When Ford started selling the F-150 SVT Raptor in 2010, no one knew how big of a success it would become. People literally couldn’t get enough of the Raptor, and so, you would imagine other manufacturers would rush to the drawing board to conceive a truck that could compete, and yet, that didn’t happen. The first real rival, the Ram TRX, came out in 2021, more than 10 years later! Ram knew that, in order to compete, it needed a truck that would either be equal to the Raptor or even crazier, it chose the latter. So now that we had the crazy Raptor and the bonkers TRX, everyone was excited to see what Chevrolet would come out with, and a year later, it unveiled the Silverado ZR2.
Being so late to the party, you would expect the ZR2 to be a very impressive vehicle with power levels that would compete with the other two, and the looks to match—you’d be wrong. Starting with the styling, the Silverado is the only one out of the trio that didn’t receive a wide body treatment, which makes it hard to distinguish from a Trail Boss or another Silverado. Since it is not wider, it is not required by law to have the three extra orange lights up front, which is one of the quickest ways to tell a Raptor or a TRX from a lesser model. (Note that the Colorado ZR2 did receive a wide body treatment.) It does have distinctive features, though. The entire front end is different from what you get in a regular Silverado, starting with the black grill that includes a different pattern and a hollow bowtie logo that Chevy calls “Flowtie” since it allows more air to get into the engine. Also ZR2 exclusive is the front bumper, it features a different design that improves the approach angle, at 31 degrees, it’s right up there with the TRX and Raptor, which is great. Moving to the side and you will discover black wheels wrapped in 33-inch off-road tires, which is a disadvantage compared to the 35-inch tires offered on the TRX and the 37s available on the Raptor. Also on the side are the exclusive wheel flares designed to protect the paint and on my press truck, the rock sliders, which I really didn’t like. Since they are sliders and not really steps, they are very narrow and pretty difficult to use as a way to get in the truck, my foot actually slid off quite a few times trying to get in, and because they replace the steps, you got to either try using them or literally jump inside—good luck. Going in the rear and you will not see the exhaust, that’s because it got rerouted and tucked underneath the bed to allow for increased departure angle. The ZR2 has great approach and departure angles but what about ground clearance? It features an upgraded version of GM’s Multimatic suspension, its first appearance in a Silverado, and can only be found in the ZR2. This, combined with the bigger tires, gives it 11.2 inches of ground clearance which is not bad but lower than the other two off-road trucks which have 11.8 inches (TRX) and 13.1 inches (Raptor).
Under the hood, you will find what is arguably one of the ZR2’s best-selling points, the 6.2 L V8. It sounds absolutely insane and even if it can’t touch the TRX’s supercharged V8, this big American engine definitely is an upgrade over the Raptor’s V6. That’s what I would say if said V6 didn’t have more power AND more torque than the V8 in the ZR2. And not just a little bit, the 6.2 has 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, but the V6 in the Raptor has 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. You thus get a better sound and a better feel for sure, and probably a more reliable engine in the long-term too, but no true advantages other than that. Driving the ZR2, I never felt as if I was lacking power. It has great torque, great throttle response, and great power delivery—oh, and the sound. That took me by surprise, it sounds very aggressive, pretty much the same as the Camaro SS 1LE I’ve reviewed, only without the burble.
Sitting inside the 2022 Silverado and you can immediately see how much of an improvement the interior is compared to the 2021 model. The layout looks much more modern, the infotainment screen is way larger, the digital gauge cluster is nicer and it no longer features a column-mounted shifter. I had the chance to review the 2021 GMC Sierra and I was disappointed with the size of the screen, at eight inches, it felt small. Standard in the ZR2 is a 13.4-inch screen and it works fantastically. It is very intuitive, responsive, and easy to use, not unlike other GM products I’ve reviewed. It features Google Assistant, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a great camera system that makes parking this huge truck an easier task. The 12.3-inch digital cluster is pretty good, too, definitely an improvement once again. It shows a lot of things and the middle panel is configurable, which is nice. Exclusive to the ZR2 are the seats, which are wrapped in a material that’s easier to clean and feature a cool pattern. Looking around and it won’t take you long to notice an odd ZR2 characteristic, yellow stitching throughout the cabin. I really don’t understand why they went with yellow, it’s not that it looks bad, but it feels out of place. Another strange thing inside this truck is the lack of ZR2 badging, there are logos on the door-sill plates, and that is it. No logo on the steering wheel, nothing on the headrest, not even a small ZR2 logo in the cluster. Knowing that the ZR2 brand name is far lesser-known than its rivals, I think it could benefit from as much exposure as it can have, also if you’re buying the big off-road version, you want to brag about it and point cool details out, it needs more badging. Lastly, there is a lot of room in the cabin of the new Silverado, front and back. Sitting in the back, it feels as if you’re inside a full-size sedan—room for days. There is also a ton of storage solutions, take good note of where you’re putting your stuff because you might look for it for a while.
When you compare the ZR2 to its rivals, it’s lacking, there are no real ways around that. It only starts to make sense when you compare the prices, the ZR2 is way cheaper than the other two. If you spec a ZR2 online with no options at all, it comes up to around $86,500, which is $20,000 less than the Raptor and around $25,000 less than the TRX. You get less, but you’re paying less. I’ve had the chance to drive the ZR2 quite a bit and it is a great time. It’s comfortable, spacious, and powerful. Not only have I driven it like a normal vehicle, but I’ve also tested its off-road capabilities. I’ve taken it in some pretty challenging snow trails and it was performing surprisingly well. I won’t lie to you, it did get stuck at a certain point, but when it did, I switched it into 4 low, locked both differentials, and got out almost immediately. I truly was impressed with how quickly it got out, its size made it a bit difficult to maneuver around, but it was great other than that. Driving it on normal roads and you’re not making any compromises on comfort and overall drivability, it feels like a normal Silverado—with extra sound.
To conclude, the ZR2 cannot really compare with the other two trucks, but it is cheaper by quite a large amount. Are all the features that make the F-150 Raptor a more competitive truck, including the huge brand name, worth the price difference? To many, the answer is yes. If someone tells you that they bought an off-road truck and that person wants you to guess which one, the Silverado ZR2 might never come up, but I don’t think it means it’s a bad truck. I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the Silverado ZR2, the truck itself is a massive improvement over the outgoing model, it’s capable, it sounds great and the technology is good, and if you want a Silverado, but also a truck that can get you deeper off the beaten path, then get a ZR2 and you won’t be disappointed. But if the off-road side of things is your priority and you have a bit more money to spare, then get a Raptor—and if you don’t mind stopping to get gas every second day—a TRX.
Vehicle provided by Chevrolet Canada
Photography by Olivier Lessard