2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 First Drive

Chevy Silverado buyers have had no choice but to gaze enviously at high-speed off-road specialty pickups from Ford and Ram since the SVT Raptor invented the segment in 2010. It’s a long wait. a Bowtie-badged desert racer, and there are few things more important to full-size truck buyers than bragging rights. Enter the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2, which adds a high-performance shock package, locking front and rear differentials, and more ground clearance and suspension travel than any other full-size truck in GM’s portfolio.

But is it a real competitor to the Raptor? The answer is a mixed yes or a mixed no, depending on your perspective. And we think that’s entirely by design. The ZR2 offers more capacity than the Ford F-150 Tremor, Ram 1500 Rebel, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro and Chevy’s Silverado Trail Boss, but holds its own place in the segment. Consider it more of a Raptor alternative, and also consider that GM may have left room for future off-road editions that may eventually be in the product pipeline.

First, let’s talk numbers. The Silverado ZR2 offers an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, a rollover angle of 23.4 degrees and a departure angle of 23.3 degrees. These numbers are higher than the Trail Boss and fall within the range of the Tremor (27.6 degrees, 21.2 degrees, and 24.3 degrees) and Raptor (31.0 degrees, 23.9 degrees, and 22.7 degrees). Ground clearance measures 11.2 inches and its suspension travel registers at 9.84 inches up front and 10.62 inches in the rear. That’s a far cry from the Raptor’s 14 inches of front travel or 15 inches. Also, the ZR2 hits its numbers on 33-inch tires, not Ford’s Jurassic Truck standard 35s and certainly not the optional 37s.

These off-road-specific calculations grab the headlines, but there are other numbers that are just as important to consider, and some have to do with everyday handling and trail survivability. Simply put, the Raptor is a hulking beast. Notably, it’s about 5 inches wider than the ZR2’s measured width of 81.2 inches (mirrors excluded). That’s a very significant handful of inches when navigating tight off-road terrain as well as the average suburban driveway or city parking lot.

Without a proper side-by-side towing comparison, we can’t compare the overall feel of putting several tons behind the ZR2 or Raptor, but we bet the Chevy would inspire more confidence due to its less extreme tires and wheels travel. By the numbers, the ZR2’s 1,440-pound payload capacity and 8,900-pound towing capacity score small wins over its Blue Oval rival.

One area where the Raptor absolutely outperforms the ZR2 is under the hood. Chevy stuck with its proven 6.2-liter V8, which sends 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s more than the F-150 Tremor’s 400 hp, but the Raptor comes standard with an upgraded 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 with 450 hp and 510 lb-ft. Although Chevy didn’t provide a definitive figure, the weight difference won’t be dramatic. In a classic quarter-mile race, the Raptor will most likely have a huge advantage. And we’re not even going to mention the 702-horsepower Ram TRX…uh, oops, I guess we just did.

In the real world where owners won’t be aiming for the holes at every green light, Chevy’s big-bore V8 is a powerful truck engine. Our test truck was fitted with a Borla-branded performance exhaust system that will be available from Chevy (it really should be standard), exiting through twin pipes tucked under the rear bumper so they won’t be not damaged by the road. There are few sounds sweeter than the roar of a classic American V8, and as good as the Raptor’s engine is, it can’t match the buzz of the Chevy. Fuel economy ratings sit at 14 mpg city, 17 highway and 15 combined. That’s 1 mpg behind the Raptor and several behind the Tremor, for those keeping track…and we bet that won’t include likely buyers of either of those trucks. What may be more important is that the Raptor’s 26-gallon tank means it can go up to 416 miles per tank compared to the 24-gallon ZR2’s 360-mile range. The Ram TRX gets a really dismal 12 mpg total, so it’s a good thing it packs 33 gallons.

The ZR2’s 10-speed automatic transmission shifts flawlessly without any nasty hitches when shifting, and it responds quickly with well-timed downshifts when called upon. No complaints there.

The biggest piece of the Silverado ZR2 puzzle is its Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) shock quartet. Similar technology is found in all manner of high-performance machines, including the Chevy Colorado ZR2 as well as the Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE and the Ferrari SF90 Stradale Assetto Fiorano. Obviously, there are differences between shocks used in different applications, but they work wonderfully in all of them, including the new Silverado ZR2. GM says these 40mm DSSV shocks feature three separate spool valves and three connected chambers for fluid flow. You can read a lot more about how they do what they do here.

