2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 First Drive: A Versatile Off-Road
Finding white space in the half-ton pickup market to sell a new model is a nearly impossible task. Automakers are already selling a dizzying array of configurations — gasoline, diesel, electric, work vehicle, desert racer — if a buyer wants something, it’s available.
But Chevrolet may have discovered a tiny sliver of untapped demand it can tap into with the 2022 Silverado ZR2.
The General Motors brand introduced the truck as its flagship off-road variant, and at first glance it might seem in direct competition with the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX.
But a 150-mile test, both on and off pavement in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, demonstrated that the capable ZR2 fills an attractive niche for a larger slice of truck buyers. Perhaps the best way to describe this segment is to call it “versatile”. The competition tangentially includes the Raptor and TRX, but will more properly range from the newly redesigned Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the F-150 Tremor and standard four-wheel-drive Ram 1500 and that truck’s Rebel trim.
Here’s why. The Silverado ZR2 is the best at almost anything, but it’s very good at almost everything.
Start with off-road, which Chevrolet will use as its main marketing argument. The ZR2 handles almost any rough terrain and feels equally at home whether running in the desert or crawling through 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 bed (68 inches).
It starts with a newly designed suspension that smooths out ruts, softens landings and rides pavement better 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 beefier version of the 40-millimeter Multimatic DSSV (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) spool dampers that the automaker deploys in the smaller Colorado ZR2 pickup. The Multimatics use sophisticated technology, including three separate spool valves to control damping combined with three connected chambers for fluid flow. In addition, they are matched with retuned springs to increase the maximum travel of the front and rear suspensions.
The truck also sports front and rear electronic lockers, off-road chassis and suspension calibrations, including Terrain mode, allowing one-pedal crawling.
There is a set of skid plates to protect the underbody from the inevitable bumps and scrapes. The dual exhaust was placed before the rear bumper to eliminate potential damage. Chevrolet redesigned the front bumper, adding clearance that allows for a 31.8-degree approach angle. The corners of the bumper are modular to facilitate the repair. The truck rolls on 18-inch wheels with 33-inch all-terrain tires.
Silverado ZR2 Power and Fuel Economy
GM’s 6.2-liter V8 engine rated at 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque powers the gig truck with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s a good, smooth powertrain, but not the best in the segment for riders 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 returns 702 and 650, respectively. Both are quicker than the Silverado, and while torque of the Chevy is enough for crawling over rocks and steep hills, the over-the-top TRX has a lot more.
Chevrolet falls in the middle when it comes to fuel economy ratings, but none of these off-road-optimized trucks are known or bought for efficiency. The EPA rates the ZR2 at 14 mpg in city driving, 17 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. The Raptor’s ratings are a bit better at 15 mpg city, 18 highway and 16 combined. The TRX doesn’t even come close, delivering 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, an approach angle of 31.8 degrees and a rollover angle of 23.4 degrees.
The Ford Raptor tops the first two measurements with 12 inches of ground clearance and a 23.9-degree departure angle; its approach angle of 31.0 degrees and rollover angle of 22.7 degrees are within tenths of a distance. The TRX offers 11.8 inches of ground clearance, a 23.5 degree departure angle, a 30.2 degree approach angle and a 21.9 degree rollover angle.
But here’s the catch. These minor differences will not have a significant effect on the course. Chevrolet has therefore made a good compromise to obtain better driving performance on the highway and in everyday life with the Silverado ZR2.
Silverado ZR2 Payload and Trailer Rating
And that’s where “versatile” comes in. It also has more utility than its rivals, including a maximum payload capacity of 1,440 pounds and a trailer weight rating of 8,900 pounds. That’s enough for just about any trip to the garden center and to carry most equipment or a medium-sized trailer.
While the Raptor offers a smaller payload limit of 1,400 pounds, its trailer rating is almost 8 percent smaller at 8,200 pounds. The Ram TRX has a maximum payload of 1,310 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds. Thanks to its hybrid powertrain, the TRD Pro tops them all with a maximum towing capacity of 11,175 and a payload limit of 1,600 pounds, but it’s nowhere near as fast.
All truck manufacturers have worked to bring their interiors up to the level of well-appointed SUVs and passenger cars. A lack of attention to interior materials and design plagued previous versions of the Silverado, but Chevrolet is stepping up. The ZR2 has well-bolstered leather front seats that improve comfort on the roughest terrain and still feature premium stitching patterns and composition.
Lots of technology, safety and style
Like its Silverado siblings, the ZR2 has updated technology that starts with a 13.4-inch-diagonal horizontal touchscreen paired with a 12.3-inch-diagonal configurable digital instrument panel. The new design is easy to access, functional and intuitive. Chevrolet also transformed the screens and instrumentation into a horizontal format. It’s easier for a driver to use while gauging traffic with minimal distraction. Many feel that vertical designs tend to direct the driver’s eyes downward, away from the road.
The Silverado ZR2 offers a suite of advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking , following distance indicator and automatic high beams. It also comes standard with side blind spot alert with tow and rear cross-traffic braking and rear pedestrian alert.
Chevrolet also gave the truck a pizzazz to set it apart from other Silverados. The designers mounted a contrasting black embossed insert in the middle of the bonnet. It serves no physical purpose but creates a dynamic look. They also gave the ZR2 its own hood. The designer said Star Wars X-wing fighters inspired the design. The bowtie-shaped Chevrolet logo in the grille is hollowed out in the middle to allow more air to flow into the engine bay. Additionally, the ZR2 has a unique wheel design. The interior is Jet Black/Graystone leather with complementary dark accents.
Well-rounded and sturdy, at a price
Again, Chevrolet’s goal was to build a truck that performed as well on-road as it did off-road. As a result, the Silverado ZR2 performs well as a commuter, toy hauler, navigating technical trails or speeding through sand.
At $69,295, including a $1,695 delivery charge, buyers should be prepared to pay more for the Silverado ZR2 to get its versatility and utility. Depending on the frequency of off-road driving and the difficulty of the routes that potential buyers anticipate, other truck choices could provide sufficient capacity, but at a lower cost. The ZR2 costs about $10,000 more than a 2022 Silverado Trail Boss Z51 with the 5.3-liter V8, but opting for one at the ZR2’s equipment level would cost significantly more. In that regard, the ZR2 is a solid bet, and buyers looking for one of the best combinations of off-road capability, hauling capability and everyday comfort should consider the new Silverado ZR2.