Wrapped in luxurious leather and surrounded by wood trim, I moved the column shifter from Park to Drive and starting rolling away from the very nice sales manager at Covert Chevrolet who had just handed me the keys to a brand new 2017 Chevrolet Silverado High Country Edition. From somewhere deep inside of my soul, and completely without conscious control, a small chuckle escaped. Then that chuckle was a full blown giggle.
Here I was, a clownshoe gun blogger, piloting a $60,000 truck after doing less paperwork than I typically fill out to buy a sandwich at ThunderCloud Subs. The morning after, I hit the road at 5:00 AM headed for Birmingham, Alabama to meet up with a wounded veteran to accompany him for his first precision rifle match. Are there more practical means of transportation? Absolutely. Are there better statement pieces? Likely not.
(Full Disclosure: Covert Chevrolet wanted so badly to show a wounded veteran a good time that they tossed me the keys to a $60,000 truck for a weeklong roadtrip to the Yellowhammer State. I offered to write a review, and they said that was just fine. I paid for all my own gas and snacks.)
I struggled long and hard to find the appropriate term to describe this truck before eventually settling on “statement piece.” In the world of a high fashion, a statement piece is some part of the outfit that establishes your presence. A huge glittering diamond necklace draws the viewer in and lets them know you’re not just doing well, you’re well off. The High Country edition captures the other drivers’ attention with a beefy, muscled-up grill, acres of chrome trim and positively knobby TOYO Open Country A/T’s wrapped around twenty inch (you guessed it) chrome rims.
Never has this been more evident than in the reaction I received from a fellow driver to my spirited merge into traffic. We ended up next to each other at a red light and he motioned for me to roll my window down. I acquiesced and said, “What’s up?”
“That’s a badass truck,” he replied.
Indeed. Like Ford’s King Ranch or Platinum edition F150 and the Denali trim level from the other side of the GM house, the High Country does away with box checking in favor of “Yes I’ll take that please” on the build sheet.
The end result is a nearasdamnit $60,000 truck that’s replete with a laundry list of mechanical and technological whizbangery. Given that, the first day was admittedly a touch overwhelming. I finally had to sit in my driveway, owner’s manual on my lap, as I scrolled through the infotainment screens. A touch north of 2000 miles later and I’m still not 100% certain that I have a grasp on everything the High Country is capable of.
What I am certain of is it’s can crank out lots of big, silly V-8 noise. Momma always told me that there’s no replacement for displacement. In this regard, the cavernous displacement (6.2 liters (376 cubic inches) of raw American muscle and torque) present in the engine bay doesn’t disappoint.
Chevrolet offers three engines in the Silverado 1500 series. The smallest is the 4.3L V6 with the middle child being the 5.3 EcoTec V8. But this one has his bigger, badder, older, stronger, sexier power plant. The mighty 6.2 makes 420 HP and 450 ft-lbs of torque that, in my experience, starts off at idle and pulls strong all the way to a redline of 6000 RPM.
I saw roughly 1500 RPM with Texas highway speeds (80 mph+) pushing that closer to 1750 RPM. All this thanks to the brawny eight speed 8L90 transmission mated to that big V8.
One to one or better drive ratios starts with sixth gear. The 8L90 sports two overdrive gears after that – perfect for dropping revs to near idle. My only gripe with the 8L90 is the harsh downshifts in from second to first. The only other transmission that exhibited that level of harshness was an Alison paired up to a LLY coded Duramax in a Sierra 3500, and only then did it exhibit that behavior in tow/haul mode. I checked and rechecked that I wasn’t tooling around in tow/haul with this truck and eventually resigned myself to clunky downshifts coming to a rolling stop.
The end result is a highway-eating truck that loafs along at cruising speeds, but has enough “passing reserve” to do 60-80 mph full throttle flying passes in under eight seconds. Zero to eighty is a quick affair that takes a dozen seconds or so based on my crude iPhone timing system. At no point did I wish for more power.
In cruise on flat land, I regularly saw 17+ mpg indicated on the computer which proved to be optimistic by about 1 – 1.5 mpg versus my hand calculated totals. I have no doubt that the knobby TOYOs contributed mightily to that poor fuel mileage.
