As recently as last month I would have considered myself a stark opponent of on-road biased pickups. I'm still not in love with the idea, but a few days in a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country taught me to stop worrying and accept the glam truck for what it is— an ostentatious luxury car with a hose-out trunk.
Riding on 20 inches of chrome and wispy road tires (22's are optional for another $3,000), this truck has basically no business off-road. But it has swagger in spades and is surprisingly easy to operate considering its draft. Once I starting thinking of it as a big, floaty luxobarge with a big ol' cargo bed and 12,000 pounds of towing capacity, I started to get more comfortable with it.
(Disclosure: GM let me borrow a 2014 Silverado High Country to get around in while I was in Arizona for their Heavy Duty pickup demonstration. They even threw in a full tank of gas!)
The 2014 Silverado is fun to drive, the way a 90's Cadillac DeVille with bald rear tires is fun to drive. The window sill and center console are perfectly positioned to rest your arms, which you'll be doing a lot of in this thing as you troll around town bumping Outlaw Country on XM. Here's how Chevrolet's fancy-pants pickup performed, as per the official Truck Yeah! review format.
Driving Notes Highlights
• Chrome, chrome, everywhere. This thing would make Sir Mix-A-Lot self conscious.
• Unbelievably comfortable for road cruising. Hell, gridlocked traffic isn't even that depressing in here.
• Giant center-console storage rocks. I have to suck on gallon jugs of water to avoid turning into a used sponge every time I go to Arizona, and they fit in this box perfectly.
• High-RPM roar adds a nice pinch of satisfaction to highway merging.
• I wonder how much wear I can put on these rear tires before I get billed.
Yeah, it's different enough from the new 2500 Heavy Duty variants to warrant revisiting... but only because this is the chrome-clad High Country. Such chrome! Very 'Murican-upscale. Wow. Most noticeable on the grille, massive badges, mirrors, and running boards you could sit on and fish off.
This truck owns a look; you've really gotta be down with the Boss Hog country-glam thing to feel okay driving it. It's not Ed Hardy-aggressive, but it's loud— I received several comments at stoplights and parking lots around Tempe, AZ. Those guys loved it, not sure you'd get the same response in other areas. That "White Diamond Tricoat" paint is a High Country premium, and worth an extra $1,000.
Otherwise, the shape is the same as the rest of GM's truck lineup and I feel the same about this as I did about the 2500s: GM's successfully pulling off the squirciles, and as a whole package the truck looks good.
In essence, it's exactly what you expect from a range-topping American vehicle. It's not German-nice, but it's nice. The seats are a lot softer than they are in performance luxury cars, and the crew cab has plenty of room for five big blokes.
I liked the illumination color scheme; white buttons are easy read at night and the pale blue accents aren't too harsh either. Hyper-white LED dome lights sure were nice for photos.
You can tell GM really wanted the interior to feel premium with that dash stitching, but I wasn't blown away by the way it felt. They definitely got it right with those big rocker switches, though. They look great.
Audio, Infotainment, Gadgets
The eNav GPS setup I loathed tainted the experience for me here a little, but the Bose stereo was rockin'. Phone pairing was easy too, and had great clarity.
This vehicle had a $1,300 "High Country Premium Package" with lane departure and forward-collision warnings. Plus, a heated steering wheel— an amazing feature I'd only experienced otherwise in a Jaguar XKR. Great news that it's trickled down to pickups, even if only the range-topper.
The 6.2 EcoTec3 V8 is a $2,000 option, makes nice noises when asked and is a real treat for drivers who don't have to pay for gasoline or tires. If you're not among them, you're going to have to take it easy on the tall pedal.
The truck chirped tires coming out of the airport parking lot. It chirped out of the drive-thru liquor store. And it really screamed off a downtown Tempe stoplight in front some ASU chicks... I swear, that 6.2 is a rascal.
I'm sure the effect is minimized when some cargo is occupying the bed.
Gearbox & Transfer Case
I didn't find anything about the 6-speed electronically controlled transmission lacking on paved or dirt roads. Of course, without having anything in the bed or on the ball hitch, I have to confess it didn't get much of a test.
But for everyday driving, the transmission was pretty much always in the right gear. I find "Auto 4x4" to be pointless... but I'm one of those cocky idiots who insists on trying pretty much every obstacle in 2WD first. Some will like the option to "set it and forget it" on this, and as we've already discussed the worst "obstacles" High Country trucks should see are snow and loose-gravel roads.
The brakes were the biggest letdown of the 2014 Silverado. They simply felt way too soft to leave me feeling confident the truck could stop effectively with a full payload. Not that I thought I was going to munch cars ahead of me at stop lights, but I would have liked to have felt a good deal more grabbing power.
Ride & Handling
Very smooth on pavement. Power steering is dialed up so high you can spin the helm with your pinky, even when the truck is static.
Body roll wasn't bad, even in hard cornering (keep in mind this is "pickup truck" context). Tires were a little unsure on bumpy dirt.
Hauling, Towing, Cargo Management
This truck had Chevrolet's factory sprayed-in bedliner, an $805 option. Sounds steep, but at least it looked clean. The cargo tie-down points in the bed are nice and robust, and optional bed lighting helps a lot in night operations.
I already cheered the giant center console bin, and there are under-seat storage compartments you can specify for about $100.
The tailgate is on a dampener for drivers who can't be bothered to lower it themselves.
Off-Road & Maneuverability
The High Country was pretty much floating on the heavily corrugated dirt roads of Tonto National Forest— as in, steering was an an abstract experience. But a little less speed rectified the situation, and the truck did manage to extract itself from the shallow sand pits I stuck it in with minimal effort.
Considering its size, the 2014 Silverado is pretty easy to get around parking lots. Proximity sensors all-around make the Silverado highly manageable, I'd be plenty comfortable letting a truck newbie drive it.
The center rear-view mirror is small, creating the illusion of blind-spots. But as I experimented with it, I realized it held continuity of visibility across the rear of the truck between the two side mirrors.
You could "build your own" High Country by getting leather on an LTZ Silverado and buying AutoZone out of stick-on chrome, but of course that would look like shit.
If you want the bona-fide article in all its GM glam-truck glory, the High Country is your truck. But I have a feeling most would be better off spec'ing a lower-level Silverado with leather and making do without the bling.
The 2014 Ford F-150 King Ranch I spec'ed out as closely as possible was about $5,000 cheaper, though of course that bodystyle is about to be retired. It's worth noting that from the exterior, the High Country Silverado is easier to identify as the range-topper than its Ford equivalent.
I didn't fall in love with it, but I can now say I understand the appeal of a big, brazen, boulevard cruiser that can haul heaps of gear and four of your friends.
The 2014 Silverado is easy to use, looks pretty nice and feels plenty capable on the road. The High Country has just a little too much chrome for my taste.
Specifications As Tested
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country Crew Cab Short Box 4WD
MSRP: $52,510 ($46,700 Base)
MPG: 17 over 232.2 miles, aggressive driving (EPA: 14 City / 17 Combined / 20 Highway)
Engine: 6.2 EcoTec3 V8 - 420 horsepower / 460 ft-lbs of torque
Drivetrain: 6-Speed Automatic, 4WD
Curb Weight: 5370 lbs
Payload Capacity: 1805 lbs
Max GVWR: 7200 lbs
Towing Capacity: 9500 lbs with 3.42 rear axle (11800 lbs with 3.73 rear axle)