I was driving home in my commuter sedan last night and its front passenger-side tire blew. It was long overdue. I’ve run that car into the ground, and the bald tires were bold-faced proof of the abusive maintenance strategy I’ve adhered to since I began driving at the age of 16. Set me in front of a popped hood and ask me to say something meaningful—silence. While I know almost nothing about the complex inner workings of a car or truck—and I really don’t care to—I do know my lifestyle as a traveling hunter depends on the tools that get me where I want to go. And that’s what a motor vehicle is to me: a tool.
But I’ve transported too many dead deer in the trunk of my car. I’ve driven down too many gravel roads and across too many fields in my car. Enough is enough. I’m ready to upgrade my hunting vehicle into a true man’s machine—a pickup truck.
During my recent pronghorn hunting trip to Montana, I had the opportunity to field test a 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 4WD crew cab. And when I say “field test,” I mean it. From the moment I first turned the key until the end of the adventure, I logged 1,836.2 miles in this new Chevy. When the folks at General Motors designed the 2014 Chevy Silverado, they looked at it from “hood to hitch.” Or so that’s what I was told before I strapped on my seat belt and took it for a long ride into the Western prairie. It turns out they weren’t just fluffing me up with marketing hype. The new Silverado offered the most pleasurable pavement-pounding, mud-plundering experience I’ve ever had behind a steering wheel.
For a guy who routinely feels like Fred Flintstone running my beater ride on hunting adventures, the features of the 2014 Chevy Silverado reminded me that we’ve indeed sent a man to the moon and come a long way since. I won’t waste your time regurgitating all the tech specs about this truck; Chevy has spent ungodly amounts of money, time and expertise to show off every detail of every model of the 2014 Silverado at their excellent website. But I will share some personal highlights of what really got me jazzed about this truck.
Great Gadget Support
Why would someone need five USB connections, an SD card reader, three 12-volt power receptacles and a 110-volt outlet in a truck? I wondered the same thing … until my two passengers and I started fighting for places to plug in our smartphones, GPS units and camera battery chargers. When you’re on the road chasing game all day, in the middle of nowhere, there’s something to be said about ample power sources. The 2014 Silverado meets that demand—and then some.
The Chevy MyLink system allows you to pair your smartphone and other USB-driven devices with the truck’s on-board computer and color touch screen. You can access your phone contacts to make hands-free calls through a microphone that’s built into the roof of the truck; you’ll hear the person on the other end through the truck’s main speaker system. You can also listen to your personal collection of music from your paired device, or tune-in to XM commercial-free radio directly through MyLink. Additionally, this slick system allows for voice commands and hands-free control of your devices (I never tested the voice control). Basically, MyLink helped to keep my passengers and I from going stir crazy during our 40-plus hours on the road; our final hours were spent listening to Jeff Foxworthy’s “Blue Collar Radio” on XM.
Amidst the usual gauges on the driver’s side front console—speedometer, odometer, etc.—a digital screen in the center gives you a variety of visual display options, which you can control with buttons on the steering wheel. I especially appreciated the ability to monitor the gas tank’s distance ’til empty; there aren’t a lot of gas stations on Montana back roads, so it pays to know how much fuel you have left to burn.
The designers of this truck weren’t entirely focused on city-slicker technology. One of the coolest electronics on this truck is something a simple, utilitarian hunter can really appreciate—LED bed lighting. A flip of a switch in the cab controls on/off LED lights that sit under the rails of the truck bed, making it easy to find gear in the dark morning or evening hours when hunters are usually stirring.
We opted to rent an inexpensive motel room during this trip, but the Silverado seats were probably more comfortable than the cot where I spent my sleepless nights. When my hands got cold—say, after standing out in blowing winds and pouring prairie rain—the optional heated steering wheel felt nice. During the heat of the day—say, after belly-crawling through mosquito-infested sage flats in 83-degree heat—the air-conditioned seats were a slice of heaven. And for the long hours on the highway, it didn’t hurt to be able to adjust the length of the brake and gas pedals to perfectly fit my long legs.