Once I got into the hilly portions of Alabama, my mileage skyrocketed to an average just over the 20 mpg threshold thanks to the cylinder deactivation features programmed into the EcoTec. Climb a hill with a downshift or two, and coast down the other side and watch the dash indicator switch from “V8” to “V4” to let you know that half the cylinders are deactivated. The transition back and forth was completely seamless. Without a digital indicator, I never would have suspected that half my cylinders weren’t firing.
In town, the cylinder deactivation feature is a godsend that allows for near highway numbers in stop and go traffic. It still won’t go head to head with a Prius, but a Prius won’t tow 12,500 lbs. either. And it doesn’t make throaty V8 noises when you stomp on the throttle.
The Prius likely doesn’t have onboard WiFi either. Or two 110V outlets in the center console. Inside the cab is where the High Country crosses from the utilitarian to the downright hedonistic.
Years ago, I spent a summer towing boats all over Texas and New Mexico. My fuzzy memory says I logged something like ten thousand miles that summer. I spent my time fairly evenly between a Ford F-250 and a Chevy Sileverado 2500. Even though it was a few years older and lacked the whizbangery of the Ford, I always chose the Chevy when I had the chance because its seat was absolutely sublime.
Lubbock to Dallas, a five hour trip, seemed to evaporate in no time at all behind the wheel of the Chevy. I’d step out refreshed and free from aches and pains where the Ford might have me stooped for anything beyond six hours.
Chevy has only gotten better in the last decade. The High Country’s captain chair sports adjustments for ride height, seat back angle, and both horizontal and vertical lumbar position. The butt portion is nicely contoured and the seat back is splendidly bolstered. Not too much, but definitely enough to keep the ribs wrapped in rich leather. Once you have your seat position set, lock it in with one of two memory positions and then turn on the in-seat air conditioning to keep your nether regions cool. Air conditioned seats!
Coming off the range from a hot day of walking around, I can’t help but think that I was sensually self indulgent as I cranked the seat air to max and let it dry out my parts. Be aware that the volume of air moved through the seats is slaved to the blower motor setting on the dash. If you were hoping for full power seat cooling and gentle breezes from the dash vents, you’ll be sorely disappointed. For my northern brethren, know that the seat heaters also work quite well and are capable of making a gun blogger sweat with the A/C on full blast. The steering wheel can be heated as well.
I spent entirely too much time goofing around with the electronics package in the High Country before coming to the conclusion that it does darn near everything you’d ever need it to do. Naturally, you can connect your Bluetooth device(s) to the main infotainment system for both hands-free calling and musical streaming.
I used both functionalities extensively during my trip and found that call recipients had no problem hearing me, even at full throttle tollway speeds, thanks to the multiple microphones spread throughout the cabin. Music streaming was trouble free as was initial setup, connection, and reconnection upon returning to the vehicle.
The High Country infotainment system is configured to handle both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which I used on my trip. Connection is facilitated through a hard wire to the USB port in the center console. I ultimately preferred the Android experience, but that’s more a reflection of Apple’s deficiencies than anything to do with Chevrolet’s electronics.
You can also pair your phone through the Chevy MyLink smartphone application which allows an unbelievable amount of remote control over the vehicle. Just landed at the airport on a sweltering August day? Fire up the app and turn your truck on so the interior is a frigid 60 degrees upon arrival. Teenager want to borrow your truck? Implement controls over stereo volume until everyone is buckled up. Better yet, get a report on how far Junior drove with his sweetie in your brand new truck.
Seamlessly integrated with the large format infotainment system is the dash mounted command system that provides a stripped down view of whatever is on the main screen. Everything from navigation direction to current artist/album info is available on the main screen.
Most exciting however is the “parking” screen that uses proximity sensors in the front and rear bumper to collate a view of proximity to nearby obstacles. Using the display alone, I was able to park within a few inches of other cars in parking lots and garages. I somehow missed it during my overview of the owner’s manual, but each “band” as you get closer to the truck icon above results in angry vibrating from the driver’s seat to warn you that, yes you are getting too close. This was welcome with the exception of tight parking garages where the system just made my seat buzz incessantly.
