Cheap Thrills: Driving Chevrolet's $45,000, 420-hp 2020 Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss Side Profile

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

By Aaron Bragman

Earlier this year, something interesting showed up in my driveway: a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 double-cab pickup truck in basic Custom Trail Boss trim. I opened the door and was somewhat astonished to find an interior with fewer frills than a coach seat on JetBlue: cloth bench seats, a dinky 7-inch multimedia screen, no steering wheel audio controls, semi-automatic single-zone air conditioning and vinyl floors. A quick check of the window sticker confirmed it: $45,510 as tested, including destination fee. But then I dug a little deeper and saw it had the optional 6.2-liter V-8 engine making 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque. That’s when it dawned on me what I was sitting in. This was the least-expensive off-road-spec Silverado you can buy with the biggest engine Chevy offers. 

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 6.2-Liter Engine Badge

The truck was a big, black 4x4 pickup in Chevy’s top off-road specification, sporting Trail Boss styling, chunky tires on blacked-out wheels, blacked-out trim and the Z71 Off-Road Package — it was a proper bad-ass rig. 

Related: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gives You More Powertrain, Towing Options

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss Rear Wheel

It has all the essentials any off-road truck owner could want: the Trail Boss trim that comes with  a 2-inch lift, Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac off-road tires and the Z71 Off-Road Package with monotube shocks, skid plates, electronic hill descent control and heavy-duty air filter. This also meant part-time four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case, an automatic locking rear differential, trailer-tow package, power adjustable heated mirrors, red tow hooks and more. It also had a spray-in bedliner, SiriusXM satellite radio and a Custom Convenience Package that added remote start, rear window defroster and a locking EZ Lift tailgate. But in order to keep costs down, it comes wrapped in the double-cab configuration, not the larger, more expensive crew cab, and it sticks with the lesser Trail Boss trim: Custom Trail Boss instead of the pricier LT Trail Boss. 

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The result is an immensely capable, perfectly comfortable, minimally-but-still-usefully equipped off-road truck for well below what one would expect to pay in these days of super-expensive rigs. I wasn’t able to take this example off-road, but I’ve driven similar versions in the dirt and can attest to their excellent capability. On-road, the package is civilized and eminently usable as a daily driver, thanks in no small part to the Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires that deliver a successful mix of off-road ability because they’re chunky and blocky for good rock and mud traction, and relatively quiet on-road comfort thanks to soft tread blocks with siping for icy weather traction. But Chevy’s chassis and vehicle dynamics engineers are also largely responsible for just how good the Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss is in just about any condition. It’s as nimble as a full-size truck can be, with excellent body control and acceptably accurate steering, and the high-riding off-road suspension isn’t harsh or unpleasant at all.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss Dashboard
 

The interior is frankly what I expected to see for the latest Silverado — cheap-looking — but given the off-road nature and low trim level of this model, it seems more acceptable here than in other Silverados I’ve driven. The vinyl floors, basic black plastics, tough-feeling cloth seats, all of it actually adds to the rugged rough-and-tumble attitude of this inexpensive Trail Boss model. The shallower backseat legroom in this double cab is noticeable versus a full-size crew cab’s spaciousness, but it’s still decently comfortable for full-size adults.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss Backseat
  

So why is Chevrolet showcasing this $45,000 off-road truck instead of something more luxurious and expensive? To make a point: The Custom Trail Boss trim with the optional 6.2-liter V-8 is at least $3,120 less expensive than a minimally-equipped 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel V-8 4x4, and features 25 more horsepower, two extra gears in its transmission and a 1-inch-higher lift to its suspension. 

And for 2021, Chevy announced that previously optional equipment will now be standard on the Custom Trail Boss, such as the $800 Custom Convenience and $275 Infotainment packages that include the EZ Lift power lock and release tailgate, LED cargo lights in the bed, remote start, satellite radio and OnStar concierge service. The base price of the truck increases by just $725, making the new starting price for a 2021 Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss double cab 4x4 with the 6.2-liter V-8 $44,890 including destination versus $44,165 for the 2020 model. The 2021 model also will include the Safety Confidence Package as standard, adding forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, steering wheel audio controls and a 4.2-inch driver information center in the gauge cluster, boosting the Custom Trail Boss’ value proposition even further.

What the Ram 1500 Rebel does deliver that the Chevy Silverado does not is a quality interior that feels well beyond the truck’s price. While the two may match up well in terms of capabilities, equipment and value, the Rebel still has the edge in just how nicely done the interior is. That said, if you’d rather put your own personal stamp on the interior, or prefer the more rugged look of the Chevy to the posher style of the Ram Rebel, your preference might sway you otherwise. But Chevy’s bargain-basement monster truck presents a very compelling case for consideration.

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