Every truck manufacturer has to have its super-duper off-road version. They may call it the Raptor or the TRX or in this case, the Bison, but it’s always the same idea. Take your biggest, fastest driveline and put it in a fairly luxurious package with some legit off-road pieces and parts. Then charge an eye-popping price for it.
This is kind of a mouthful, but here it is: The 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew ZR2 4WD “Bison” is the top of the half-ton Silverado line. The ZR2 part of the name means that you get the serious off-road suspension package with Multimatic shocks, instead of the conventional 4×4 suspension.
The Bison part is an option package that gives you some aftermarket bumpers and even better skid plates than the ZR2. You also get unique 18-inch wheels, off-road tires, a set of rocker guard nerf bars, and special floor mats. All that cool Bison stuff comes from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), an aftermarket off-road supplier, and it’ll cost you $7,895 to get it from Chevy.
Part of the Bison package is starting with Chevy’s top Silverado short bed crew cab. That’s the only body style for the ZR2 or Bison packages. As the most expensive trim level, you’re getting the special bumpy hood that accommodates the big 6.2-liter V-8 engine.
Then there’s a lot of blackout trim, and the test truck was painted in a standout Glacier Blue Metallic paint color that costs $395. None of the other paint colors cost extra, but this one is worth the price. Honestly, the ZR2 Bison is about the tamest looking truck of the extreme off-road set. Put it next to a Raptor R or TRX and you would think the Chevy is the plain girl at the dance. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your taste.
Inside you get a very masculine and fairly luxurious truck cab. As is the fashion, the Silverado opts for squared off designs and a fairly rugged look and feel. The infotainment screen is separate from the screen-based driver information display, but it’s connected to the driver area so they’re moving towards the one-screen idea.
However, Chevy still gives you a full set of controls for your locking diffs and climate in the center stack, and four-wheel drive controls on the left. There’s a dash-mounted trailer brake controller as well. There’s plenty of room in the back seat as well, and the seats are all upholstered in durable perforated leather. The front seats and steering wheel are heated, which is absolutely necessary in any modern vehicle.
As we mentioned, you get Chevy’s best 6.2-liter V-8 engine with the Bison, and there’s no other option. This gives you 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission, you won’t feel like the 4×4 gear robbed you of any performance.
Chevrolet also gives the Bison its best four-wheel drive technology. This includes an Automatic mode that works like a full-time all-wheel drive system. You can set the truck to Automatic, and it will drive in rear-wheel mode unless it encounters wheel slip, when it will instantly engage the front wheels for traction. Then you get the real 4HI and 4LO four-wheel drive system as well, for your more serious off-road expeditions.
The Bison drivetrain also includes front and rear electronically locking differentials. Perhaps most importantly, the Bison also includes a heavy-duty oil cooler, transmission cooler, air filter, battery and alternator.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2023 Silverado its highest five-star overall crash test rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety generally gives the Silverado top marks, except in the new small-overlap passenger side test. They also ding the Silverado for the seat belt reminders.
But as a state-of-the-art truck, the Silverado includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane-Keeping Assist, Automatic High-Beam Control, Blind-Spot Warnings that extend to a trailer, and Rear Cross-Traffic Automatic Braking and Pedestrian Alerts. The big screen shows a surround-view backup camera image, and a conventional backup camera. The ZR2 trim offers a $1,970 Technology Package that adds adaptive cruise control, a camera-based rear-view mirror, and a 15-inch head-up display.
At the top of the trim walk for Chevrolet, you get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and then a 13.4-inch infotainment touchscreen with Google services including navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and satellite radio capability. Voice control is also included.
The system generally works well, though I experienced a strange dropout. I was listening to the radio while out running errands, and after a brief stop, I restarted the truck and got no audio. I tried FM and AM bands as well as satellite, but no sound was coming anywhere. I stopped again 10 minutes later and left the truck turned off for about an hour. When I restarted again, everything came back, and the problem never recurred.
The Silverado ZR2 drives very nicely, especially when you consider that it’s rolling on Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires. The 18-inch wheels on the standard ZR2 or with the Bison package are comparatively small by modern standards. The luxury Silverado High Country trim uses 20-inch wheels, for comparison. That’s so you can get plenty of sidewall on the off-road tires, so you can reduce pressure (called “airing down”) for extra grip when going off-road. You can’t do that with a low-profile tire.
The 6.2-liter V-8 offers plenty of power, and with the 10-speed transmission you’re always in a good enough gear for acceleration. No complaints whatsoever about the engine or driveline. As for handling, let’s be realistic. This is a big 4WD truck and it handles like one. If you’re shopping for this class of vehicle, you know that and it’s exactly what you want. You’re going to love it.
2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison Specifications
|L: 231.9 inches/W: 81.2 inches/H: 78.3 inches/Wheelbase: 147.5 inches
|6.2-liter V-8; 10-speed automatic transmission, 4WD
|14 mpg city/17 mpg highway/15 mpg combined
|420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $71,500; As tested: $85,300 including $1,895 destination charge
If you’re interested in the Bison, here’s the bottom line. The ZR2 trim level starts at $71,500, before fees. As we mentioned, the Bison aftermarket goodies will run another $7,895, and then the Tech package is $1,970. Both are worth getting if you plan to go off-road, and if you don’t then why on God’s green Earth are you paying for this truck? You can spend half as much and still look the part.
Anyway, there’s another couple grand in the paint job and tonneau cover and the nifty multi-flex 6-way tailgate. Overall, every option on the test truck is worth having. After the $1,895 destination charge, the tricked out blue Bison (you’d have to name it “Babe”) will set you back $85,300. That’s assuming you can find a dealer selling one at MSRP.
Should you buy it? If everything I’ve written has you saying “wow” then yes, absolutely you should. If you’re asking, “why?” then that’s its own answer.
2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison - Frequently Asked Questions
What’s new for the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado?
The 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 will introduce the new 3.0-liter inline-6 LZ0 turbodiesel Duramax engine to the light duty truck’s powertrain line-up.
Is the Chevrolet Silverado as reliable as the Ford F-150?
The 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 has earned a perfect 5-star predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power. The Ford F-150 came close, but its own 4.5-star rating falls short.
Is it better to lease a pickup or buy?
If you do a lot of time-restricted projects, or if your business is seasonal, it makes sense to lease a truck instead of having to buy a vehicle. Leasing is usually the best choice if you’re not sure you’ll be driving your commercial truck for at least three years.