Find New Roads, that’s what Chevrolet encourages the people who visit its website and view its commercials to do – preferably behind the wheel of a vehicle wearing a Bow Tie up front. The automaker’s Silverado model has been on the map of light-duty trucks since the 1999 model year, and has discovered plenty of new roads on its own in that time. Over the course of three generations the Silverado has pursued greater amounts of power, capabilities, gears in its transmissions, and – starting in the 2014 model year – luxury.
The third iteration of the pickup launched in 2013. That fall, Chevrolet topped the LTZ trim line with the High Country package, which featured touches such as a special chrome grille, halogen projector headlamps, body-color bumpers, and bespoke 20-inch chrome wheels. The interior was similarly upgraded with exclusive saddle brown leather, heated and cooled front seats, Chevrolet MyLink running through an eight-inch touch screen, a Bose premium audio system, and front and rear park assist technology. Last year brought about the pairing of a Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic with the Silverado’s available 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 as well as a 12,000-pound SAE-J2807-compliant maximum trailering capacity and the availability of OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
This year, the third-gem Silverado is going down more new paths with revised front end styling, updated grilles, and new tech features. We received a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4X4 to test for a week to determine if it was a wise decision to go down those roads, and how the top-of-the-line Chevy half-ton fares on pavement and trails.
Our media review vehicle was delivered to us for evaluation in Austin, Texas. Many locals joke about the state being its own country. In a way, that’s true. Texas is “Truck Country,” a land where jacked-up pickups and coal-rolling duallies are as common as brisket in BBQ joints. Given how much trucks are used as business vehicles in the Lone Star State, many of them are loaded to their sky-high roofs with options and luxury add-ons. Our loaner was in the right place.
Chevrolet equipped it with four-wheel drive, the optional 6.2-liter V8, and the High Country Premium Package, which added the Enhanced Driver Alert Package’s Forward Collision Alert, and Active Safety Lane Keep Assist technology. IntelliBeam headlights, the Safety Alert Seat, a heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, and a trailer brake controller rounded out the High Country upgrades.
After a $1,195 destination charge – and being equipped with a few other options, such as power articulating assist steps, a power sunroof, and Deep Ocean Blue metallic paint – our Silverado carried a sticker price of $59,645.
The outgoing Silverado was a square-jawed, handsome rig, but the broad, straight lines of its grille and its stacked rectangular headlights made it the visually most old-fashioned offering out of all of the Big Three’s half-ton pickups. Thanks to LED headlamps and signature lighting, and a trapezoid-shaped lower grille section, the 2016 High Country model looks just as masculine, but more modern. The 20-inch chrome wheels lead your eyes to the equally shiny power-deploy running boards. At the end of the 5-foot 8-inch cargo box, there are standard LED taillights, CornerStep bumper cutouts, and a remote-locking EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate.
Even though Chevy is based in Michigan, it makes enough trucks to know the words “country” and “saddle” go well together. One look at the cabin of the 2016 Silverado High Country and you’ll know why. The saddle leather is an eye-pleasing shade of brown, made all the more noticeable by contrast stitching.
The same combination of colors covers the top of the dashboard, which is soft to the touch and feels as it should: premium. The wood-tone trim, on the other hand, doesn’t come across the same way. It looks as fake as it sounds when tapped by a fingernail. We wouldn’t be opposed to more of that deliciously brown leather taking its place.
The white-on-black tachometer and speedometer are easy to read and the placement of auxiliary gauges above them makes checking readouts such as the fuel level quick and effortless. Keeping track of our average fuel economy was a cinch on the multi-information display between the rev and speed counters. Toward the end of our seven-day test session, which involved a trip from Austin to Houston and back and plenty of around-town mileage in the Live Music Capital of the World, we were averaging 17.1 mpg – just above the EPA’s combined mpg rating of 17.
Using the eight-inch touchscreen provides access to navigation, a Bluetooth-connected phone, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and wireless Internet through a built-in WiFi hotspot. Using that and the Bluetooth connection makes listening to streaming content on the go a snap. Below the screen is a row of quickly accessible switches for features such as the adjustable pedals, traction control system, parking sensors, and lane departure warning system.
Multiple outlets below those switches enable the charging of multiple devices, whether through a USB port, a 110-volt plug, or a 12-volt receptacle. We were able to fit a Canon EOS camera, lens, and even the bag that protected both of them inside of the generously sized center console storage compartment, which also contained an additional 12-volt plug, a few more USB ports, and an auxiliary jack.
Leg room in the back seat was plentiful for our 5 foot 10-inch driver, although passengers of that height or taller will find the rear headrests too short to offer any real support. Something they won’t see in the back are exposed vents for the HVAC system – unless they look under the front seats.
With 6.2 liters of displacement, 420 horsepower, and 460 lb-ft of torque, the EcoTec3 is the largest, most powerful gasoline V8 available in a half-ton pickup. If you don’t believe us, just put your right foot down in a Silverado with this monster under its hood. Even when passing an 18-wheeler on the highway at 60 mph, you’ll feel every one of those impressive output numbers as they’re pushed to the pavement through a Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic – and hear the throaty exhaust roar they add up to.
On-Road Driving Impressions
Despite its massive size, the Silverado High Country moves through the air almost silently. Road noise only reaches significant levels on rough or grooved pavement. The large side mirrors are the biggest generators of sound, but not a large amount of it. The spotter mirrors are familiar and effective replacements for a blind spot monitoring system.
If you don’t keep your eyes on the lane markers, the Active Safety Lane Keep Assist will gently nudge you back to where you’re supposed to be, seamlessly and without drama. Unfortunately, the front sensors were overactive when we were stopped in traffic. They kept thinking the stationary cars in front of us were going to hit us and responded by vibrating the Safety Alert Seat. It got so annoying that we just deactivated the latter feature.
Small imperfections in the pavement were absorbed by the Silverado’s suspension; larger ones traveled through the bottom of the driver’s seat to announce their presence and that, no matter how fancy it was, let us know we were indeed in a four-wheel drive truck.
Off-Road Driving Impressions
We drove our Silverado High Country test vehicle from Austin out to the city of Marble Falls to take it up and down some of the trails at the Hidden Falls Adventure Park. Going down the main road, we passed several telling signs: two-door Jeep Wranglers, whose short wheelbases make certain vital parts are less vulnerable to unapologetically destructive rock formations.
We also crossed paths with a man on an ATV who must have taken a look at the Silverado’s shiny new paint and glitzy wheels because he told us something to the effect of, “Watch out up ahead. Your truck is too pretty for that.” We did as he suggested and noticed the Silverado’s difficulties in the rough weren’t a lack of abilities but an abundance of liabilities. It had enough power to pull the park’s trees out of the ground, a convenient shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system, and an automatically locking rear differential, but its dimensions were a disadvantage on the narrow paths.
It turns out automotive paint is allergic to the branches of cedar trees and breaks out with a case of “forest pinstripes” when it comes into contact with them. An overall width of nearly seven-feet has a tendency to make the exterior of the Silverado do just that. It was hard enough to accurately place the massive front end within the lines of a parking space; knowing where its extremities were in the rough was even more difficult.
Not seeing the power running boards was also a curse. With every large rock we traversed, we worried about it stuffing one of the steps into a rocker panel and ruining the deployment mechanism.
The Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4X4 was successfully updated for the 2016 model year, both visually and technologically. The top trim line might evoke images of the great outdoors, but we were more comfortable using it to find new roads – and better able to keep the big shiny rig as handsome as Chevy’s factory workers originally made it – in the urban jungle.