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Test Drive Review: The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Finds Off-Road Monster Truck Middle Ground In Battle Against TRX and Raptor

Is there a middle-ground when it comes to building an off-road monster? In a world where pickups like the Ford F-150 Raptor R and the Ram 1500 TRX pulverize trails and dunes with their plus-size dimensions and terrifying horsepower, it can sometimes seem as though caricature is the order of the day when ordering up a mega-muscled mud machine.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 front 3/4

The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 offers prospective pilots a different path. After years of staying on the sidelines and watching first Ford, then Ram absorb the astounding demand from customers for big-buck 4x4 specials, the Bowtie brand is finally angling for a piece of the action—with a twist. Leveraging the ZR2 angle that has been so successful with the mid-size Colorado truck, the Silverado edition eschew the burly countenance of its competitors and keeps its engine output well within the bounds of the rest of the Chevy truck line-up.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 tailgate badge

The end result is perhaps the only one of the current trio of full-size pickups that feels just as home on the street as it does tearing down a dry wash. The Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 might be late to the game, but its willingness to redefine the playing field is likely to win it more than a few converts who aren't totally sold on going gonzo.

Keeping It Skinny

It only takes one look at the Silverado ZR2 to identify the key areas where it differs from the Raptor and TRX. Although Chevrolet has outfitted the pickup with unique bumpers front and rear, rock rails, and an aggressive take on its recently-revised grille and headlights, it's also left the vehicle's track width alone. This stands in stark contrast to the ultra-wide Ford and Ram offerings, whose massive tires burst forth from their fenders like cauliflower ears, barely contained by the blistered flares adorning each fender.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 side view

The Silverado ZR2 doesn't bother at all with pushing its hubs past the sheet metal, and that has an impact on more than just its visuals. Averaging 6 inches narrower than its rivals, the ZR2 is much easier to navigate through traffic or a crowded parking lot, and is also better at squeezing through narrower off-road channels carved through rock or woods. Still, there are downsides to the decision: despite its two-inch lift, the pickup's body is designed to comfortably accommodate rubber no larger than 33 inches, which are smaller than the standard 35-inch units delivered by Ford and Ram (with the Blue Oval also making 37-inch tires an option).

RAM 1500 TRX on Nitto Recon Grappler All Terrain tires

Capping off the ZR2's introduction on the Silverado's order sheet is a recent styling refresh that's seen significant improvements made across the board to Chevrolet's pickup. After an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the redesigned 2020 Silverado's low-rent interior, a thorough update has made big, welcome changes to its cabin. In particular the ZR2's infotainment and gauge displays now look and feel competitive with the rest of the full-size pack.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 interior

Familiar Drivetrain, Exotic Shocks

Mechanically, the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 shares the same 6.2L V8 engine found across the automaker's line-up, generating 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque shifted through a 10-speed automatic transmission. My tester was outfitted with an available cat-back exhaust system, giving it one of the loudest cold-start signatures in recent memory matched with a constant aural menace lurking within reach of the right foot at all times.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 exhaust

I'm a big fan of this motor, but it’s hard not to notice how out-of-step it feels when compared to the supercharged power plants offered by the Raptor R and the Ram TRX, each of which boast nearly 300 additional horses. You might point out that the 'regular F-150 Raptor features a more modest twin-turbo V6, but even this unit out-muscles the Silverado ZR2 with an additional 30 hp and 50 lb-ft of twist.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 front view

Again, there's a method behind Chevrolet's decision to knee-cap its off-roader rather than give it a blown V8 of its own. Sure, it might take the Silverado an extra half-second to hit 60-mph when lining up against the entry-level Raptor, but the payoff is a truck that doesn't feel completely out of control each and every time you floor the gas. Attempting to wrangle those other 'roided-out ragers in day-to-day driving is a hassle and a half, and the Silverado's civilized character is in no small part tied to its modest but still effective engine output.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 DSSV shocks

The other factor in the ZR2's pleasing all-around character is its spool-valve shock technology. Designed by Multimatic and first seen on the Colorado ZR2 as well as the Camaro Z28, the DSSV-branded setup avoids the traditional pitfalls of external reservoir designs, banishing sponge-like romps on pavement without sacrificing off-road capability or durability. The Silverado ZR2 is much more pleasant to drive, by an enormous margin, than any other full-size off-road runner on the market.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 rear view

Aiding and abetting those DSSV dampers in the quest for traction and control are a set of front and rear locking differentials that can be activated from inside the cabin, along with a 'Terrain' driving mode that auto-brakes the vehicle's forward progress for more fine-tuned progress in difficult driving conditions. Full skid plating is in place underneath to prevent an oopsie from turning into an expensive tow back to base.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 departure, Break over, and approach angle diagram

With its shortened bumpers and 11.2 inches of ground clearance, drivers can count on an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, a breakover of 23.4 degrees, and a departure angle of 23.3 degrees, each of which is competitive with its full-size foes. With your foot floored, 9.8 inches of forward suspension travel pairs with 10.6 inches at the rear to help absorb brutal levels of punishment.

Does The Silverado ZR2 Make Sense For Off-Road Fans?

Is it really fair to compare the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 against the Raptor and the TRX, given that its drivetrain didn't spend nearly as much time pumping iron prior to release? It's arguable that the ZR2 isn’t actually a full factory hot rod but more akin to packages such as the Tremor (Ford) and the Rebel (Ram) which cram additional go-anywhere gear into less extroverted editions of their respective platforms.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 rear 3/4

It would be easier to make that claim if it weren't for the existence of the smaller-engined Silverado Trail Boss, which is a better foil to those particular vehicles, or the presence of the ZR2's DSSV shocks that are clearly intended to tackle high-speed abuse that would leave the Trail Boss cowering. Then there's the ZR2's price: starting at just over $70,000, it's a $20k climb from the Tremor or Rebel to the top-tier Silverado off-roader, putting it much close to Raptor. Heaping on the options can even push it near the $80,000 ask of the TRX.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 hood badges

Who is the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 aimed at? That's a more difficult question to answer. Ostensibly, the more subdued styling and comfortable driving character that comes with the truck speak to buyers who are genuinely interested in an unstoppable off-road ride, but who have no interest in engaging with factory bro-dozer culture. The ZR2 presents a more subtle, and refined approach to a segment of the truck market that's traditionally about as coy as a bucket of kerosene sitting beside a bonfire. 

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