The 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 is tough, but not an F-150 Raptor
Ford made a small mint selling the famous desert-racing F-150 Raptor. Ram responded with the epic (and fuel-thirsty) Ram 1500 TRX with over 700 horsepower. But Chevy, so far, has refused to take things back to the Late Cretaceous. They showed us an amorphous, supercharged off-road concept formerly known as The Beast, but we haven’t received a full-throated super off-road Silverado sport truck – until now, with Chevy making its debut. the new-for-2022 Silverado ZR2 halo trim.
I traveled to the Southern California desert to sample the Silverado ZR2 for a day in its natural environment. And it exhibits a quality we’ve rarely seen in the Big Three Pickup Wars: restraint.
Instead of trying to outdo Ford and Ram with another monster truck of cartoonish proportions, Chevy delivered a no-nonsense, well-executed, off-road capable Silverado. The ZR2 kicks ass on a variety of trails. It’s comfortable to drive on the road. And it even has – by off-road pickup standards – a relatively understated and tasteful appearance.
The Silverado ZR2 may not be a true raptor killer; GM arguably already has that with the GMC Hummer EV SUT. But it should offer a package compelling enough to fill that niche…and keep normally brand-loyal Silverado buyers from defecting.
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What is the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2?
The Silverado ZR2 is the new premium off-road version of the Silverado 1500 that comes with the mid-cycle refresh. The ZR2 badge comes from the badass, off-road-ready Colorado ZR2. The Silverado ZR2 gets a similar treatment and will fill a similar role as the apex predator of the 1500 lineup, offering a more rugged package than the LT Trail Boss.
Chevy gives the Silverado ZR2 two inches of lift and 33-inch MT tires. It has an impressive 11.2 inches of ground clearance and more front (9.84 inches) and rear (10.62 inches) suspension travel than the LT Trail Boss. Trim includes Multimatic DSSV shocks and front and rear differentials. The ZR2 also gets Terrain Mode with one-pedal driving for rock crawling and ZR2-specific high approach angle front bumper with front skid plate.
The Silverado ZR2 receives unique styling features including a black hood insert, a unique grille with a hollow “flow clip”, unique 18-inch wheels and a Jet Black/Grey leather-trimmed interior.
Chevy didn’t go to extremes with the ZR2
Unlike the F-150 Raptor or the Ram 1500 TRX, the Silverado ZR2 doesn’t get a power upgrade. It sticks to the standard output of 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, hooked up to the usual 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s less than the F-150 Raptor’s 450 hp and 510 lb-ft, and it doesn’t come close to the Ram 1500 TRX (or the upcoming Raptor R). Chevy argues that you don’t need more horsepower. And it’s hard to get a richer sound than the normally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 routed through a catback exhaust.
The Silverado ZR2 also takes what would now be called a more conservative approach with 33-inch tires. For comparison, the Ram 1500 TRX offers 35-inch treads. The F-150 Raptor has standard 35-inch tires and can level up to 37 inches. The Bronco Raptor launches with standard 37-inch tires, and Jeep is now teasing 40-inch tires in its concept vehicles. Fat tires may be more about looks than improving functionality or handling. But looks are a big part of why people buy off-road trucks.
How does the Chevy Silverado ZR2 ride off-road?
When I tested the LT Trail Boss during the initial Silverado launch, there was a short off-road event at the lunch stop. But for the Silverado ZR2, we spent an entire day on trails around Joshua Tree National Park, getting what has been described as the full California desert racing experience. We aired the tires and locked the diffs for several rocky and sandy climbs. And we ran at high speeds on flat, sandy terrain (to a top speed of exactly 50 mph and not a mph more, if anyone from Chevy reads).
On this wide range of challenges, the Silverado ZR2 proved to be impressive all around. It has excellent flex, articulation and ground clearance for low speed obstacles. Race-derived high-performance Multimatic shocks keep the truck calm, planted and not particularly jerky at higher speeds. The 6.2-liter V8 provides more than enough power and torque for the needs. The truck hasn’t been wrong all day, and there’s not much more than a reasonable person would ask of it.
