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2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country Review: High Desert at the Horse Show

I recently had a chance to spend a week driving the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country with the High Desert package and during that time, we used the uniquely-upfitted pickup to get us to and from a weekend-long horse show.

For the 2017 model year, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country is the top-of-the-line package with plenty of chrome on the outside, all of the essential premium features on the inside and an available 6.2L V8 engine packing 420hp and 460lb-ft of torque. The High Country trimline is so heavily appointed that there aren’t many options shy of different wheels, different side steps, floormats, bed coatings and a power sunroof.

However, the High Country trim is offered with the unique High Desert package, which adds a sport bar, a hard tonneau cover and a cargo system in the bed – including dry storage compartments built into the bedsides. The result of adding the High Desert package is a look from the side which is a great deal like the old Avalanche pickup, but this system offers far more functionality in terms of cargo handling.

The Silverado 1500 High Country is a luxury truck inside and out, but since it offers the same capabilities as the other half-ton Chevy trucks with the similar drivetrain, I put this pickup to the work of a weekend-long horse show. This involves towing a 5,500lb trailer to and from the venue a couple of hours away along with packing a stunning amount of equipment and supplies into the truck. The horse show tests the towing, hauling, storage and overall comfort levels of the truck, making it one of the best tests for a truck or SUV.

Price As Tested
Before getting into my hard-working review of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado High Country, here is a quick look at the pricing. The High Country trim with the Crew Cab, the short bed, and four wheel drive has a base MSRP of $54,975. Adding the High Desert Package adds $6,995, the 6.2L V8 adds $2,495, the power sunroof adds $995 and the destination charge adds $1,295. This brings the price as tested for this loaded pickup to $66,755.

17 Silverado High Country DS

Loading Up the High Desert Silverado
The first step in preparing for a horse show weekend is loading up the bed of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado High Country with the large items, including a few large bins of supplies, a muck bucket with cart, pitchforks, a 50lb bag of grain, four 60lb bales of hay and assorted other items which are too big – or too dirty – to go inside of the truck. To do this, I had to remove the cool hard tonneau cover so that the hay had space to stand on end. Hay never fits under the tonneau, so this was no surprise, but the three-panel tonneau was easier to remove and easier to stow than any other hard tonneau covers I’ve worked with.

17 silverado tonneau
Once the tonneau was safely tucked in the garage, we loaded up all of the equipment for the show into the unique High Desert bed, at which point it became very clear that the storage compartments in the bedsides take up some of the space in the bed. It is still wide enough to accommodate a 4x8 sheet of plywood (and all of our items for the horse show), but the bed is a little narrower than the average half-ton short bed. Of course, the other side of that coin is that some of the smaller items that we would usually just throw in the bed – like bagged folding chairs and muddy riding boots – were stashed in the locking bedside compartments.

17 Silverado bedside

Finally, the cargo management system includes a panel in the floor of the bed that flips up, separating the rear-most section of the cargo box from the rest. This area is a foot or so deep and it is also handy when making trips to the store, as this divider keeps your items from sliding around the bed while on the road. We used this feature each day of the show, putting muddy boots and other items too dirty for the cab back there without having to worry about them sliding around the bed.

17 silverado bed divider

Really, most people don’t need the bed to be much wider than four feet, so what little width you lose with the Silverado’s High Desert bed package is more than recovered in the usefulness of the bedside storage compartments. In addition to holding things for the horse show, I also used these compartments to get groceries home later in the week, so they are a great addition to the truck.

Pulling the Horse Trailer
Once the bed was loaded up, I used the backup camera of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country to easily hook up to our two-horse trailer. Our champion show horses were loaded in and we set off on our two-hour trip to the showgrounds. The drive route includes some country roads, some crowded city driving and plenty of highway cruising, so this trip allowed me to experience the Silverado 1500 with the horse trailer in a variety of situations.

As you might imagine, the 6.2L V8 of my Silverado High Country test truck had no issue pulling the 5,500lb horse trailer. With 420 horsepower and 460lb-ft of torque, the half-ton Chevy accelerates smoothly and as quickly from a stop as you could want when pulling live animals. When cruising on the highway, you don’t have to step down a bunch of gears to pick up speed or attack a long uphill pull and during normal cruising, the Silverado doesn’t have to work very hard to keep the mass moving. Overall, I was very happy with how the 6.2L V8 handled the added weight and for anyone considering a new Chevy truck, I would definitely recommend paying the extra money for this engine over the 5.3L V8. They are both great engines, but with and without the trailer – the bigger engine makes the Silverado a much more enjoyable truck to drive.

