate Black" paint job and shimmering chrome highlights gave this pickup a near-luxury vibe. As you can see, my tester came with a short bed. We generally don't get the longer box for our review vehicles.

The F-150's design refresh wasn't anything dramatic. The biggest difference are with the beefed up front grille, lending a more aggressive demeanor to America's favorite truck.

The F-150's design refresh wasn't anything dramatic. The biggest difference are with the beefed up front grille, lending a more aggressive demeanor to America's favorite truck.
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To my eye, it's all a bit heavy, but it could also be called busy. F-150 owners don't seem to mind, however.

To my eye, it's all a bit heavy, but it could also be called busy. F-150 owners don't seem to mind, however.

The Limited designation is called out on the hood.

The Limited designation is called out on the hood.
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And it gets a more subtle nod under the F-150 badging.

And it gets a more subtle nod under the F-150 badging.

Let's talk about what makes a pickup truck a pickup truck: the bed, or "box."

Let's talk about what makes a pickup truck a pickup truck: the bed, or "box."
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The short box is more than adequate for most jobs that don't involve ranching, farming, or serious construction. The bedliner protects the metal from rust and corrosion.

The short box is more than adequate for most jobs that don't involve ranching, farming, or serious construction. The bedliner protects the metal from rust and corrosion.

The powered tailgate has a useful integrated step, as well a handle to assist with climbing in and out of the bed.

The powered tailgate has a useful integrated step, as well a handle to assist with climbing in and out of the bed.
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It comes in handy!

It comes in handy!

The Limited package gives the F-150 a broad swath of chrome on the tailgate.

The Limited package gives the F-150 a broad swath of chrome on the tailgate.
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The step bumper provides access to the bed with the tailgate closed.

The step bumper provides access to the bed with the tailgate closed.

While our F-150 tester was a higher-spec than what we'll see in a minute from the Silverado, the Ford also had a 3.6-liter EcoBoost V6 engine.

While our F-150 tester was a higher-spec than what we'll see in a minute from the Silverado, the Ford also had a 3.6-liter EcoBoost V6 engine.
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Let's pop the hood and take a look!

Let's pop the hood and take a look!

This high-output variant of the 3.5-liter V6 is something: the turbocharged mill cranks out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque. That beats the 5.0-liter V8 engine by a notable margin (395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque).

This high-output variant of the 3.5-liter V6 is something: the turbocharged mill cranks out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque. That beats the 5.0-liter V8 engine by a notable margin (395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque).

Fuel economy is so-so at 17 mpg city/21 highway/19 combined. But the Raptor-grade motor yields a 0-60 mph time of just over five seconds. Acceleration is sort of staggering for a truck that weighs in at almost 5,700 lbs. and can tow 12,000 lbs.

Weirdly, I had trouble running the gas out of my tester, although I didn't take it on an extended road trip.

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The power is routed to the four-wheel-drive system by a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The power is routed to the four-wheel-drive system by a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The "Cameback Tutone" leather interior on my F-150 test truck was el primo.

The "Cameback Tutone" leather interior on my F-150 test truck was el primo.
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The front seats were heated, cooled, and exceptionally comfortable.

The front seats were heated, cooled, and exceptionally comfortable.

The F-150 has a multifunction steering wheel, leather wrapped ...

The F-150 has a multifunction steering wheel, leather wrapped ...
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... And also an analog-digital instrument cluster that can be customized to display a wide range of vehicle info.

... And also an analog-digital instrument cluster that can be customized to display a wide range of vehicle info.

The F-150's infotainment system runs on what is by contemporary standard a modest 8-inch central touchscreen.

The F-150's infotainment system runs on what is by contemporary standard a modest 8-inch central touchscreen.
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The SYNC 3 system is generally superb, with excellent navigation, easy Bluetooth device pairing, USB integration, and a SiriusXM introductory subscription. Bonus points for the wonderful Bang & Olufsen premium audio setup.

The SYNC 3 system is generally superb, with excellent navigation, easy Bluetooth device pairing, USB integration, and a SiriusXM introductory subscription. Bonus points for the wonderful Bang & Olufsen premium audio setup.

The interior is rather lovely and appointed with a few call-outs for the Limited package.

The interior is rather lovely and appointed with a few call-outs for the Limited package.
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That's real wood — and Ford didn't salvage it from a vintage Jaguar!

That's real wood — and Ford didn't salvage it from a vintage Jaguar!

As with all full-size pickups, the F-150 has oodles of storage, including this cavernous compartment under the front armrest.

As with all full-size pickups, the F-150 has oodles of storage, including this cavernous compartment under the front armrest.
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There's also a useful tray on the dashboard.

There's also a useful tray on the dashboard.

The dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with natural light.

The dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with natural light.
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Ford continues to use its coded entry buttons to lock and unlock the doors.

Ford continues to use its coded entry buttons to lock and unlock the doors.

The Limited designation appears again on the door sill.