I took full advantage of the onboard WiFi. As a road warrior salesman by day, I live and die by my ability to connect to the internet. If I’ve got it, I have the ability to work from nearly anywhere. Without it, I’m slaved to the strongest wireless signal I can find. Chevy has hardwired the ability to create a 4G LTE hotspot with unlimited data for $20/month along with OnStar Basic. The most expensive OnStar plan these days is $35/month and includes quite a bit of safety and security.
In the field, I had no problems connecting to and using the WiFi hotspot. In fact, the image above is a from a video meeting with my teammate that I initiated while parked in my driveway and carried on for the better part of twenty minutes while I drove around Austin running errands. Simply connect your laptop to Bluetooth for audio and then to WiFi for internet and commence full HD video calling without issue. No need to worry about battery usage as the onboard 110V outlet was more than happy to supply 85W to my MacBook Pro.
Thanks in part to the Bose audio system, sound quality is simply astounding. I tried to introduce as much variety as I could to my audio selection for the week I spent with the High Country including everything from audiobooks to metal to twerk music. All of it sounded great with excellent fidelity that seemed to do a good job of drowning out the droning of those knobby TOYOs.
Which is as good a segue as I can muster to talk about the worst part of this truck – the TOYO Open Country A/Ts fitted to the twenty-inch chrome rims. Walking out to the truck with Covert’s Sales Manager, the teenager inside me channeled his inner Tim Taylor. My logical brain connected to my Docker khaki-clad dad bod knew they were impractical as all hell. I figured they might make some noise, and I would be mildly perturbed with their handling, but I was wholly unprepared for how much I hated these tires.
First, they’re indeed quite loud. Lugs like those above just don’t roll down the road. They kind of gnaw their way forward and suck up gas as they do it. As a longtime fan of the Michelin LTX M/S, I value low rolling resistance, 10-ply construction, and unbelievable wear. These are not those tires.
Beyond the noise which is, admittedly — a low frequency hum — they are unbelievably vague in any turn in the road beyond a straight line. I don’t know if I’ve ever driven a truck with as much understeer as the High Country outfitted with these tires. Several hundred miles into my trip, I had to navigate a cloverleaf on an entrance ramp that forced me to keep feeding steering input until the tires started moaning a bit in protest.
More troubling was their proclivity for wandering at highway speeds. Some trucks allow you to take your hands off the wheel, but this High Country requires nearly constant attention to stay between the lines. Good thing this beast features Lane Keep Assist (LKA).
LKA uses a series of cameras mounted around the truck to establish position within a lane using painted lane markers as reference points. Should you drift, the truck will take over steering input to guide you back the other way. Even with your hands on the wheel, the system will nudge you back toward center.
If nothing else, this system should be mandatory for inconsiderate drivers who never use their turn signal. Attempt a lane change without your signal, and the High Country will fight you until you wrench control away. Flip on the blinker and all is well.
Going down the highway, the TOYOs would let the truck start a drift to the shoulder, the LKA would take over and nudge me back, but with a bit too much juice so that I made an aggressive approach to the centerline. Once I hit that, I’d bounce back towards the shoulder a bit more aggressively before I started to look like a bowling ball pinging off the inflatable gutter bumpers.
Usually, three “bounces” would result in the High Country vibrating my seat and setting off alarms to “Take Control!” which I always complied with. LKA can be toggled on and off with a large switch in the center console. Similarly, traction control can be switched off if desired.
While I had seven days with the High Country, the majority of that time was spent on the highway or driving back and forth to a match. Beyond an improved gravel road, I never got the opportunity to really “off road” the truck, but I feel confident that Chevy has done a bit of homework on factory options that add value.
Seen above is the front rock guard which does a decent job of protecting delicate engine and driveline parts. This is one big piece of Hill Country limestone away from being destroyed, but that’s just an excused to build a full length skidplate out of a AR 500.
Speaking of, the skidplate protection stops at the crossmember. Engine, radiator, and power steering are fully shielded, but the transmission and transfer case are free to swing in the breeze. If you’d spend any time offroad, you would be well served to find a local truck outfitter to install a full length skidplate to protect those valuable (and expensive) parts.
