2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Review: Aggressive Looks and Moves

Chevrolet, in its never-ending quest to build a full-size pickup for every taste in America, added another way to get into its popular full-size Silverado truck for the new year. The dirt-craving 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 is on sale now and puts the company's hardest-core off-road mechanicals together with its best performance technology.

The company invited Newsweek to drive the new Silverado ZR2 in the Palm Springs, California desert on and off the road, to experience its big-tire, open-grille rock crawler in person.

The new trim level is the second most expensive in the Silverado lineup. That price tag lands with the most powerful engine the company offers in a full-size truck, a 6.2-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission puts the power down through a two-speed transfer case (almost necessary for hardcore off-roading) to the rear or all four wheels.

That V8 engine sounds good any time, but with the optional Borla exhaust the group of test pickups traveling down the road sounded like a Corvette group meet. It barks loudly on startup, and only stays quiet at idle. The engine-transmission combo is one of the sweetest powertrains in the industry. It always finds the correct gear and the only situation where it felt like it needed more grunt was when trying to gain more speed, from an already high speed, on bumpy gravel and sand.

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The key to the Silverado ZR2 is the new set of 40-millimeter DSSV (Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve) shocks, which use three valves and three connected fluid chambers to handle anything an owner can throw at it, from 1,440 pounds of payload to 8,900 pounds of trailer to boulders the size of beach balls.

New skid plates protect the underside during off-road maneuvers, while the new bumpers increase approach and departure angles to 31.8 and 23.3 degrees respectively. Front and rear differential locks complete the package.

Surprisingly, the suspension is not adjustable, a veer from what the competition offers. Chevy's engineers were tasked to find a tune that was basically a one-size-fits-all scenario. In practice that means the ZR2 feels both relaxed and unstoppable on dirt and rock trails.

On the road, the ZR2 is different. The unladen pickup is a little bouncy at speed, and the steering feels less accurate than on soft dirt. The 33-inch off-road tires (Goodyear Wranglers, built specifically for the ZR2) let too much noise permeate the cabin, but with a truck like this, there's an expected tradeoff.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
The new truck features a high-end interior. General Motors

Drive mode adjustments on the Silverado include Off-Road, Terrain and Tour, which control shift points, steering feel, traction and stability control. Off-Road has the most suspension travel, but Terrain offers one pedal driving, either for ascending a steep obstacle or descending, so the driver doesn't have to feather the brake pedal to keep speeds low.

The best way to look at the ZR2 is as a Silverado 1500 Trail Boss trim, with the best off-road parts, along with the company's tech from its High Country trim. That means a huge digital screen area consisting of a 12.3-inch instrument cluster with a 13.4-inch infotainment touchscreen. The screens feature cool animation on startup and are bright and easy to read. Below the center screen are buttons for traction control, those locking differentials, lane keeping and a few others.

Media volume and temperature are controlled by knobs, which are easy to reach while driving, but they are absolutely surrounded by other climate and seat control buttons. Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play are standard, as are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Super Cruise is available for the first time on the 2022 Silverado, but only on the High Country trim.

The Silverado ZR2 doesn't get the High Country's luxury interior. Instead, it gets a unique interior with leather-trimmed Jet Black and Greystone seats. Everything looks rugged and easy to wipe down, while accent stitching adds a sporty touch. The cabin features a ton of storage in the center armrest, as well as in the doors near the gear shifter.

The 2022 Chevy Silverado starts at $35,495, but the ZR2 trim start at almost double, with a base price of $69,195. That makes it more expensive than even the luxury-focused High Country.

The biggest issue the Silverado 1500 ZR2 has is that even hard-core off-road enthusiasts spend most of their time on pavement, and for that, one of the many other Silverado trims does a better job.

The new ZR2 is amazingly capable off road with new shocks from Multimatic. It features the gorgeous infotainment screen of a luxury sedan, but it's not quite a Ford Raptor or Ram TRX fighter. Those trucks have a more maniacal high-speed racing focus, where the ZR2 is almost methodical in its expertise on gravel.

Buyers looking for maximum bragging rights or high-speed desert shenanigans will still probably gravitate towards the 450-horsepower, 510-lb-ft Ford F-150 Raptor ($68,675) or the 700-horsepower Ram TRX ($70,325), which are both more comfortable on the street too. The ZR2 has the advantage in the cabin, but buyers will have to decide how much tradeoff they're willing to live with.