The Limited designation appears again on the door sill.
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This step retracts once the doors have been closed ...

This step retracts once the doors have been closed ...

It completely disappears!

It completely disappears!
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The SuperCrew configuration provides limo-like seating capacity in the back.

The SuperCrew configuration provides limo-like seating capacity in the back.

One thing about this F-150 that isn't especially luxurious or high-tech: the time-tested and reliable leaf-spring rear suspension!

One thing about this F-150 that isn't especially luxurious or high-tech: the time-tested and reliable leaf-spring rear suspension!
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To summarize, the updated Ford F-150 has improved on greatness. Yes, for $72,000 the F-150 could be a bit more plush. But as a full-size pickup, it has almost no flaws. The brilliance of the high-output V6 is tough to overstate.

To summarize, the updated Ford F-150 has improved on greatness. Yes, for $72,000 the F-150 could be a bit more plush. But as a full-size pickup, it has almost no flaws. The brilliance of the high-output V6 is tough to overstate.

Now for the challenger — the Chevy Silverado. Last year, Chevy redesigned and relaunched the perennial aspirant to the full-size pickup throne in the US. Can it threaten King Ford?

Now for the challenger — the Chevy Silverado. Last year, Chevy redesigned and relaunched the perennial aspirant to the full-size pickup throne in the US. Can it threaten King Ford?
Read the review »
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My Chevy Silverado tester arrived in a "Summit White" paint job. It's the fourth generation of the nameplate, but it's a full-size pickup that can trace its lineage back to the early 1960s.

My Chevy Silverado tester arrived in a "Summit White" paint job. It's the fourth generation of the nameplate, but it's a full-size pickup that can trace its lineage back to the early 1960s.

Before we get too far along here, my Silverado 4x4 LTZ Crew Cab stickered at $57,000, well above the base work truck ($30,000) but far below the $74,000 F-150 Limited 4x4 SuperCrew. The Silverado simply wasn't as fancy.

Before we get too far along here, my Silverado 4x4 LTZ Crew Cab stickered at $57,000, well above the base work truck ($30,000) but far below the $74,000 F-150 Limited 4x4 SuperCrew. The Silverado simply wasn't as fancy.
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This Silverado isn't a huge departure from the previous generation. But with that massive grille and bow-tie badge, it retains road presence.

This Silverado isn't a huge departure from the previous generation. But with that massive grille and bow-tie badge, it retains road presence.

If I had to choose, I'd say that the F-150 wins the war of the slablike front ends, but ...

If I had to choose, I'd say that the F-150 wins the war of the slablike front ends, but ...
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... the Silverado's Camaro-esque headlights are pretty cool.

... the Silverado's Camaro-esque headlights are pretty cool.

The Silverado badging is prominent, crafted in chrome.

The Silverado badging is prominent, crafted in chrome.
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And unlike the Ford, the Silverado shouts its off-road cred.

 And unlike the Ford, the Silverado shouts its off-road cred.

My tester featured a tonneau cover.

My tester featured a tonneau cover.
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Even when I left it closed, the short bed could swallow up a six-foot Christmas tree without effort.

Even when I left it closed, the short bed could swallow up a six-foot Christmas tree without effort.

The cover folds back and is secured with these straps.

The cover folds back and is secured with these straps.
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The spray-on bedliner is a $500 extra.

The spray-on bedliner is a $500 extra.

Throwback-y Chevrolet lettering is recessed into the sheet metal.

Throwback-y Chevrolet lettering is recessed into the sheet metal.
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The Silverado's step bumper has a pair of recessed extra steps to aid in climbing into and out of the bed.

The Silverado's step bumper has a pair of recessed extra steps to aid in climbing into and out of the bed.

A closer look.

A closer look.
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So what's under the hood?

So what's under the hood?

Let's have a look. The Silverado could be outfitted with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel — or, in the case of my tester, a 6.2-liter V8.

Let's have a look. The Silverado could be outfitted with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel — or, in the case of my tester, a 6.2-liter V8.
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At full bore, the 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 horsepower with a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. That's 65 more ponies than the 5.3-liter V8 mill. It can propel the truck to 60 mph in about six seconds, sending the power through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The MPGs are actually respectable, at 16 city, 20 highway, and 17 combined.

At full bore, the 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 horsepower with a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. That's 65 more ponies than the 5.3-liter V8 mill. It can propel the truck to 60 mph in about six seconds, sending the power through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The MPGs are actually respectable, at 16 city, 20 highway, and 17 combined.

The V8 motors have a cylinder-deactivation feature that can drop the engine down to a fuel-sipping two, if all you're doing is humming along at highway speeds. (Chevy calls it "Dynamic Fuel Management.")

The Silverado gets extra points for having a good old-fashioned column shifter!

The Silverado gets extra points for having a good old-fashioned column shifter!
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The "Gideon/Very Dark Atmosphere" interior is oddly named, but still quite pleasant, if a bit on the utilitarian side.