The Silverado ZR2 will be beaten by extreme margins. A mid-size truck would have better angles. Taller Wranglers and Broncos can disconnect the sway bar and clear a higher level of rock. And a Raptor will have more suspension travel. But the Silverado ZR2 will handle the terrain that most truck buyers would run their $70,000+ pickup truck competently and durably (Chevy’s production test mule truck was still on the road, doing every hurdle that we encountered – and a particularly steep Chevy climb wouldn’t let us try).
How does the Chevy Silverado ZR2 ride on the road?
Surprisingly well. Chevy wanted the Silverado ZR2 to not feel like a complete ogre when you hit the pavement again; people buy full-size trucks to drive around on a daily basis. And judging by a few hours on windy back roads and California highways, GM pulled it off. It handles lightly and athletically like a normal, modern Silverado. It might not quite live up to the refinement of the Ram 1500 or the Ford F-150, but to knock the Silverado for it is to split hairs between very good and exceptional.
The V8 delivers its power amply smoothly thanks to the 10-speed automatic transmission. Multimatic DSSV dampers – also used in several high performance road cars – provide a controlled and enjoyable ride on the road. The Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires don’t make a ton of noise (at least inside the cabin) at highway speeds.
Off-road mods – as they do at Ford and Ram – undermine traditional work truck operations. The towing capacity (8,900 lbs.) and payload capacity (1,440 lbs.) of the Silverado ZR2—still decent—are on the low end of what the Silverado 1500 offers. If you buy a beast of motorized sum, the ZR2 will not be your Silverado of choice.
What does the interior of the Silverado ZR2 look like?
Improving interior quality was a major focus of the Silverado mid-cycle refresh for 2022. As a Silverado LT or higher, the ZR2 receives the new interior, with a 12-inch digital instrument display, 3 inches and a 13.4 inch touchscreen. Interior materials are more durable for off-road use. (Chevy keeps the perforated leather and open-pore wood for the luxurious High Country trim.) I found the cabin roomy and the front seats comfortable and comfortable during a tough day of driving. The infotainment screens were easy to navigate.
On the plus side, many off-road controls (differential locks, parking sensor deactivation) are easily accessible in a central location with large switches below the touchscreen. On the negative side, the drive mode switch and buttons to switch between 2WD and 4WD high are low – things frequently used in off-road situations – are to the left of the steering wheel and invisible to the driver.
How much does the Silverado ZR2 cost?
The Silverado ZR2 is the most expensive Silverado 1500. Chevy starts the ZR2 at $67,600 MSRP, or $69,925 with the $1,695 destination charge factored in. In the Silverado 1500 line, the Silverado ZR2 starts at $2,755 more expensive than the 6.2-liter High Country V8. and $8,055 more than the 6.2-liter LT Trail Boss V8.
Most buyers – coming this far – will add the technology package to get adaptive cruise control (yes, that’s a luxury feature on your $70,000 truck) and catback exhaust to push the price into the $70,000 low to mid.
If you haven’t paid attention to the automotive market, this is going to seem incredibly expensive. But remember, the average purchase price of a full-size truck hovered around $50,000 before the recent inflation. So the expense for the Silverado ZR2 (and what you get) isn’t that weird, relatively.
What are the alternatives to the Silverado ZR2?
As we discussed, the Silverado ZR2 is Chevy’s answer to the Ford F-150 Raptor ($68,675) and Ram 1500 TRX ($76,880). These trucks offer more capability, and adding options — like the aforementioned 37-inch wheels — can make them significantly more expensive. The new Toyota Tundra TRD Pro ($66,680) starts a little cheaper.
Ford’s F-150 Tremor package – the more practical alternative to the F-150 Raptor – offers similar off-road characteristics as the Silverado ZR2 and can tow more. This package starts in a simplified version at $52,235 MSRP. However, if you load it with similar features as the ZR2, the price is similar.
The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
Powertrain : 6.2 liter V8; 10-speed automatic; 4×4
Power : 420
Couple : 460 lb-ft
Ground clearance : 11.2 inches
Towing capacity: 8,900 pounds
Payload capacity: 4,400 pounds
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