The world of half-ton pickups is an odd one. It’s adorned with niches, such as sporty trucks, off-road beasts and now (apparently) the ranch style truck. In Chevy’s case, the Silverado High Country serves as the brand’s answer to the Ford F-150 King Ranch as the rugged, rancher-edition luxury trim level. And if your preferences lead you to saddle colored leather and chrome dubs, the High Country is certainly worthy of consideration.
For 2016 Chevrolet has given the Silverado a technical design tweaking. Up front the lamps have gotten more detailed with lots of LED accents and HID projectors flanking a bolder grille treatment. In back, the tail lamps have gotten similar detail treatment. The minor changes give the Silverado the glitz of a big city skyline without removing all the backcountry toughness truck buyers seem to expect. Not to mention both HID and LED were acronyms the Silverado has needed for quite some time.
The High Country in particular has a chrome grille, which looks classy, but is arguably not the best look on the 2016 model. Z71 trims include a body-colored grille surround, which tones down the arguably awkward lines of the front clip. The chrome grille is accented with unique 20-inch chrome wheels that continue the theme of being slightly too much chrome couture. In other words, the exterior is practically spot-on for the target consumer.
RANCH STYLE INTERIOR
Pulling open the door with the (of course) chrome door handle is like opening the door to a western apparel store. Saddle colored leather and materials smother the entire interior, while black trim and fake wood offer breaks from the stable. The cowboy color combination flirts with the line that rests between fashion-forward brown and rancher motif in a way that makes it work.
The layer of lip gloss applied to the High Country interior really just provides some visual enhancement above the traditional Silverado interior, which serves its purpose well enough. Silverado interiors have never been known for their glamor quite like Ford’s F-150, instead taking a more utilitarian approach with comfortable seats and a dash that’s high on function.
The High Country is, of course, no exception. It too features a cab that’s remarkably quiet and comfortable for five full-sized passengers. There are some quirks to this country truck that are carried over from the typical Silverado. It has that 1980’s-derived column-mount gear selector hanging on the steering wheel, something that’s almost become acceptable from GM trucks for the shear fact of how silly it is, much like a cute dog who wets on the carpet once a week. It’s just one of those things Chevy guys have learned to love at this point.
The column shifter is on the list of quirks with a cab floor that isn’t perfectly flat in the back, something the competition does have. While that seems like a nit-pick, it isn’t when you attempt to load your 55-inch TV in the back and it sits there like a seesaw the whole way home.
Chevy has made some small changes to the Silverado for 2016, including eliminating a major interior gripe. The exhaust fans for the air conditioned front seats (standard on High Country) are now located under the seats versus on the seat backs. This means that rear passengers no longer have hot air blowing on them when the front passengers are enjoying their ass coolers. Kudos to GM for fixing this as it is something most auto journalists had a small meltdown over when the truck launched back in 2014.
IT’S 2016, OF COURSE THERE’S MORE TECH
2016 has also added the latest version of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, which has nicely evolved in the last 24 months to become nearly as functional as the simple-minded systems of years ago. In our High Country tester, the system was consistently quick-reacting and flawlessly worked with Apple CarPlay; allowing you to project your iPhone’s display onto the truck’s touchscreen. Here again GM deserves some credit for ironing out infotainment owes and leading the pack with smartphone integration, which even ranchers will likely appreciate.
Perhaps a less-appreciated new feature is lane-keeping assist, which guides the Silverado back into its lane on the highway by manipulating the steering. There aren’t many country roads with lane markers, and frankly the system requires near-perfect lane markers to work correctly.
There’s also the argument that the Silverado is worth paying attention to when behind the wheel. High Country trim level comes standard with GM’s very familiar 5.3-liter V-8, however our tester was equipped with the more impressive 6.2-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination of a higher-output engine and the quick-reacting eight-speed give put the High Country on an entirely different level in terms of capability and the drive.
BIG V-8 FOR THE WIN
For starters, the 6.2-liter is packing a powerful punch. It has 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque to play with, which proves to be more than enough to make a half-ton pickup decently fun to drive. However, the story with this powertrain is actually the transmission. GM’s new eight-speed gearboxes are impressive, with remarkably quick shifts that are smooth. It’s nothing for the Silverado to be on gear four just after crossing a street, and unless you’re paying very close attention you’ll never realize the tranny has upshifted that many times already. That’s how smooth this gearbox is.
The quick gearbox keeps the 6.2-liter in its sweet-spot for torque delivery and is devoid of the acceleration lag that the 5.3-liter and six-speed combination exhibit in GM trucks. The additional two gears and huge difference in torque also allow the 6.2-liter to achieve fuel economy figures that are comparable or better than the base engine. This is achieved for the fact the bigger engine can stay in four-cylinder mode longer than the 5.3-liter while the two additional gears keep the engine revving slower at highway speeds. Make no mistake, however, if you run this engine like it has 420 horsepower your fuel economy will reflect accordingly. You’ll also be buying rear tires sooner than anticipated.
The whole trend of smoothest continues with the High Country’s drivability. GM’s latest half-tons are like well-mannered good ol’ boys from the Midwest. The cab is well-isolated from vibrations and road noise; the electric steering rack also extrudes confidence with enough feedback to understand the road surface the rubber is hitting without being over-bearing. It is a truck after all, not a performance car.
The only questionable trait on the Silverado is the braking ability. While adequate, emergency braking maneuvers lack confidence with a mushy medal feel and lack of bite to the discs. Perhaps Chevy is just making it less likely that things in the bed get thrown around?
While that’s probably untrue, the Silverado bed is fairly purposeful. High Country comes standard with a factory spray-in bed liner and LED lighting along the side rails. Both features prove more than handy, especially for those buying this truck. Additionally, the 2016 model now has an electronic locking tailgate, meaning it locks with the key fob. Unfortunately the Silverado still lacks the power tailgate feature pioneered by the 2015 Ford F-150.
Accessing the bed has also gotten easier for 2016 thanks to some clever power running boards. Optional on High Country, the running boards deploy when the doors open, however the trick is that there is a button on the end of these boards. A quick kick of the button with your foot and the running board magically slides back so that you can access the bed from the side. It’s a major #firstworldproblem situation, but a cool feature and useful since half-tons keep getting taller and taller beds.
Solving #firstworldproblems is basically a summation of the Silverado High Country. Despite the ranch-style motif, this is unquestionably a luxury truck and the $60,000 price tag drives that point home right to the wallet. It’s glitzy and stylish in its own right and equipped with the big V-8 of our tester, it’s worthy of a second look if you’re into the style. If not, most of the hard points of this truck can be acquired at a cheaper price.