"I like your truck," the young attendant said as she looked over the menacing 2017 Chevy Silverado. I had pulled into the wrong parking lot in Dallas and risked tying up impatient drivers behind me, but it didn't seem to matter. And that's where I learned a valuable lesson: Even an outsider to Texas can feel at home behind the wheel of a pickup.

In this case, my vehicular costume was a brawny 2017 Silverado LTZ crew cab with the Z71 4x4 off-road package. As if this brute didn't make its presence known enough, it was dressed in the Midnight Edition with a black exterior paint, black bowtie emblems, knobby off-road tires, blacked-out alloy wheels and jet black interior.  Eventually I found the right lot for my hotel, but similar "I'm not from here" incidents would play out in the following days during my stay in Dallas and its outlying area. And the big Chevy had my back every time.

Texas loves trucks

The old saying goes: When in a Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Texas, do as the Texans do and drive a truck.  Texans have a special relationship with trucks. Chevy cites that one out of every six full-size trucks is sold in the Lone Star state.  The state also played a vital role in the reason for my visit: To witness the unveiling of two special Chevy trucks -- Centennial Editions of the 2018 Silverado and 2018 Colorado. The two editions, celebrating 100 years of Chevy trucks, were unveiled at the Texas State Fair, itself an auto show of sorts where trucks and SUVs feature just as prominently as fried food and Big Tex. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to drive this full-size Chevy truck a few more days while visiting my parents, who retired to the state years ago.

With the standard 5.3-liter V8, this 4-wheel-drive Silverado Z71 had brawn under its hood to back up its looks. This engine boasts 355 horsepower and an impressive 383 lb-ft of torque, which provides smooth grunt over a broad range. Putting the power to the wheels is an 8-speed automatic transmission that debuted last year on LTZ and High Country models. The new 8-speed was mostly seamless, but ironically is no more fuel efficient than the 6-speed that is still available on lower trims. In fact, the EPA rates models with the 6-speed slightly more efficient. This 4-wheel-drive Silverado with the 8-speed is pegged at 15 mpg city/ 20 highway, vs. 16/22 for a 6-speed version.

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Z71 package ups ante

I didn't have the time or opportunity to do much off-roading in this Chevy truck, which is a shame because that's what the Z71 package is made to do. In addition to the 2-speed transfer case that comes with standard 4-wheel-drive models, Chevy's Z71 package adds off-road suspension with Rancho shocks, skid plates, hill descent control and a locking rear differential.

The Z71 package is available on LT and LTZ trims of the Chevy Silverado, and on a wide range of forms. From a lower-cost LT model with regular cab and standard box to a spacious crew cab LTZ model such as this, all can be toughened up and ready to mud with the optional package, which adds roughly $1,500 to $1,900, depending on configuration.

Also: See the 12 Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2018

Spacious cab, handy features

This big Silverado requires a climb up into its cab, and while there's a grab handle on the passenger side, I wished for one every time I got in the driver's seat. Once inside, though, it's easy to why trucks like this are the de facto family car of Texas. They're huge inside. Room is especially commendable in back, where passengers in crew cab models are treated to nearly 41 inches of legroom, more than a full-size sedan like the Chevy Impala.

All in, this test model stickered at $55,600. Not cheap, but highly equipped. In addition to the upgraded hardware, amenities included leather interior, Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control, navigation and 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, sunroof, and heated and ventilated front seats. Also impressive is the active safety system that includes lane-keeping assist and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Priceless was the ability for an outsider to feel right at home in Texas with this Chevy.

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