The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 is No Raptor Killer, But It's Still a Tough Truck

Chevy's new halo version of the 1500 pickup impresses off- and on-road. And, hey, it looks cool too.

chevy silverado zr2 at joshua tree national park
Tyler Duffy

Ford has made a small mint selling the famed desert-running F-150 Raptor. Ram responded with the epic (and epically fuel-thirsty) 700-plus-horsepower Ram 1500 TRX. But Chevy, thus far, has refused to take things back to the Late Cretaceous. They’ve shown us an amorphous, supercharged off-roader concept formerly known as The Beast, but we haven’t received a full-throated, super off-roading Silverado sport truck — until now, with Chevy debuting the new-for-2022 halo trim Silverado ZR2.

I traveled out to the Southern California desert to sample the Silverado ZR2 for a day in its natural environment. And it exhibits a quality we’ve seldom seen in the big three pickup wars: restraint.

Instead of trying to out-madcap Ford and Ram with another cartoonishly proportioned monster truck, Chevy delivered a sensible, 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 low-key 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 compelling enough package to fill that niche...and keep normally brand-loyal Silverado buyers from defecting.

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What is the Chevy Silverado ZR2?
chevy silverado zr2
Tyler Duffy

The Silverado ZR2 is the new top-of-the-line off-roading trim for the Silverado 1500 that came with the mid-cycle refresh. The ZR2 badge comes over from the badass, off-road-ready Colorado ZR2. The Silverado ZR2 gets a similar treatment and will fulfill a similar role as the apex predator in the 1500 lineup, offering a more robust package than the LT Trail Boss.

Chevy gives the Silverado ZR2 a two-inch lift and 33-inch MT tires. It has an impressive 11.2 inches of ground clearance and more suspension travel front (9.84 inches) and rear (10.62 inches than the LT Trail Boss. The trim includes Multimatic DSSV dampers and e-locking front and rear differentials. The ZR2 also gets a Terrain Mode with one-pedal driving for rock crawling and a ZR2-specific high approach angle front bumper with a front skid plate.

The Silverado ZR2 receives unique styling features, including a black hood insert, a trim-unique grille with a hollow “flow-tie,” unique 18-inch wheels and a Jet Black/Greystone leather-trimmed interior.

Chevy didn't go full extreme with the ZR2
chevy silverado zr2
Tyler Duffy

Unlike the F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX, the Silverado ZR2 does not get a power upgrade. It sticks with the standard output of 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, connected 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 approach the Ram 1500 TRX (or upcoming Raptor R). Chevy argues that you don’t need more power. And it’s hard to get a richer sound than the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 routed through a catback exhaust.

The Silverado ZR2 also takes what would now qualify as a more conservative approach with 33-inch tires. For comparison, the Ram 1500 TRX offers 35-inch treads. The F-150 Raptor has 35-inch standard tires and can level up to 37 inches. The Bronco Raptor is launching with standard 37-inch tires, and Jeep is now teasing 40-inch tires in its concept vehicles. The big tires may be more about looks than improved functionality or driveability. But looks are a lot of the reason people buy off-road trucks.

How does the Chevy Silverado ZR2 drive off-road?
chevy silverado zr2
Tyler Duffy

When I tested the LT Trail Boss at 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 was described as the full California desert-running experience. We were airing down the tires and locking the diffs for multiple rocky and sandy hill climbs. And we did some high-speed running over flat, sandy terrain (at a top speed of exactly 50 mph and not one mph over, if anyone from Chevy is reading).

On that expansive range of challenges, the Silverado ZR2 proved impressive all around. It has excellent flex, articulation and ground clearance for low-speed obstacles. The high-performance, racing-derived Multimatic dampers keep the truck composed, planted and not particularly back-jarring at higher speeds. The 6.2-liter V8 delivers more than enough power and torque for the requirements. The truck didn’t put a foot wrong all day, and there’s not much more a reasonable person would ask of it.

