2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: Light Duty Off-Roading
October 11, 2013
Our 2014 Chevrolet Silverado is a two-wheel drive machine because, like many of you, we decided we liked the idea of a lower price and higher fuel economy. It doesn't snow here. We're not working a ranch. Towing is our game, and a 4x2 works just fine.
Still, Modjeska and Santiago peaks make up the distinctive hump known as Saddleback mountain that has loomed nearby since I was a kid, and quite possibly before. A network of dirt fire roads and truck trails leads to the top and along the ridges.
It's a tempting destination. The views from up there are amazing. So my buddy Mike hopped in to join me for a trip to the top of Santiago Peak, the taller of the two summits.
The unpaved roads are maintained fairly well, but we came up via Bedford Motorway, one of the less popular of routes. From that direction we encountered a couple of steep sections that were peppered with stretches of those alternating dug-out frame-twist holes, deep ones.
With no 4-wheel drive to engage, Mike and I shook our heads at the first of them — also the worst of them, as it turned out — figuring we'd have to turn back. But a steady application of power, a decent line and a cloud of dust got me through, just barely. Too bad I didn't have a camera outside to record the limit of the 4x2 Silverado's capability, because I found it.
The summit has more cell towers than trees, and we saw a couple of maintenance trucks parked up there. But those were 4x4 trucks because those guys need to get up there in the wet, when it snows, any time the various communications systems need work.
For us it was dry and dusty. The roads are about a lane-and-a-half wide in many places, but it was impossible to keep the broad-shouldered Chevy away from all of the overhanging vegetation. With care I was able to avoid sharp branches. None of the brown traces left behind by passing dirty leaves were permanent scratches.
On this trip the 4x2 Silverado's biggest off-road liability was the low-hanging rubber air deflectors that hang down in front of the tires. They're in the exact spot you don't want them should you encounter a rock, log, or other obstacle you need to put your tire on as you roll over it.
Most of the time, they bend and flap up out of the way. But somewhere along the way the passenger-side one pulled loose. It wasn't the first frame-twist section, because I'd given the truck the once-over after we'd got through. Once I got home it was clear that nothing important had broken. A few minutes with a screw driver was all it took to get it back in place.
The end of this 30-mile dirt excursion was hastened by a long-distance footrace we happened across, a 50-miler with altitude gains in the multiple thousands of feet along the race route. The folks manning one of the checkpoints flagged us down. They had injured runners that needed a lift to the finish line.
So the end of our day was something of a low-level ambulance run with the back half of the Crew Cab full of disappointed competitors with ice taped to their calves. Thirty minutes later we finally hit pavement and dropped them off at race HQ.
The 4x2 Silverado worked just fine on this light-duty off-road trip, but I'd want the 4x4 if I was working the cell towers or helping with running and cycling events for real. The weather isn't always so accommodating up there and the road grader doesn't come by all that often.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,677 miles