How many people really seriously go off-roading in a brand new $77,000 pickup truck? The short answer is, they don’t. In fact, most people who buy the uber-macho Raptor and TRX and ZR2 trucks probably never take them off pavement.
The time will come for these trucks, but it’ll come more than 10 years from now when the trucks have some scars of life on them.
The Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 is almost the most off-roady full-size Chevrolet truck you can buy, and that’s saying something. Chevrolet offers a variety of ruggedized trucks, really starting with the Trail Boss trim, which includes a 2-inch lift over what you get with the standard Silverado four-wheel drive, which is taller than a two-wheel drive truck.
The ZR2 is the most expensive trim you can buy but note that I said it’s almost the most off-roady. The most off-road-ready truck Chevy has is still the ZR2, but you must add the optional Bison package for $7,895. This nets you side rocker panel protection, special wheels and a whole set of underbody skid plates made of Boron Steel, plus some floor liners so you don’t get your truck muddy. I’m not ashamed to admit I don’t even know what Boron Steel is, but it’s gotta be pretty tough, right?
The Silverado looks extremely rugged and capable, like every truck on the market. Shopping for pickup trucks in this era is like going to a body building competition. Every contender is oiled up and flexing.
The ZR2 eschews blingy chrome, preferring a blackout look to the grille and exterior trim. There’s just a hint of red in the functional recovery hooks, and the big power bulge on the hood is also coated in flat black. The good news is, the ZR2 is available in a variety of real colors, so you don’t have to settle for white or silver. This is a truck that wants to be in your face, and buyers should embrace that fact.
One feature to note is that the six-way multi-function tailgate is available as a $445 add-on, and that’s well worth the money.
The interior of the ZR2 is all business, and that’s nice. There’s no tropical hardwood trim or silly carbon fiber in this rig. Colors are subdued and the seat heaters work very well. The steering wheel is heated as well, and since its winter, I really appreciate that. Controls are straightforward and easy to use.
One interior feature to call out for praise is the handy A-pillar handle for getting into the truck. I’m not a short man; I’m 6-feet tall, and it’s still a climb to get up into the ZR2. Our test truck had a set of bash bars protecting the rocker panels, but they’re not designed to step up into the truck. If I bought one of these, I’d get more functional running boards. Anyone shorter than me might prefer a ladder.
There’s really only one engine in the Chevrolet family for the ZR2, and that’s the 6.2-liter V-8. Luckily, Chevy agrees; the 6.2 is the only engine offered with the ZR2. You also get the 10-speed automatic and GM’s most advanced four-wheel drive system, with automatic mode that simulates all-wheel drive.
But it doesn’t stop there. When you get the ZR2, you’re also buying a whole lot of special driveline features that are useful off-road. The two-speed Autotrac transfer case offers smart torque vectoring to the front and rear axles. At the axles, you get a pair of full-locking differentials that are controllable from the driver’s seat. You can put the ZR2 into low-range 4WD and lock up the axles and hit the toughest trails.
Of course, it’s not drivetrain, but while we’re on the topic of stuff you can only get with the ZR2, we’ll note the special Multimatic dampers and mention all those skid plates again.
Safety and Technology
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Silverado Crew Cab as generally good, its highest rating, the truck gets a “Marginal” grade in small overlap front passenger collisions. That’s not unusual for a traditional body-on-frame vehicle.
However, Chevrolet has loaded the Silverado with all the best modern safety and convenience equipment. All the usual collision and lane departure mitigation features are there, plus automatic high beams and blind spot monitor.
Here’s a great feature: the blind spot monitor extends to the blind spot beside a trailer when you have one hooked up and noted in the truck’s software system. The camera-based rearview mirror is available as part of a technology package for $1,970, along with a 15-inch head-up display and adaptive cruise control.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is standard, as is a huge 13.4-inch infotainment touchscreen. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.
There’s no getting around the size and height of the ZR2. If you wanted something that hugs the ground and handles well, you should have saved a few bucks and bought a Corvette. This is an off-road truck, and by that metric, it handles very well indeed. You’ll be the master of the road, rolling along with a panoramic view above traffic.
The ZR2 has great brakes, and generally instills a feeling of confidence, until you get it into a parking lot. Then you’ll feel like you’re suddenly at a doll house tea party. The wide open spaces at the far corner of the lot are your friend, and you could use the exercise anyway.
2023 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Specifications
|L: 232.7 inches/W: 81.2 inches/H: 78.6 inches/Wheelbase: 147.4 inches
|6.2-liter V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and 4WD
|14 mpg city/17 mpg highway/15 mpg combined
|420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $69,800; As tested: $77,400 including $1,795 destination charge
There’s not much of a trim walk with this truck, because you’re already at the top of the trim ladder. The only things you have to decide are what color you want and if you want that Bison package, or that technology pack.
Realistically, off-roading this truck is totally going to be a second-owner thing, so we wouldn’t invest in the Bison treatment. We would, however, buy that Technology Package and get the nice mirror, head-up display, and adaptive cruise. And we’d buy the multiflex tailgate.
Our test vehicle stickered out at $77,400, but by eliminating a bunch of options and accessories, we could bring it home for more like $74,000. Which is still a lot, but the Silverado ZR2 is a lot of truck.
2023 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Chevy ZR2 package?
The ZR2 is an all-business off-roader with 33-inch all-terrain tires, additional ground clearance, skid plates, trick Multimatic spool-valve dampers, and a 6.2-liter V-8.
What is the difference between ZR2 and Trail Boss?
The ZR2 is a sportier version of the Trail Boss. The standard Trail Boss comes with a 4.3-liter V-6 engine instead of the big V-8. The ZR2 also adds locking differentials and skid plates.
Does GMC have a ZR2 equivalent?
The Sierra AT4X model offers similar equipment to the ZR2, and a bit more luxury.