Every motor vehicle has evolved dramatically in terms of fuel economy, safety, interior features and performance. But few have evolved to the extent pickup trucks have. The day of cheap, rough-riding, hard-working American pickups and tiny, fuel-sipping Japanese models is long gone. Today’s trucks are big-bigger-biggest.
Every now and then we drive a big vehicle and conclude it “drives small.” The Chevrolet Silverado is big, and it drives that way.
Our test truck was a Medium Ash Gray 2017 Silverado High Country crew cab. It’s rugged, with lots of ground clearance and 4×4 capability. It’s also as luxurious as any premium sedan and priced for shock value at $66,750. Of course, if a truck that can move firewood, building materials or appliances from Point A to Point B is enough for you, a Silverado work truck can be had for about $28,000.
High Country, however, means high style. Our truck was fitted with the most powerful available engine, a 6.2-liter V-8 pumping out 420 horsepower. Other engine choices include a 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8. But the test truck’s daunting power numbers were just the beginning. A few days with the big Silverado clued us into such features as power retractable assist steps, which slide into position to help driver and passengers make their way into the spacious cabin, and tuck back under the frame when everyone’s one board.
But there’s much, much more to this truck: power adjustable pedals, wi-fi hotspot, 20-inch chrome wheels, leather upholstery, wireless charging and USB ports, heated and ventilated front seats, remote start, dual-zone climate control, rear-vision camera, front and rear parking assist, power sunroof, navigation system and satellite radio.
We’ve driven more than a few cars and trucks with luxury features that just didn’t seem to belong. With the Silverado, they fit right in. The truck is quiet and rides smoothly. It doesn’t handle quite as nimbly as the Dodge Ram, which benefits from independent front and rear suspensions, but it behaves predictably.
Also impressive was the fuel economy. The base Silverado with the V-6 and rear-wheel drive is rated at 24 mpg on the highway, a number we came close to matching with the mighty 6.2-liter power plant. Aiding its efficiency is a system, pioneered by GM with mixed success three decades ago, that switches the engine from V-8 to V-4 status and back, depending on how much power is needed.
Versatility is among the most desirable qualities in a pickup truck, and the Silverado can be ordered in several passenger and cargo-bed configurations. The crew cab we test drove seats five in comfort, with plenty of head room and leg room all around. Cargo-box length ranges from about 6.5 feet to a little more than 8 feet.
The Silverado has done well in government crash tests, achieving 5-star ratings across the board except for rollover resistance (4 stars).
Major competitors include the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, as well as the similar GMC Sierra.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4WD Crew
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 420 horsepower, 460 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Ground clearance: 8.9 in.
Weight: 5,460 lb.
Suspension: independent coil-over-shock with twin-tube shock absorbers, front; solid axle with semi-elliptic, two-stage multileaf springs; splayed twin-tube shocks
Wheels: 20-in. chrome
Tires: P275/55R20 all-season
Max. towing capacity: 9,100 lb.
Seating capacity: 5
Payload: 1,690 lb.
Fuel capacity: 26 gal.
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.