Review: Chevrolet’s Silverado ZR2 may lack some off-road upgrades, but most drivers won’t notice

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The way a follow-up drive program usually works, the host automaker’s lead driver sets a pace that finds the sweet spot between the capabilities of the vehicle being tested and the various driver-journalist abilities that follow behind. And maybe for the first time in my career I failed to keep up.

Not because my driving skills are surpassed by mother-duck-mom Liana Prieto (presumably, a former New York attorney turned California desert off-road driving guide). It’s my automotive EQ or mechanical sympathies. Should we really be driving this fast on this rough road?

Apparently we should. The ZR2 is Chevrolet’s response to the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX, built specifically to tackle rougher, more rugged trails and terrain than most drivers have ever encountered in their own vehicles.

As previously explained last fall, the ZR2 is a new addition to the Silverado lineup that has been extensively refreshed for 2022. And if Chevrolet’s take on the desert-runner genre doesn’t get as far as Detroit’s competition – there’s no extra power under the hood, and keeping the rear suspension is leaf spring while the other places the rear axle more closely with multi link and coil springs – the ZR2 is also much more affordable.

With the standard 6.2-liter, 420 horsepower V8, the base price of $76,248 is well below the $90,330 Ford is asking for the 450-horsepower Raptor or the $102,595 asking for the 702-horsepower Ram TRX.

Equally important, says Chevrolet, is to build a truck that buyers (most, to be honest, will never use all of its off-road capabilities) will enjoy driving on the highway. “The overall goal is to deliver all the features on and off the highway, including the ultimate luxury of a truck,” said program engineer Scott Janson. “We are very proud of the way it is driven on the road. Customers want their comfort, and crew cabs. We want to develop trucks that we love, and we are staying on that path.”

The Silverado ZR2 challenges a difficult section of trails that wind their way through Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

However, GM doesn’t skimp on off-road hardware. Key elements include: trick DSSV dampers supplied by Canada’s Multimatic Corp; 7 centimeter suspension lift with increased wheel travel; 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires that add another centimeter to 28.5 centimeters of ground clearance; improved approach, breakover and departure angles; skid-plate package; Terrain mode with single pedal driving; and front and rear e-lockable differentials. The transfer case has rear-wheel-drive, Automatic all-wheel-drive, high-four-wheel-drive, and low-four-wheel drive modes.

Our 250-kilometre, 8-hour demo drive includes a locked rock crawl with all the expected differences and an impossible hill climb in low, first gear, all accomplished with aplomb (however, always remember that there is no six-cabin crew pickup). a meter-long full size can be taken anywhere, say, a four-meter compact SUV can).

The real eye-opener was the pace that Chevrolet seemed to hope to maintain on the more exposed sections of the trails that meander through Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. At speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, the ride never brutalized us, and the suspension recovered quickly when ambushed by an unexpected trough or by a “clash of natural speed”. And if the rear axle sometimes feels a little spun on the washboard (a test that coil-sprung competitors might have handled better), it never gets trampled or chattered or off track.

“We decided where we wanted to play and we put it in a class of its own,” said chief executive engineer Jaclyn McQuaid when the ZR2 launched last year. Now that we know the price, it’s clear where he came from. In the end, the Chevrolet may not have broad off-road flair in the competition, but the difference lies in a level of difficulty most owners will never encounter. And at that price, Chevrolet can hope to turn more buyers into owners of the new desert runner alternative.

The front seats and dashboard of the ZR2 are more business-like and functional than artistic sculptures.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Technical specifications

Basic price: $76,258 (excluding freight and PDI).

Machine: 6.2 liter V8, 420 horsepower/460 lb.-ft.

Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic four-wheel drive/Auto plus dual-range four-wheel drive

Fuel consumption (liters/100 kilometers): 16.7 cities/14.1 highways

Alternative: Ford F-150 Raptor Ram 1500 TRX

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The ZR2 is also distinguished by its black hood inserts, cutouts on the front bumper end caps (which are removable), a unique grille, and wheel arch moldings.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

In addition to the raised suspension and 33-inch tires (on 18-inch wheels), the ZR2 is also distinguished by black hood inserts, rips in the front bumper end caps (which are removable), a unique grille and wheel arch moldings. . In addition, the exhaust pipe is tucked behind the rear bumper. The “rock slider” bar that protects the rockers is an additional cost.

Outback

Despite the wide range of seat adjustments, the snapping hood hides what’s close in front, but in the off-road extreme, the camera is your spotter.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Like all but the most basic 2022 Silverados, the ZR2 has a configurable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 13.4-inch touchscreen. The shifter is the switch lever on the center console. Apart from the touchscreen, there are still plenty of physical buttons (including for climate control) strewn across the new dashboard that present it more like business/functional than beautifully sculpted. Despite the various seat adjustments, the snapping hood hides what’s close in front, but off-road extreme, camera is your spotter.

Show

Peak power and torque may be overshadowed by the higher-priced competition, but traditionalists will appreciate the low thrust of the naturally aspirated V8, accompanied on the ZR2 with an ear candy “blip” from the flared exhaust pipe. or when lowering gears. The ride on asphalt is actually luxurious, but even though it wasn’t noticed by me, my co-driver’s more finely calibrated belly suggested it was a little loose too. The downside? The ZR2’s raised lift, slick tires and indirect steering substantially reduce handling compared to the borderline sportiness of the more road-oriented Silverados.

Technology

The trick DSSV damper is supplied by Multimatic Corp. Canada.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Built-in 4G LTE and Google standards allow onscreen access to Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Standard assisted driving technologies include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (including pedestrians), lane guard assistance and automatic headlights; adaptive cruise, rear view mirror and head-up display are optional.

Load

The maximum payload of the ZR2 is 1,440 pounds and the tow rating is 8,900 pounds. The Silverado’s version of the short bed, standard on the ZR2, is slightly longer and taller than its competitors, providing about 17-19 percent more volume.

Traditionalists will appreciate the massive lowdown boost from the naturally aspirated V8, accompanied on the ZR2 by an ear-candy ‘blip’ of the exhaust pipe when powered on or when downshifting.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The author is a guest of the automaker. Content is not subject to approval.

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