Without the benefit of back-to-back testing between Chevy and Ford trucks, we think the ZR2 is stiffer than the Raptor – probably not surprising given the difference in wheel travel – but the overall feeling of Silverado off-road control is excellent. . Ford uses coil springs on all four corners, but Chevy sticks to traditional truck leaf springs for the rear of the ZR2 (and all other Silverados for that matter). Regardless, we never felt any nasty sensations out of the back of the truck, whether we were bouncing over rocks, sliding on sand, or even cruising down the highway at 75 mph. In the ZR2’s case, it’s the shocks, not the springs, that matter most.

Another serious upgrade over lesser Silverados are front and rear electronic locking differentials. It’s a point of differentiation with the Raptor, which comes standard with a rear trunk and can be optionally fitted with a Torsen limited-slip front unit. In theory, the forward lock may be superior in some low-traction situations. We put it through its paces on a gravelly grade with side dips massive enough to lift one tire off the ground at a time. We pulled it off without drama, and while we thought a Raptor would have found enough traction to make the climb, it very well would have taken a lot more wheelspin to do it.

A few other bits of technology are worth mentioning. The ZR2 comes with what Chevy calls Terrain Mode, which has settings selectable via a scroll wheel that includes a one-pedal drive option. Basically, that means the driver can lock the Silverado ZR2 in 4WD Low, manually select first gear, then just use the accelerator pedal to drive forward. Releasing the accelerator will slow the truck down and even stop it without hitting the brakes. There’s also a forward-facing camera that allows the driver to see what’s ahead clearly, while offering views to the right, left and rear.

Silverado ZR2 models benefit from unique styling details inside and out. Most notable are the unique grille with a hollowed-out Flowtie bow tie, a non-functional black hood dome, and a three-piece steel bumper configuration that includes replaceable side pieces with deep contours to minimize the likelihood of a owner damages them off-road. Chevy’s sophisticated Multi-Flex tailgate is optional.

Now that we’ve covered what separates the ZR2 from other Silverado trucks, let’s tackle the next elephant in the showroom: the interior. The entire Silverado lineup gets a number of upgrades for 2022 that apply just as much to the ZR2 as it does to the luxurious High Country, including the dashboard and infotainment systems.

We will go straight to the point. The Silverado’s new interior is a drastic improvement over the previous truck (the old interior is still standard on the Work Truck, Custom and Custom Trail Boss), looking and feeling fully competitive with its Ford rivals, Ram and Toyota. Which interior is best in class is debatable, but suffice it to say that GM is now officially in the game. There’s a strong horizontal theme to the new interior, highlighted by a nice row of buttons between the screen touchscreen above and easy-to-use climate controls below. There’s a truncated electronic shift selector on the console, replacing the old mandatory column shift lever, along with a wireless phone charging cradle and a large pair of cupholders.

The ZR2 features a unique version of the new Silverado interior with black and gray leather seating surfaces and gloss black chrome accents that look way better than the standard piano black plastic. A 13.4-inch touchscreen runs software based on Google’s Android Automotive package. Google Maps, Assistant and Play Store are all seamlessly integrated, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are fully supported. We had surprisingly good success rates when using full voice recognition – “Hey Google, find me a covered parking space” returned several nearby results that we could map with a tap.

The 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 starts at $69,205, including its destination charge of $1,695. That’s just under $70,470 to drive home in a Raptor with no options. We’re hard-pressed to consider either of these trucks “bargains,” but considering the package package, we would have thought Chevy would have slashed Ford’s asking price more aggressively.

So, back to the question posed. Is the Chevy Silverado ZR2 a competitor to the Ford Raptor? Yes, in that it gives Bowtie buyers a legit high-end off-road package with specs that get it through some really tough terrain. We particularly like its high-tech DSSV shocks. But neither did the ZR2 offer any exterior powertrain or widebody upgrades to fully match Ford’s offerings. It also doesn’t come close to the performance capabilities of the $78,675 Ram TRX, but to be fair, nothing else does either.

Truly, the ZR2 occupies a unique position in the truck market. It’ll do anything off-road – its standard locking differentials may be a big differentiator for some buyers – and it’ll also perform (relatively) well with real-world pickup duties. It should also fit a lot more garages and parking spots than a Raptor. Perhaps most importantly, Chevy is now properly in the off-road truck conversation, which will surely be enough for a number of die-hard Bowtie fans.