The "Gideon/Very Dark Atmosphere" interior is oddly named, but still quite pleasant, if a bit on the utilitarian side.

The Silverado's as-tested interior wasn't as flashy as the Ford's, but most of the same features were present, including a multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Silverado's as-tested interior wasn't as flashy as the Ford's, but most of the same features were present, including a multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel.
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The Silverado's controls for adjusting the drivetrain are conveniently located to the driver's left.

The Silverado's controls for adjusting the drivetrain are conveniently located to the driver's left.

Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system is good, but the Chevy's is better. The eight-inch center touchscreen isn't huge, but it is responsive, with a few buttons and knobs to fall back on.

Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system is good, but the Chevy's is better. The eight-inch center touchscreen isn't huge, but it is responsive, with a few buttons and knobs to fall back on.

There's SiriusXM radio, plus a full array of USB and Aux ports, and even a 120-volt outlet. OnStar provides 4G LTE wifi connectivity, and as with the F-150, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.

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Again, as with the Ford, the Chevy has tons of storage.

Again, as with the Ford, the Chevy has tons of storage.

The LTZ trim level is near-luxe, but not as snazzy overall as the F-150 Limited. This is where I must point out, however, that customers who seek a more magnificent truck can move up the GMC Sierra Denali.

The LTZ trim level is near-luxe, but not as snazzy overall as the F-150 Limited. This is where I must point out, however, that customers who seek a more magnificent truck can move up the GMC Sierra Denali.
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The Silverado's cab provides plenty of room for fully grown humans in the back seat, which is a simple bench design.

The Silverado's cab provides plenty of room for fully grown humans in the back seat, which is a simple bench design.

The F-150's cabin was gorgeous, but for the price, the Silverado's was pretty premium.

The F-150's cabin was gorgeous, but for the price, the Silverado's was pretty premium.
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The Silverado also has a step runner, making ascending to either the front or rear seats much less challenging.

The Silverado also has a step runner, making ascending to either the front or rear seats much less challenging.

In summary, the Chevy Silverado is a worthy redesign of the brand's most important vehicle.

In summary, the Chevy Silverado is a worthy redesign of the brand's most important vehicle.

In my review, I assessed the new Silverado as follows:

The Silverado handles well, rides smooth, and, with a robust four-by-four system, should be able to absorb anything that an owner throws at it. The cabin is spacious, comfortable, and, in the LTZ trim, close to luxurious. Although I should highlight "close" — it could be better, and perhaps should be, as pickup-truck customers have moved far beyond using their vehicles just for work.

The infotainment system is among the best in the business, so no issues there. The addition of 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity makes the Silverado a fine family hauler, as well as a helpful multidevice hotspot on job sites.

As for all-around toughness ... well, the Silverado certainly looks and feels like you could beat the crap out of it. The styling hasn't undermined that quality. What we have here is a handsome truck.

Chevy took a conservative path with the new Silverado, and on balance, that was a wise call. Why mess with success? The big question now is whether the moderately ambitious update will be enough to keep longtime Chevy owners from flirting with Fords and Rams. It probably will, but 2019 will be the year that tells that tale.

Obviously, I couldn't find anything substantial to dislike about the Silverado. And I found plenty to enjoy.

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But the better truck is the Ford F-150!

But the better truck is the Ford F-150!

To come to this conclusion, I had to subtract all the bells and whistles from the F-150 — the price difference between the Silverado LTZ and the F-150 Limited was close to $20,000 — and focus more on basics.

By that analysis, it was actually a close call. The knock on the new Silverado is that Chevy didn't update it enough to really challenge the F-150, and as a result some buyers are being wooed by the equally new RAM 1500 (RAM's incentives are perhaps helping there).

But when I got right down to it, I decided that both the F-150 and the Silverado accomplish their missions with near-equivalent aplomb. For bed capacity and towing, both trucks match up closely. My testers each had capable four-wheel-drive systems, and while the F-150 was more lushly appointed, the Silverado wasn't bad — in fact, for $57,000, it was impressive.

I'm not a rancher or a contractor, so I can't really subject the Ford's aluminum frame to everyday tortures, but the word is that it's holding up to all manner of abuse in the field. The Silverado, as I noted in my review, also feel like you could beat it to pieces.

Tech-wise, the two trucks are neck-and-neck, but if I had to pick an infotainment system, I'd lean toward Chevy.

Sooo ... it kind of came down to the engines. The Silverado's V8 versus the F-150's turbo V6. And here's where the Ford took it. The Chevy 6.2L is a beast, but the EcoBoost 3.5L high-output is a masterpiece. You could almost say that Ford is cheating with this configuration. At no time did I think I was helming an underpowered rig.

Slight edge, then, to the Ford.

But I have to admit that for under $60,000, the new Silverado is truly bringing it. This is the type of argument that goes on endlessly in pickup-land, but for the money, in this comparison, the Silverado challenged the best F-150 on the market.