As a truck, the High Country actually seems to be quite useful. While not all Chevy trucks come with a bedliner, the High Country edition does and it seems to be a very detailed application. There were no drips, visible seams, or otherwise. Beyond Pelican cases and drag bags, we didn’t throw much gear in the back, but it held everything we had.
Where Ford has elected to use a step and handhold system built into the tailgate to facilitate OFWG loading, Chevy put a footstep in the bumper and moved on with life. Above, Johnny models the appropriate pose for mounting the bed. So easy, an above the knee amputee can do it.
Like most half ton trucks, putting the tailgate down allows six foot and under rifle shooters to lay out prone for a day at the range or prairie dog town. A longer bed would be better, but this doesn’t suck. Speaking of improvised shooting positions…
Jon Wayne Taylor shoots more animals out of his vehicle in any given month than I do all year. He was very curious to know how the High Country fared as a shooting platform so I enlisted my willing and highly paid model, Johnny, to continue his pursuit of gunbunnydom by posing with my rifle in and around the truck. He had no issue using the roof of the cab as an improvised shooting bench while standing in the bed. For what its worth, Jon Wayne recommends laying a strip of skateboard tape along the roof to give bipod legs a bit of extra bite. I take him at his word.
Jon Wayne was also curious about the usability of the doors and mirrors as improvised shooting rests. In fear of scratching up a truck that I didn’t own, I didn’t spend too much time beating around the mirrors with a rifle, but I think they’ll only do you right with the doors closed or if your rifle stock is very thin. Flat bottomed stocks like the McMillan A5 pictured are way too wide to fit between the mirror body and the door frame. As you can see above, the mirror is too tall for anything other than high angle shots on mountain goats way up a hill.
The windowsill is perfectly adequate as Johnny has demonstrated here. The doors are strong, and the truck is heavy enough that you can load the door up for extra stability. Jon also had questions about crouched shooting from the backseat out the rear window, but I was unable to replicate his request. I think it was a subtle dig at the fact that his Toyota Tundra has a rear piece of glass that rolls down while the High Country just has a powered center window.
Gun storage is quite plentiful in the High Country thanks to the factory installed storage locker under the rear seat. Pictured is a Roughneck Firearms AR 10 with a 14.5″ barrel. There’s enough room for tow straps, jumper cables, a pretty solid med kit, jackets, water, guns, and ammo with room to spare. I’m not a huge fan of truck guns in my current status as a city dweller, but for the farmer, rancher, or bigger gun aficionado, this storage locker has the potential to really change your life.
Most importantly, folding the rear seat down keeps all your valuables out of sight and out of mind. There’s nothing to stop a determined thief from making off with your goods, but at least you don’t have to leave them in plain sight.
Rear seat passenger comfort seems to have been an afterthought, surprising for a truck that has so much luxury crammed into the front two seats. Johnny rode in the back the whole weekend (celebrities don’t ride in the front after all), and said the seats were quite comfortable with a decent amount of recline that made the prospect of a long road trip seem palatable.
That said, there are no air vents in the center console and limited power options. If you were planning on hauling kids in the High Country, plan on keeping batteries in the iPads topped up before you leave on a journey using the onboard WiFi as power options are slim in the backseat. Furthermore, passengers might ask that you turn the air on high so they can get some of that sweet, sweet cold.
Each passenger door has window controls that can be locked out from the driver’s seat, a storage cubby, and a decent sized cup holder. The center seat back folds down to reveal two more cupholders for the celebrities in the back seat. Bear in mind that a typical 20 oz cup like the P Terry’s model above is about all that you’ll be able to cram in the doors. A one liter Nalgene, my preferred hydration vehicle of choice, will not fit.
The day I picked up the truck, I got an all too common call – my dog was due for blood work. He has allergies of the worst kind, and the potent cocktail of drugs that keeps him from breaking out in bloody hives has the potential to do a number on his liver, so he gets regular blood work to make sure he’s in tip top shape. Unfortunately, I left my truck as collateral, so my first full day tooling around in the High Country included tossing an 85 lb. American Bulldog in the back. Those with geriatric dogs will appreciate the fairly low and uncluttered floor that allows pooch to get a leg up and then spread out when the vehicle is underway. My big idiot is spry and spoiled so he hopped right up on the leather seats and started licking the windows.
