2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 First Engine

Chevrolet Silverado buyers have had no choice but to look with envy at specialized high-speed off-road pickups from Ford and Ram since the SVT Raptor invented the segment in 2010. That’s a long time to wait for a Bowtie-branded desert runner, and there are few things more. Importance to full-size truck buyers is bragging rights. Step into the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2, which adds a suite of performance shocks, locking front and rear differentials, greater ground clearance and more suspension travel than any other full-size truck in GM’s lineup.

But is it a real Raptor competitor? The answer is yes or no, depending on your point of view. We believe this is entirely by design. The ZR2 offers more power than the Ford F-150 Tremor, Ram 1500 Rebel, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro and Chevy’s Silverado Trail Boss, but it holds its own in its class. Think of it as a replacement for the Raptor, and also consider that GM has left some room for conceivable future off-road versions in the product pipeline.

First, let’s talk about numbers. The Silverado ZR2 has an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, a break angle of 23.4 degrees, and a departure angle of 23.3 degrees. These variations are better than Trail Boss, and in pitch jolt (27.6°, 21.2°, 24.3°) and Raptor (31.0°, 23.9°, 22.7°). Ground clearance is 11.2 inches, and suspension length is 9.84 inches in the front and 10.62 inches in the rear. This is nowhere near the Raptor’s 14 inches of front or 15 inches of rear travel. Also, the ZR2 hits its numbers with 33-inch tires, not the standard 35s for Ford’s Jurassic Truck and certainly not the optional 37s.

These off-road accounts grab the headlines, but there are other numbers that are just as important, and some of them have to do with everyday driveability and ability to stay on the road. Simply put, the Raptor is a majestic beast. Notably, it’s about 5 inches wider than the ZR2’s 81.2-inch width (excluding mirrors). Those few inches are very meaningful when navigating tight off-road terrain as well as the average suburban driveway or city parking garage.

Without a proper side-to-side comparison of towing, we can’t compare the overall feel of putting several tons behind the ZR2 or the Raptor, but we bet Chevy will inspire more confidence given its less-travelling tires and wheels. By the numbers, the ZR2’s 1,440-pound payload rating and 8900-pound towing rating take small wins over its Blue Oval rival.

One area where the Raptor absolutely beats the ZR2 is under the hood. Chevy stuck to its tried-and-true 6.2-liter V8, which sends 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s 400 horsepower more than the F-150 Tremor, but the Raptor comes standard with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 twin-turbo engine making 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft. Although Chevy didn’t provide a definitive figure, the weight difference wouldn’t be significant. In a classic quarter-mile race, the Raptor is very likely to have a significant advantage. And we won’t even mention the 702hp Ram TRX engine…

In the real world where owners won’t seek holes in every green light, Chevy’s big-displacement V8 is a powerful truck engine. Our test truck was equipped with the Borla-branded performance exhaust system that will be available from Chevy (it should already be standard), exiting through twin tubes tucked under the rear bumper so it doesn’t get hit by the pavement. Few sounds sweeter than the roar of a classic American V8, and as good as the Raptor’s engine is, it can’t match the roar of a Chevy. Fuel economy estimates are 14 mpg in the city, 17 on the highway and 15 combined. That’s 1 mpg behind the Raptor and many behind the Quake, for those tracking… and we bet that won’t include potential buyers of any of these trucks. What may matter most is that the Raptor’s 26-gallon tank means it can reach 416 miles per tank compared to the ZR2’s 24 gallon range of 360 miles. The Ram TRX clocks in at a really dismal 12 mpg, so it’s a good thing that it has a 33-gal.

The ZR2’s ten-speed automatic transmission works perfectly without any nasty gear shifting hitches, and responds quickly to a timely downshift on demand. No complaints there.

The biggest piece of the Silverado ZR2 puzzle is the quadruple of Dynamic Multiple Suspension Valve (DSSV) shocks. Similar technologies are found in all types of high-performance machines, including the Chevy Colorado ZR2 as well as the Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE and Ferrari SF90 Stradale Assetto Fiorano. There are obviously differences between the shocks used in different applications, but they work great in all of them, including the new Silverado ZR2. GM says the 40mm DSSV shocks feature three separate spool valves and three connected chambers for fluid flow. You can read more about how they do what they do here.

