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Silverado ZR2 Doesn't Hold a Candle to Its Own Expectations

Silverado ZR2 Doesn't Hold a Candle to Its Own Expectations

  • Refreshed exterior styling
  • Redesigned interior features available 13.4-inch touchscreen
  • New off-road version, the Silverado 1500 ZR2
  • Super Cruise, Chevrolet's semi-automated driving technology, is available
  • Part of the fourth Silverado generation introduced for 2019

What is the Silverado?

Chevrolet has tweaked and fiddled with the Silverado 1500 every year since the truck's 2019 redesign. We can't say we were too surprised since our first impressions of the then all-new Silverado left us a little flat, especially when compared to the rival Ford F-150 and Ram 1500. But give Chevrolet some credit for putting in the work: The 2022 Silverado, with its enhanced interior, more powerful diesel engine and new ZR2 off-road package, looks to have largely closed the gap.

What's under the Silverado's hood?

For 2022, Chevrolet has dropped the 4.3-liter V6 engine from the Silverado's lineup, leaving it with four available engines. The Silverado's turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine has been given a healthy increase in torque over last year's model — it now has 420 lb-ft, up from 348 lb-ft. Changes to the eight-speed transmission have also been made to take advantage of the 2.7-liter engine's newfound torque.

The 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel (277 horsepower, 460 lb-ft), 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft) and 6.2-liter V8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft) remain unchanged. All of these engines run through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Silverados equipped with the diesel engine can tow more than last year, however, and we cover those changes below.

What about the new ZR2?

Then there's the new 2022 Silverado ZR2, which gets the big 6.2-liter V8 as standard. Similar to the midsize Colorado ZR2, the Silverado ZR2 has a number of enhancements to give it greater off-road ability. Special suspension dampers and uniquely tuned springs provide greater wheel articulation and control for rock crawling, but the setup isn't as specialized for high-speed desert driving as what you get from the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX.

The ZR2 also comes with locking front and rear differentials, model-specific skid plates, 33-inch off-road tires and a redesigned steel front bumper for increased clearance. Just be aware that what Chevrolet touts as "removable" end caps are not as simple as they sound — to remove them, the entire front bumper may need to come off as well.

What is the Silverado ZR2 like to drive?

The Silverado 1500 ZR2 variant excels at one specific type of off-road driving but is a bit of a letdown pretty much everywhere else. Certainly, Chevrolet equipped the ZR2 properly for slow rock-crawling. It's cool that it has grippy mud-terrain tires, beefy suspension dampers for supreme cushioning, and exhaust tips that are cleverly tucked in behind the bumper to avoid potential handshakes with boulders. The one-pedal off-road feature — allowing drivers to concentrate on the throttle pedal by stopping and holding the truck on inclines — is another neat trick.

However, the ZR2 feels like a fish out of water in other situations. It does not feel in its element driving off-road at speed in the way that the F-150 Raptor and Ram TRX do. Primary reasons for this shortfall include loose, unfocused steering that struggles to rein in the ZR2 at 40 mph-plus as well as relatively small tires. At 33 inches, they fall short of standard 35s on the Raptor and TRX, and their 275-mm width pales next to its rivals at 315 mm and 325 mm, respectively.

The ZR2's mud-terrain tires are also louder and heavier than traditional all-terrains, giving the ZR2 a noisy and uncomfortable ride on the road. The high-performance dampers could not cover up these deficiencies on-road or off- during our drive. Finally, Chevy kept the stock location of the lower rear shock mounts on the rear axle for the ZR2. Their low-hanging and exposed positioning is not a problem for normal driving and even some off-roading, but for hard-core off-roading we'd prefer to have them more safely tucked away from treacherous terrain.

How's the Silverado's interior?

Our biggest disappointment with this generation of Silverado has been with its interior. And judging by the sweeping changes made to the interior of the 2022 model, it would seem that Chevrolet wasn't all that enamored with the Silverado's interior either. Greeting passengers on the LT trim level and above is an impressive-looking 13.4-inch horizontally oriented infotainment touchscreen that flows into the now fully digital and configurable instrument panel.

Highlights of other changes to the interior are a redesigned center console, new seats and upgraded trim materials. The gear shifter has moved from a column-mounted stalk to a more car-like drive selector. There's also available open-pore wood and stainless steel speaker grilles on the top-tier High Country and LTZ models. Overall it's a massive improvement. It's easier to use and much more in line with the modern and thoughtful interiors that buyers have come to expect from a full-size pickup truck. But is it too much to ask for a tuning knob these days?

How's the Silverado's tech?

Along with the aforementioned new 13.4-inch touchscreen is the Silverado's adaptation of Google technology for voice commands. A simple press of the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel or saying the phrase "Hey Google" allows the driver to send texts, change audio sources or alter the climate control. It also accurately responds to addresses and other navigation commands. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto users still enjoy wireless smartphone connectivity, and Amazon Alexa is also supported. Some models have a handy charging station in the center console.

More big news for the 2022 Silverado is the availability of Super Cruise, Chevrolet's hands-free driver assist system. We've sampled this system in various Cadillacs and came away impressed with its accuracy and ease of operation. While it can only be activated on certain highways, Super Cruise has been calibrated specifically for the Silverado and can be used when towing, which should alleviate some of the drudgery of a long-distance trip with a trailer.

Standard on all Silverados is Chevy Safety Assist. This suite of advanced driver aids includes automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, a following distance indicator and automatic high beams. Other available safety features include a comprehensive surround-view camera system and Chevy's Advanced Trailering System. The latter makes hooking up a trailer easier and allows drivers to keep an eye on a trailer's tire pressures, brake lights and more.

How are the Silverado's towing and hauling?

The generous increase in torque from the 2.7-liter engine does not result in a higher towing capacity, but its 9,600-pound tow rating is still impressive. Likewise, the tow ratings for 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8 engines remain unchanged at 11,200 and 13,300 pounds, respectively.

But Chevrolet has increased the maximum towing capacity for the 3.0-liter turbodiesel. A shorter final drive ratio and modifications to the chassis now allow for a max towing package and enable the diesel to pull a robust 13,300 pounds — an increase of a whopping 4,000 pounds over last year's model.

Edmunds says

The new Silverado was somewhat unimpressive upon its debut in 2019. But Chevrolet has continued to chip away at its issues, and the Silverado takes its biggest step forward to date with the 2022 model. We're impressed with the new interior and think the addition of Super Cruise to the Silverado will attract quite a few buyers looking for a modern truck experience. The rugged ZR2 fell short of expectations in our initial test drive, however. Check back with us in the coming months for additional coverage and testing of the 2022 Silverado.