Specifications: 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country Edition
Engine: 6.2L EcoTec V8
Torque: 450 ft-lb
Transmission: 8 Speed Automatic
Drive: Four wheel with Auto engagement and Eaton Auto Locking Differential
Max Trailering Weight: 12,500 lbs
Luxury Items: Nearly all of them
MSRP: $59,665 (street price @ Covert Chevrolet – $57,165+)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
At German sedan prices, there’s a certain expectation of quality and luxury, and I think the High Country edition lives up to that. Goofing around on Chevy’s website, it appears that you can spec a truck out in such a way to push MSRP well past $70K, but at that point you’re really throwing the (check)book at them. The leather is luxurious if not exactly buttery smooth. Control layout is good, and the infotainment system seems to be fairly well laid out, though it does look like it will look out of date the next time Apple decides iOS needs a facelift. All of the plastic pieces in the dash are assembled correctly and show minimal gaps or lack of final finish out. I would feel totally confident picking up a client from the airport in this truck and heading directly to Austin Land and Cattle or the family ranch.
Electronics/Gizmos/Whizbangery * * * * *
I consider Bluetooth connectivity the pinnacle of luxury at this point in my life, so I was overwhelmed at the breadth and depth of the Chevy electronics suite. The MyLink is, in a word, astounding, the WiFi is a wonderful luxury, and the Lane Keep Assist keeps you honest (and safe). All work astoundingly well.
Offroad Capability * * *
With an Eaton locker, 8 speed transmission, and an automagic four wheel drive system, putting all that 6.2L power to the ground is all but guaranteed. I have to admit that those TOYO Open Countrys are perfectly suited to life offroad and would undoubtedly provide an edge over a standard heavy duty truck tire in mud or sand. That said, the lower fascia on the grill will no doubt be a magnet for rocks, sticks, and small rodents. Rip it off and the High Country can probably enjoy an approach angle that will allow it to do some mild offroading. But I’d be leery of taking this on anything beyond “improved” roads without a skidplate for the transmission and transfer case. If you’ve got a guy under there bolting something up, you might as well remove the factory installed radiator and oil pan protection in favor of something sturdier.
Onroad Capability * * *
I spent 99% of my 2000+ miles in this truck on the highway or tooling around town, and the High Country is good, but not great, in that role. The limiting factor are those TOYOs. My first order of business upon taking ownership of this truck would be to punt those tires to the nearest teenager willing to give me a fair price, and putting that money towards tires that work for the 98% on road driving I do. As configured, steering inputs are vague, there’s a tremendous amount of road noise, and understeer is a fact of life.
Gun Friendliness * * * * *
It’s worth looking at the High Country as a mobile storage locker and shooting platform. In either role, the High Country does very well. First, it’s a truck, and if you can’t shoot from within our around a truck, find an instructor and buy a case of ammo. The High Country has decent mirrors for the sporter stocked shooter, but wide bottomed competition rifles will have a hard time finding a home anywhere but a windowsill. The height of the cab over the the bed seems to be pretty well suited to standing shots taken off a bipod, but committed shooters should take a page out of Jon Wayne Taylor’s book and slap a strip of skateboard tape on the roof to let their bipod get a better purchase. Prone shooting from the bed is as good as in any other truck – the only exception is that you’ll get to admire one of the nicest bedliners I’ve ever seen.
Overall * * * *
While the Sileverado starts at $27,785, the reality is that the truck you want probably starts at $40K and goes up from there. At almost $60,000, the High Country edition is the pinnacle of the lineup. If your job description includes both client facing roles and either off road or hauling/towing duties, you’d be hard pressed to find a more capable vehicle. Sure the tires suck for the Dockers-wearing crowd, but if you don’t mind some road noise and vague steering, the aesthetic is totally worth it. With all the whiz-bang electronic conveniences bolted onto to the exceptional build quality, this is an extraordinarily capable vehicle. With the price tag to match.