17 Silverado High Country with trailer

In addition to having plenty of power to pull the trailer, the 2017 Silverado 1500 High Country handled well with the 5,500lb load out back thanks to the High Desert’s Magnetic Ride Control. Granted, it isn’t like we were whipping around turns, but with some trucks, the horse trailer can push the vehicle through sweeping turns, but this half-ton Chevy handled perfectly in every situation – including a rough, dirt road. The huge chrome wheels and low profile tires transfer quite a bit of the road harshness through the steering, so someone who spends lots of time on rough dirt roads might want to consider a different wheel/tire setup, but bumps aside – the Silverado made short work of getting the trailer to the showgrounds.

Finally, while this Silverado had an integrated electronic brake controller, I always test the braking capabilities of a truck with the trailer hooked up without the electronic brakes. Once again, the new Chevy had no issues, stopping smoothly without any assistance from the trailer.

Once we arrived at the showgrounds, we unloaded the horses, dropped the trailer, unloaded the Silverado and began our long, first day at the event. At the end of that day, we headed home in the unladen truck, giving me a chance to experience this Silverado without all of that extra weight.

Driving the Silverado 1500 High Country Hard
Anyone who has spent any time pulling a livestock trailer will tell you that it requires a special type of gentle driving. You don’t want to accelerate, brake or turn too hard, as it could injure the animals. Towing the horses to the venue allowed me to experience how well the Silverado High Country handles the heavy load, but I didn’t get to really push the truck hard until we were headed home that first night.

17 Silverado High Country side

The 6.2L V8 allows this half-ton Chevy to pull the trailer with ease, but when the trailer was gone, that 420hp/460tq mill makes this truck pretty quick. From a stop, launching the High Country hard leads it to sprint up to the posted speed limit in a hurry and on the highway, this truck will comfortably hurry to speeds well beyond any posted speed limit. This might not be a performance-themed truck, but the combination of the 6.2L V8 and the 8-speed automatic transmission makes for a fast, fun-to-drive truck.

A Plush Interior on a Cool Morning
Each morning of the horse show, we left the house well before sunrise, typically around 4am. At that time of day in Michigan in September, it is fairly cold, so after being ripped out of bed for a day of tiring work at the horse show, the comfortable cabin of the Silverado High Country was a welcome sight. With the remote start, we were able to have the truck running before we headed out, allowing the heater and the heated front seats to be nice and warm when we hit the road. Also, the plush leather seats were comfortable enough for those of us who weren’t driving to sleep on the lengthy trip to the grounds and when we got there, I reclined the driver’s seat and spent an hour napping in the luxurious pickup myself.

17 Silverado High Country seats

While making the drive to the grounds, I enjoyed satellite radio through the Bose premium sound system, while the navigation system was easy to set when headed back and forth. I also enjoyed that sound system when I was napping at the event during the day, as the Bose speakers sound as great as you’d expect.

17 Silverado High Country dash

Also, while it was cool in the mornings, the Michigan autumn weather brought much hotter temperatures in the afternoon and that gets to be hard on the competitors. To remedy this, our truck serves as a sort of lounge between rides, where we can all relax in the air condition – complete with cooled front seats and that lovely sound system.

The Final Word
The 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country is a premium luxury truck, but it passed the horse show test with flying colors. While the High Desert bed system cuts into bed space just a bit, it is worth the trade to have the handy cargo management systems in the bedsides and the floor of the bed. The 6.2L engine pulls the horse trailer with ease while also making the unloaded truck surprisingly quick and the interior is fitting of a luxury model.

17 Silverado High Country front

If you are a truck owner who never puts anything in the bed, the High Desert package is little more than an expensive styling upgrade, but for those people who use the bed, this package is worth every cent of the $7,000 upgrade. It gives the Silverado a sportier look and makes the bed far more functional in terms of smaller cargo, while the bedside storage makes good use of otherwise useless space.

So, if you want a new Chevy Silverado 1500 with all of the interior bells and buzzers, the High Country trimline is your best bet, but when you add the 6.2L V8 and the High Desert bed system – there is nothing stopping this plush pickup from serving as a very handsome work truck.

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