Without the benefit of back-to-back testing between Chevy and Ford trucks, we think the ZR2 rides stiffer than the Raptor—perhaps not surprising given the difference in wheel travel—but the overall feel of control from the Silverado’s off-road is excellent. Ford uses coil springs on all four corners, but Chevy stuck the traditional truck-leaf springs to the rear of the ZR2 (and all other Silverados for that matter). It doesn’t matter, we’ve never had any unwanted feelings out of the back of the truck whether we’re converging over rocks, sliding over sand, or even cruising down the highway at 75 mph. In the case of the ZR2, it’s the shocks, not the springs, that matter most.

Another serious upgrade on the lesser Silverado is the front and rear electronic locking differential. This is a point of differentiation from the Raptor, which comes standard with a rear locker and can optionally be fitted with a Torsen limited-slip front unit. In theory, the front locker might be better in some low-traction situations. We tested it on a steep slope with a slope big enough to lift one tire off the ground at a time. We made it without drama, and while we think the Raptor would have found enough traction to make the climb, it may have taken a lot of turns to do so.

A couple of noteworthy tech pieces. The ZR2 comes with what Chevy calls Terrain mode, which has settings that can be selected via a scroll wheel that includes the option of one-pedal driving. Basically, this means the driver can lock the Silverado ZR2 into low four-wheel drive, manually select first gear and then use the throttle for the inch forward. Leaving the accelerator pedal will slow the truck and even come to a stop without touching the brakes. There is also a front camera that allows the driver to clearly see what awaits him, along with views of the right, left and rear.

Silverado ZR2 models have unique design details inside and out. Most noticeable is the unique grille with recessed Flowtie Bowtie, non-functional black hood dome and a three-piece steel bumper setup that includes replaceable side trims with a deep contour to reduce the potential for owner damage off-road. Chevy’s premium Multi-Flex Tailgate is optional.

Now that we’ve covered what separates the ZR2 from other Silverado trucks, let’s talk about the next elephant in the showroom: the interior. The entire Silverado lineup gets a number of improvements for 2022 that apply to the ZR2 just like the luxury High Country, on top of which are the dashboard and infotainment systems.

We’ll cut right to the chase. A radical improvement over the previous truck (the old interior is still standard on Work Truck, Custom, and Custom Trail Boss), the new Silverado’s interior looks and feels fully competitive with its Ford, Ram and Toyota competitors. Which interior is best-in-class is debatable, but suffice it to say that GM is now officially in the game. There’s a strong horizontal theme to the new interior, highlighted by a cute row of buttons between the touchscreen above and the easy-to-use climate controls below. There is a short electronic gearbox on the console, replacing the previous mandatory shaft gearbox, as well as a wireless phone charging cradle and a large pair of cup holders.

The ZR2 features a unique version of Silverado’s new interior with black and gray leather seating surfaces and gloss black chrome trim that’s better in the world than standard piano black plastic. The 13.4-inch touchscreen runs software based on Google’s Android Auto package. Google Maps, Assistant, and Play Store are all neatly integrated, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both fully supported. We had surprisingly good success rates while using the integrated voice recognition – “Hey Google, find me a covered parking spot” displayed several nearby results that we could map with one touch.

2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 pricing starts at $69,205 including the $1,695 destination fee. That’s just under $70,470 to drive home in a Raptor with no options. We’re having a hard time thinking of any of these “bargains” trucks, but given the overall packages, we thought Chevy might sharply underestimate Ford’s asking price.

So, back to the question at hand. Is the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 a competitor to the Ford Raptor? Yes, in that it offers Bowtie buyers a legitimate high-end off-road package with specs that allow it to traverse some seriously challenging terrain. We’re particularly fond of the high-tech DSSV shocks. But also no, as the ZR2 doesn’t offer any powertrain or wide exterior upgrades to perfectly match Ford’s offering. It also doesn’t come close to the RAM TRX’s $78,675 performance potential, though there’s nothing else to do either.

Truly, the ZR2 is uniquely positioned in the truck market. It will work all things off-road—its standard locking differentials may be an important differentiating factor for some buyers—and will also play (relatively) well with real-world pickup duties. It should fit in a lot more garages and parking than the Raptor, too. Perhaps most importantly, Chevy is now properly in the off-road truck conversation, which is sure to be enough for a number of die-hard Bowtie fans.