How Does the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Compare Against The Ram 1500 Rebel?
It's no longer enough for full-size trucks to offer a set of off-road options. These days, if you want to be competitive with the 4x4 crowd a truck has to also deliver a special trim level devoted to fans of fun on the trail. So it goes with the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado, which only last year received its Trail Boss model to compete against the longer-standing Ram 1500 Rebel. Several steps below Ford's Raptor, but rising above the Z71 Off-Road package, the Trail Boss, further slices the Chevy truck situation into another specialized segment.
How much of an improvement does the Trail Boss make over the Silverado's more affordable off-road kit, and is it still a reasonable compromise in daily driving? And just how well does the Silverado Trail Boss compete against the established Ram Rebel? I spent a week behind the wheel to find out the answers to these questions.
Two Trims, Both Boss
The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss is actually split across two models of its own. That being said, the differences between the Custom Trail Boss and the more expensive LT Trail Boss don't have much to do with their off-road prowess.
Each Trail Boss truck comes with recovery hooks, a hill descent control system, a locking rear differential, a two-inch lift, Rancho monotube shock absorbers, and skid plates. Standard tires are 32-inch mudders wrapped around 18-inch rims, but you can also snag 33-inch tires with 20-inchers if you want.
The real differences between the Custom and the LT boil down to practicality and comfort. Specifically, the Custom can be had in crew or double cab configurations (both four-door), while the LT is crew-only. Crew trucks get a choice between 6.5-foot and 5-foot beds as opposed to the double cab's 5-footer, so that will be important for those who need to haul when not playing in the mud on the weekends.
Power is also a consideration. The Custom features the Silverado's base 285hp 4.3L V6 as standard equipment, with the LT gaining a 355hp 5.3L V8. Both trucks can be configured to swap in a 6.2L V8 instead, and like the smaller eight-cylinder comes with a 10-speed automatic versus the six-speed found in the V6. This was the engine offered in my tester, which further incorporated the Performance Upgrade package to push out 435hp and 439 lb-ft of torque (thanks to a catback exhaust and cold air intake).
You can also toss in a ton of features like automatic climate control, a larger infotainment screen, a better stereo, and a trailering package when you move up to the LT Trail Boss, which has better access to Chevrolet's options list.
How does all of this compare to the Z71 Off-Road package? For one, you can slap a Z71 decal on a much wider range of Silverado trim levels, with almost every model from base to range-topping High Country eligible for its goodies.
While it might not be quite as hardcore as the Trail Boss setup, the Z71 is still nothing to scoff at. It too gains Rancho shocks (although a twin-tube design), as well as more rugged coils. Hill descent control and skid plates are also present and accounted for, but you're looking at smaller 18-inch all-terrain tires (20-inches on LTZ editions). Even the locking differential can be had on LT and RST trucks equipped with Z71, which is optional elsewhere.
The biggest difference between the two off-road setups? The wheels and tires, the shocks, and the versions of the Silverado on which each can be ordered.
Things are a lot simpler when ordering the Ram 1500 Rebel, which is a single trim that provides full access to Mopar's light truck engine portfolio, including a 305hp V6, a 395hp V8, or a 3.0L turbodiesel V6 that's good for 480 lb-ft of torque.
Surprisingly, Ram even offers a two-wheel drive Rebel for those with pre-runner aspirations, and inverts the Silverado's bed options by giving the longest option to the extended cab and the shortest to the crew. An eight-speed automatic is included across the board.
Power might be down for the Rebel versus the 6.2L Trail Boss, but it pulls away when it comes to some aspects of its off-road gear. An adjustable air suspension is available, allowing for greater control over the pickup's ride height, but if you opt for Bilstein shocks they come with an external reservoir, which is a more hardcore offering than the Ranchos found on the Silverado. Bilstein-equipped trucks gain a single inch lift kit, but they match the Trail Boss with a locking rear differential, a full complement of skid plates, 33-inch tires as standard gear (with 18-inch wheels), and a hill descent control system.
As with the Silverado, much of this equipment can be had on other versions of the Ram by way of the Off-Road package.
On the spec sheet it's a question of give and take, with the Ram providing a more sophisticated suspension and the option of a diesel drivetrain, and the Silverado coming through with the mightiest V8 engine. Price-wise it's also a bit tough to compare the two trucks due to the Trail Boss spreading across two trim levels, the Ram's two-wheel drive model, and the way all of that affects engines, features, and MSRP. Nicely-equipped, however, four-wheel drive versions of both trucks are going to hover around the $50,000 mark.
Considering the intangibles sees the Ram 1500 Rebel gain a more significant advantage. While the Silverado LT Trail Boss is well-behaved around town, its less sophisticated leaf spring suspension bounces the back end much more noticeably over rough pavement, particularly at higher speeds, compared to the Ram's coils/air shocks. The more rigid tuning of the Chevrolet is partially to blame for its less-pleasing day-to-day manners, with the Ram exacting less of a toll.
In the muck, both trucks acquit themselves well, although each is large to the point where tight trails means lots of slaps from branches and the occasional no-go around a sharp corner. These big, hefty trucks are better suited to pound down poorly-maintained gravel roads and slippery fields than dipping through mud pits or climbing rocks. The knobby tires that make this possible also contribute to considerable road noise when you've returned to the road.
The Silverado feels faster than the Ram thanks to its excellent 6.2L V8, but it's not quick enough to escape its lackluster cabin.
Everything you need is there, and all controls fall easily enough to hand, but the Rebel's interior offers a much nicer overall presentation, especially when it comes to infotainment (with a massive 12-inch vertically-oriented touchscreen), and the materials found throughout.
Rebel Is The True Boss
Head-to-head, the Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss has a hard time overcoming the attention to detail in the Ram 1500 Rebel's passenger compartment, as well as the smoother, better-controlled ride that it has to offer. Mechanically, the Chevy's 6.2L engine is superior to the Ram's old-in-the-tooth Hemi in a straight line, but the external reservoir shocks found with the Rebel help to even out the gap when it comes to full-throttle shenanigans anywhere other than asphalt.
While the Ram 1500 Rebel might be the better overall truck, keep in mind, too, that unless you plan on seriously flogging either truck, the off-road packages offered on both the Silverado and the Ram will get you 80 percent of the way there for considerably less money when it's time to roll on into the dirt.
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