The Silverado ZR2 will get bested at extreme margins. A mid-size truck would have better angles. Higher-trim Wranglers and Broncos can disconnect the sway bar and clear a higher level of boulder. And a Raptor will have more suspension travel. But the Silverado ZR2 will handle the terrain most truck buyers would put their $70,000-plus pickup through competently and durably (Chevy's production test mule truck was still on our trip gamely doing every obstacle we did — and one particularly steep hill climb Chevy would not let us attempt).

How does the Chevy Silverado ZR2 drive on-road?
chevy silverado zr2 logo
Tyler Duffy

Surprisingly well. Chevy made a point to have the Silverado ZR2 not feel like a complete ogre when you get back on the pavement; people buy full-size trucks to daily-drive them. And judging from a couple of hours spent on windy backroads and California highways, GM succeeded. It handles lightly and athletically like a normal, modern Silverado. That may not be quite up to the refinement of the Ram 1500 or Ford F-150, but knocking the Silverado for that is splitting hairs between very good and outstanding.

The V8 delivers its ample power smoothly through the 10-speed automatic transmission. The Multimatic DSSV dampers — also used in several high-performance road cars — deliver a controlled and agreeable on-road ride. The Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires don’t generate a ton of noise (at least inside the cabin) at highway speed.

The off-road mods — as they do at Ford and Ram — do compromise traditional work truck activities. The Silverado ZR2’s towing capacity (8,900 lbs) and payload capacity (1,440 pounds) — well still decent — are at the low end of what the Silverado 1500 offers. If you’re buying a motorized beast of burden, the ZR2 won’t be your Silverado of choice.

What's the Silverado ZR2 interior like?
chevy silverado zr2 interior

Elevating the interior quality was a major goal of the Silverado mid-cycle refresh for 2022. As an LT-or-above-trim Silverado, the ZR2 gets the new interior, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and a 13.4-inch touchscreen. The interior materials are more durable for off-road use. (Chevy saves the perforated leather and open-pore wood for the luxed-out High Country trim.) I found the cabin spacious, and the front seats were comfortable and supportive over a day of rough driving. Infotainment screens were easy to navigate.

On the plus side, a lot of the off-road controls (differential locks, turning off the parking sensor) are easily accessible in a central location with large switches under the touch screen. On the minus side, drive mode switching and the buttons to shift between 2WD and 4WD high are low — things one uses frequently in off-roading situations — are to the left of the steering wheel and invisible to the driver.

How much does the Silverado ZR2 cost?
chevy silverado zr2
Tyler Duffy

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. Within the Silverado 1500 lineup, the Silverado ZR2 starts at $2,755 more expensive than the 6.2-liter V8 High Country and $8,055 more than the 6.2-liter V8 LT Trail Boss.

Most buyers — coming that far — will add the Technology Package to get adaptive cruise control (yeah, that’s a luxury feature on your $70,000 truck) and the Catback exhaust to push the price into the low-to-mid $70,000s.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the car market, that’s going to sound incredibly pricey. But remember the average full-size truck purchase price was hovering around $50,000 before the recent inflation. So the outlay for the Silverado ZR2 (and what you get) is not that outlandish, relatively.

What are some Silverado ZR2 alternatives?
chevy silverado zr2 logo
Tyler Duffy

As we’ve discussed, the Silverado ZR2 is Chevy’s answer to the Ford F-150 Raptor ($68,675) and Ram 1500 TRX ($76,880). Those trucks offer more capability and chucking in options — like the aforementioned 37-inch wheels — can make them dramatically more expensive. The new Toyota Tundra TRD Pro ($66,680) starts a bit cheaper.

Ford’s F-150 Tremor package — the more practical alternative to the F-150 Raptor — offers similar off-road features to the Silverado ZR2 and can tow more. That package starts in a stripped-down version at $52,235 MSRP. Though if you load it up with similar features to the ZR2 the pricing is similar.

The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
chevy silverado zr2
Tyler Duffy

Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8; 10-speed automatic; 4x4

Horsepower: 420

Torque: 460 lb-ft

Ground Clearance: 11.2 inches

Towing Capacity: 8,900 lbs

Payload Capacity: 4,400 lbs


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