Jason Kavanagh, Senior Vehicle Test Engineer
It was only a matter of time. Lifting a page from brand-brother GMC's leather-lined Denali playbook, GM has added the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country to its recently overhauled Silverado lineup. The High Country is Chevrolet's take on a range-topping pickup in the vein of the Ford King Ranch or Ram Laramie Longhorn, and it's the first-ever luxury variant of a Silverado.
There's shrewd business sense at work here. Full-size pickups are among GM's most profitable ventures, and consumers are willing to pay ever-increasing amounts for dressed-out full-size pickup trucks. Today, some 30 percent of light-duty trucks change hands for more than $40,000 apiece, and it appears that the ultimate ceiling has yet to be reached.
Cynicism toward badge-and-sticker vehicle models hasn't stopped them from being popular.
Powerful New Engine Option
Beyond its unique grille, wheels, cabin trimmings and enormous badges that gleam like nickel-plated Winchester muskets, there's precious little that separates the High Country from lesser Silverados. That's no bad thing, as the new Silverado is a truck of which we're quite fond.
The High Country's introduction is coincidental with the debut of the 6.2-liter V8 version of GM's Gen 5 direct-injected engine family into the Silverado range. Available as a $1,995 option on High Country and LTZ trim levels, the 6.2-liter V8 (L86 in GM-speak) will take the truck's credibility and desirability to the next level.
Essentially a bored and stroked version of the direct-injected 5.3-liter V8, the L86 also includes a half-point bump in compression ratio to 11.5:1. The result is that the 6.2-liter's headlining numbers of 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque outshine every other engine currently available in a half-ton pickup.
Want a V6 in your High Country instead? You're out of luck, as the 5.3-liter V8 is the standard engine offering. The six-speed 6L80 automatic transmission remains the sole available gearbox regardless of engine choice.
Cylinder deactivation aids the 6.2-liter in returning very respectable EPA fuel economy of 15 city and 21 highway mpg with 2WD (subtract 1 mpg respectively for 4WD models). Premium fuel is recommended. You can safely use 87 octane, though engineers report a power loss of about 2 percent on the low-grade stuff, and you can expect an undetermined drop in fuel economy, too.
More Refined Than Ever
On the freeways and surface streets of Austin, Texas, it was clear that the High Country is easily suited for daily driver duty. It boasts cabin refinement and noise insulation at the top of its class (just like other, lesser Silverados) and the High Country-specific brown leather looks and feels great. Its logo-emblazoned headrests are constant reminders that, yes, you got something for your extra cash outlay.
Active noise cancellation is standard in Silverados equipped with 6.2-liter engines to abate the noise signature of its four-cylinder mode. The cylinder deactivation system was certainly eager to switch into V4 mode to save fuel during our drive, but you'd never detect it was occurring unless you stared at the indicator in the instrument cluster. The transition is that seamless.
The soft throttle tip-in of the L86 gives it a similar part-load character to the 5.3-liter engine when easing away from a stoplight. Put your foot to the floor instead and the 6.2-liter delivers a muted roar and thrums noticeably as it winds toward its 6,000-rpm rev limit. According to GM, the bigger engine will hurl this crew cab pickup truck to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. That's quick for a car, never mind a full-size pickup. Strangely, by the seat of the pants it didn't feel as fast as those numbers suggest. Maybe the tall ride height is throwing off our pants-seat's calibration.
Power To Spare
What's more impressive — and more important — than its unladen straight-line acceleration improvement over the 5.3 is the 6.2's ability to haul loads. We drove a High Country with a 27-foot, 7,000-pound Airstream trailer on its hitch and the 6.2 barely flinched. There's a surfeit of reserve power with this engine, and this takes a lot of the sweat out of towing.
Another great sweat-removing feature is GM's automatic grade braking that debuted last year, whereby the transmission downshifts on downhill sections to keep speed from spiraling upward undesirably. About the only quibble we found while towing is that the transmission's wide-ratio gearing causes a noticeable drop in thrust with each upshift.
Note that the tow rating maxes out at 9,800 pounds (9,500 for 4WD trucks with the long bed) since High Country models are not available with the Max Trailering package. Seems GM reckons there are limits to how much outright trucky-ness belongs in a luxury pickup.
All High Country models are crew cabs, with your choice among two bed lengths. Body-color bumpers, 20-inch chrome wheels wearing P275/55 tires and a unique chrome grille are the major exterior tip-offs to High Country status.
Along with a long list of standard equipment, the highfalutin-est Silverado starts at $45,100 with destination. Despite the steep price, it's likely that the company will sell every one it can build. The High Country may be a blatant money-grab model for GM when it goes on sale in the next few weeks, but it sure is a nice one.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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