Finding empty space in the half-ton pickup truck market to sell a new model is an almost impossible task. Automakers are already selling a dizzying selection of configurations—gasoline, diesel, electric, work vehicles, desert runners—if the buyer wants something, it’s available.
But Chevrolet may have found a small piece of untapped demand that could be harnessed with the 2022 Silverado ZR2.
The General Motors brand introduced the truck as a variant of its off-road marquee, and at first glance, might appear to be in direct competition with the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX.
But 150-mile tests, both on and off the pavement at California’s Joshua Tree National Park, show that the ZR2 is capable of filling a niche that appeals to most truck buyers. Perhaps the best way to describe this segment is as “all-in-one.” The competition tangentially includes the Raptor and TRX, but it would be more appropriate to range from the newly redesigned Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the F-150 Tremor and up to the Ram 1500 four-wheel drive standard and the truck’s Rebel trim.
This is the reason. The Silverado ZR2 is the best in almost every way, but it’s excellent in almost everything.
Start with off-roading, which Chevrolet will use as its main marketing campaign. The ZR2 handles almost any rough terrain and feels right at home, whether running in the desert or crawling on rocks.
Chevrolet engineers made several modifications to the standard Silverado to achieve this performance. The ZR2 variant is available as a crew cab with a short (68-inch) berth.
It starts with a newly designed suspension that smoothes ruts, softens the landing, and rides better on the pavement than the standard Silverado, even on top of Chevrolet’s upgrades to the base truck for the 2022 model year.
The Silverado ZR2 uses a larger version of the 40-millimeter Multimatic DSSV (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) spool-valve damper that the automaker installed in the smaller Colorado ZR2 pickup. Multimatics uses advanced technology, including three separate spool valves to control damping paired with three connected chambers for fluid flow. In addition, they are matched with rearranged springs to maximize the travel of the front and rear suspension.
The truck also features front and rear electronic lockers, an off-road chassis and suspension calibration, including Terrain Mode, which allows rock crawling with a single pedal.
There is a skid plate to protect the underbody from inevitable bumps and scratches. Dual exhausts have been placed in front of the rear bumper to eliminate potential damage. Chevrolet redesigned the front bumper, adding clearance that allowed for a 31.8 degree approach angle. Bumper corners are modular for easy repair. The truck uses 18-inch wheels with 33-inch off-road tires.
Silverado ZR2 Horsepower and Fuel Economy
GM’s 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque powers the truck along with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s a nice, smooth powertrain, but not the top in its segment for drivers looking for raw power. The 2022 Raptor’s twin-turbo V6 makes 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque while the TRX’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8 makes 702 and 650 respectively. Both are faster than the Silverado, and while the Chevy has enough torque to crawl over rocks and climb steep hills, the over-the-top TRX has so much more.
Chevrolet is in the middle when it comes to fuel economy estimates, but neither of these off-road-optimized trucks is known or bought for its efficiency. The EPA rates the ZR2 at 14 mpg in city driving, 17 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. The Raptor’s estimate is a touch better at 15 mpg city, 18 highway and 16 combined. The TRX doesn’t even come close, offering ten mpg in city driving, 14 on the highway and 12 combined.
The Silverado ZR2 has a ground clearance of 11.2 inches, a departure angle of 23.3 degrees, an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, and a breakover angle of 23.4 degrees.
The Ford Raptor topped the first two sizes with a 12-inch ground clearance and a 23.9-degree departure angle; approach angle of 31.0 degrees and breakover angle of 22.7 degrees fell a few tenths behind. The TRX offers an 11.8-inch ground clearance, a 23.5-degree departure angle, a 30.2-degree approach angle and a 21.9-degree breakover angle.
But here’s the point. This small difference will not have a significant effect on the track. So Chevrolet made a decent compromise to get better road and daily driving performance from the Silverado ZR2.
Payload Rating and Trailer Silverado ZR2
And that’s where “all-round” comes in. It also has more utility than its competitors, including a maximum payload rating of 1,440 pounds and a trailer weight rating of 8,900 pounds. That’s enough for almost any trip to the park center and for hauling most medium-sized equipment or trailers.
While the Raptor provides a smaller payload limit of 1,400 pounds, its trailer rating is nearly 8% smaller at 8,200 pounds. The Ram TRX has a maximum payload of 1,310 pounds and a maximum tow trailer of 8,100 pounds. Thanks to its hybrid powertrain, the TRD Pro outperforms all with a maximum towing capacity of 11,175 and a payload limit of 1,600 pounds, but not quite as fast.
All truck makers have been working to bring their interiors to the level of well-appointed SUVs and passenger cars. The lack of attention to interior materials and design plagued previous versions of the Silverado, but Chevrolet stepped it up. The ZR2 has leather upholstery upholstery that enhances comfort in the toughest of terrains while retaining high-end stitching patterns and compositions.
Lots of Technology, Security and Style
Like its Silverado sibling, the ZR2 has updated technology starting with a 13.4-inch diagonal horizontal touchscreen paired with a configurable 12.3-inch diagonal digital instrument cluster. The new design is easy to reach, functional and intuitive. Chevrolet has also changed the display and instrumentation to a horizontal format. It’s easier for drivers to use and still measures traffic with minimal distraction. Many feel the vertical design tends to direct the driver’s gaze downwards, away from the road.
The Silverado ZR2 offers a range of advanced driver assistance systems, including forward collision warning, fixed lane assist with lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, distance following indicator and automatic high beam. It also has standard side blind zone warning with trailer and rear traffic braking and rear pedestrian warning.
Chevrolet also provided pizza trucks to set it apart from other Silverados. Designers installed a contrasting black insert in the center of the hood. It serves no physical purpose but creates a dynamic look. They also gave the ZR2 its own hood. The designer says that the X-wing fighter from Star Wars inspired the pattern. The Chevrolet bow tie logo on the grille is perforated in the middle to allow more air to flow into the engine compartment. In addition, the ZR2 has a unique wheel design. The interior is Jet Black/Graystone leather with complementary dark trim.
Round and Coarse, at a Price
Once again, Chevrolet’s goal is to make a truck capable of both on-road and off-road. As a result, the Silverado ZR2 performs well as a commuter, toy carrier, navigating technical trails, or speeding through the sand.
At $69,295, including $1,695 shipping, buyers should be prepared to pay more for the Silverado ZR2 for its versatility and usability. Depending on the frequency of off-roading and the difficulty of the potential buyer’s planned route, other truck options may provide sufficient capability but at a lower cost. The ZR2 is roughly $10k more expensive than the 2022 Silverado Trail Boss Z51 with its 5.3-liter V8—but opting for one to the level of the ZR2’s equipment will cost a lot more. In this regard, the ZR2 is a sound value, and buyers looking for one of the best combinations of off-road capability, payload capacity and everyday comfort should consider the new Silverado ZR2.