Another thoughtful detail that adds to the overall comfort of this truck is the EZ Lift and Lower tailgate. It’s annoying and potentially dangerous dealing with a tailgate that slams down with its full force upon opening, and then requires all your energy to slam it closed. The designers of the 2014 Silverado have addressed this problem with an improved tailgate that slowly, quietly creeps open, and it can be lifted up and closed with just two fingers. Cool.
Lastly, one of the biggest struggles of getting at gear in the bed of a pickup is … getting up there. Chevy solved that problem on the 2014 Silverado with big steps on each side of the bumper, making it simple to climb into the bed without busting your butt.
Super Storage Capacity
From the bed to the glove box, there was more than enough room in the 2014 Silverado for three hardcore gear-junkie hunters to pack an excessive amount of stuff. We loaded the bed with three complete compound bow setups, two rifles, two shotguns, two 120-quart coolers and at least three bulging duffel bags, along with a pistol and several other items to fill in the cracks.
We kept some of our travel companions in the cab, including boots and other gear that we wanted to keep dry. The center console accommodated my DSLR camera, a handheld video camera with bag, two medium-sized GPS units and multiple plug-in chargers … and there was still room to spare. I loaded the truck door storage slots every morning with multiple Gatorades, sodas and snacks to keep me fueled during our 3 1/2 days of nonstop public land cruising.
Extensive Safety Features
When my driver’s seat began vibrating, I wondered if this new Silverado was equipped with massaging seats. But then I realized I was swerving toward the ditch, and then the center line, and then getting too close to the mini-van in front of me. The vibrations were actually part of the 2014 Silverado’s built-in safety features called the “Lane Departure Warning” and “Forward Collision Alert.” For long hours on the road, when a sleep-deprived hunter becomes unintentionally inattentive, these gentle warnings could be a real life-saver.
If you’re ever in trouble and need immediate hand-holding support from a real human being, On-Star is an available feature in the 2014 Silverado directly through the MyLink system. Luckily, we were able to fend for ourselves during our Montana excursion and nothing too serious happened that required the aid of an On-Star agent. However, one of my passengers did test the system and an agent immediately responded through the truck speakers. When he asked the agent, Duane, about where to find some antelope, he didn’t have an answer—so Duane kindly offered to forward the call to customer care for further support.
Another feature of the 2014 Silverado that I’ll lump into the “safety” category is the rear-view camera system. If you’re trying to back up to load a dead animal or simply get out of tight quarters on a two-track road, a backup camera is a priceless tool for preventing damages to the truck or your trophies. And when you’re in town, it’s a great peace of mind to know you’re not running over your neighbor’s dog or child … seriously.
Excellent Gas Efficiency
Like most “average” working-class Americans, almost everything I do is on a budget, including hunting. For this DIY pronghorn pursuit, my two conservative passengers and I were concerned about the gas mileage we would be forced to endure while driving from Minnesota to Montana and back. Most of our miles would be racked up on the highway, but make no mistake: The wide-open spaces out West can be a gas-guzzling nightmare for hunters.
During our 3 1/2 days spent in Montana, we traveled 300 miles searching for rutting pronghorns in the Silverado. This included a lot of aggressive driving—slam on the gas, slam on the brakes, repeat. Most of this was on gravel roads, with a slight mix of 4×4 action on slippery mud back-roads. So, after our trip was finished and the digital readout displayed an average fuel economy of 16.6 miles per gallon, we were more than satisfied. On the highway, we ran at approximately 21 miles per gallon. The official EPA fuel economy listed by Chevy says 16 MPG city and 22 MPG highway with a combined average of 18 MPG. Compared to my notes, that’s acceptably accurate. This notable gas efficiency is attributed to a bunch of things I don’t know much about, but according to Chevy we were running the “EcoTec3 5.3L V-8 VVT direct injection with Active Fuel Management; HydraMatic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission.” I was happy with it.
My days of going afield in a commuter car are numbered. I spend great deals of money to support my hunting addiction, and I know that my overall experience is degraded every time I cut corners and skimp on gear. Guns, ammo, camo and a comfortable, reliable truck … they’re all hunting tools. With a sticker price of $43, 165, the souped-up 2014 Silverado I tested in Montana might be out of my personal price range at the moment, but when I junk my car and begin looking for a new truck, there’s a damn good chance I’ll be heading to a Chevy dealership.