If there’s ever a reason why somebody would choose an off-road performance truck or SUV over a street/track performance car, and use them fully for their intended function it’s this: track days can be a bloody hassle. They’re expensive, you have to sign waivers, you usually need safety equipment, they can be crowded, and you have to worry about what everybody else is doing on the track with you. And when things go wrong, they can go horribly, violently wrong. That’s not necessarily the case with exploring your local western American outback. There’s a whole lot of absolutely nothing out there in the desert. And it calls for exploration at varying levels of pace and preparedness. To do so, several automakers provide competent solutions of varying shapes and sizes that adventure-seeking individuals can choose from. And that space continues to grow, while the street/track performance car market is decidedly shrinking. Most recently, the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 finds itself among that list of well-qualified off-road truck candidates.
In short, the first-ever Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 takes the winning formula that we introduced with the small Colorado ZR2, and turns it into a premium deluxe package that looks to tackle the trails in much of the same way. The key attributes are 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires, a two-inch lift, improved approach/breakover/departure angles, a steel bumper with an enlarged front skid plate, followed by more underbody skid plates protecting some of the mechanical vitals, rock sliders, a superbly decked-out interior that makes for hours of comfortable off-roading, a tucked away exhaust system, and of course, the signature Multimatic DSSV shocks. Now, this formula has absolutely worked for the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, where the competition is thinner, customer budgets tighter, and priorities different. The Silverado ZR2 enters a far more bloody arena, where a duo of dinosaurs delightfully devour disputants deemed damnable. We’re talking about the F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX, of course. Well, not necessarily them, but the people that hold them as the overall standards. Both trucks represent the bulk of what performance customers are looking for on the top-end of the half-ton pickup segment.
The folks on the Silverado ZR2 team are aware that some of the comparable equipment offered on the Raptor isn’t available on the Chevy. Hardware such as 35-inch-plus tires, long travel shocks, and higher output engines, to name a few. But where it’s missing in those departments it makes up for in class-leading towing and payload, which is largely because that brodozer hardware isn’t present, ironically. So for those hauling/towing their toys to the trailhead, or for those looking to build a more competent overlanding rig, the ZR2 might be your best bet relative to an F-150 Raptor or Ram TRX. The standard interior in the ZR2 is also decked out from the get-go, where Ford and Ram customers could find themselves paying thousands more for comparable interior content at the end of the day.
Silverado ZR2 Sounds Like A Squadron Of Bald Eagles
More importantly, the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 delivers on something that will make current-generation F-150 Raptor owners green with envy: a big ole’ V8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Yes, this L87 V8 is less powerful than the Raptor’s EcoBoost V6, but a simple cold start in the ZR2 is all one needs to make their point, as evident in our video below. If you look closely, you may see a bald eagle or two fly out of the tucked-in tail pipes.
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This raucousness is brought to you by a dealer-installed Borla exhaust kit, which can be ordered with the Silverado ZR2. Any louder and this thing could probably start an avalanche out there on our dusty trail route, which combined low-speed mountain paths, and high-speed dirt roads leading to and from an abandoned gold mine. Yes, the ZR2 can do high-speed stuff, too. In fact, the chassis of the truck was even validated in motorsports through Chad Hall Racing, and took home a Best In The Desert racing series title last year in its class with a mostly-stock truck. To that end, Ford doesn’t appear to be racing a stock F-150 Raptor in the Mint 400. Nor is Ram fielding a factory TRX in Vegas to Reno. It could be argued that more power, bigger tires, and Baja-style shocks make a very loud point. But winning races with factory hardware makes for an even louder one. Alas, it may fall on deaf ears.
An Uphill Marketing Battle Requiring Locking Differentials
The biggest headwind facing the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 isn’t that it takes a step into a segment of one, but rather that it will be measured against and compared to the Ford F-150 Raptor by a majority of truck enthusiasts, whether Chevrolet likes it or not. The internet is already full of memes that demean the ZR2 and Trail Boss trucks, and those memes gain steam with each sudden price hike of the 2022 Silverado. As it stands, the Raptor and ZR2 are now within a couple hundred bucks of each other in starting MSRP. For nearly $70,000 as it stands, that price is not exactly something to shrug about.
With creature comforts galore, and superior towing/hauling metrics (8,900 pounds/1,440 pounds, respectively, and a 7,100 pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 may catch the eye of the deep-pocketed and ever-expanding overlanding community, and could test the waters on whether or not there’s a market for half-ton expedition vehicles. We’ve been told once or twice that the bulk of this segment seems to prefer something like a Raptor, but there also hasn’t been a factory offering quite like the Silverado ZR2. And with GM looking to further expand its collaboration with overlanding experts AEV into this space, and considering the sheer breadth of the half-ton truck market, we may see the Silverado ZR2 find traction in ways that the Raptor and TRX can’t.