If you ever doubted that “off-roadiness” is all the rage in the truck world, consider this: The various off-road capable versions of the Chevrolet Silverado make up 60 per cent of the nameplate’s sales.
Which is why the biggest question about the upcoming addition of a hard-core off-road ZR2 version is “what took so long?” The smaller Colorado has had a ZR2 edition for years already.
The ZR2 is the highlight of a revised 2022 Silverado lineup that also features significantly upgraded interiors (hint: acres of screens), a fortified 2.7-litre turbo base engine, a massive tow-rating hike with the available diesel engine and the inclusion of the Super Cruise hands-free driving assistant (on enabled roads) that’s compatible with trailering. There are also some exterior cosmetic tweaks that will likely be obvious only to those who already own a Silverado.
Notably absent is anything that reduces the environmental impact of big trucks, though we’re assured an electric Silverado is on its way. Meanwhile, the upgraded base gas engine and the diesel’s 4,000-lb-higher tow-rating may persuade more buyers to choose those fuel-stingier engines. Going forward, GM is promising 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025, with the aim of becoming fully electric by 2035.
The Super Cruise technology will be offered only on the flagship High Country trim, so let’s begin with the novelty that will be experienced by most Silverado buyers: the interior. With the exception of the base Work Truck, every trim (i.e. LT and up) gets a redesigned cockpit with standard 13.4-inch centre display screen and a configurable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The latter is a feature that traditionally is offered only on the top trim of most vehicles, if at all.
Silverado has gone all-in with Google for telematics and the user interface, though Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa remain available.
Chevrolet also promises higher-quality trim materials, up to and including open-pore wood on the High Country. Models with bucket seats can be had with a console-mounted electronic shift handle instead of a column shifter.
As for the ZR2, GM hasn’t revealed pricing, but it’s predicted to undercut its “obvious” natural-born rival, the Ford F-150 Raptor. Why? For one thing, the ZR2 doesn’t have a special engine; it uses the same 420-hp 6.2-litre V8 as is available in other Silverados, which makes less power and torque than the Ford’s uprated EcoBoost V6. For another, while the Raptor now has a securely located coil-spring rear suspension, the ZR2 sticks with cart springs like on other Silverados (and non-Raptor F150s). Nor is there height-adjustable air suspension like you can get on some Rams.
“We decided where we wanted to play and we put it in a class all of its own,” said Jaclyn McQuaid, executive chief engineer of Chevrolet’s full-size trucks. “It has exceptional off -and on-road performance, and meets the expectations of customers across a wide range.”
Of course, engine power alone doesn’t give you off-road performance, McQuaid added, which is why Chevrolet is also offering a package that focuses on the suspension, chassis, drivetrain and tires. Uniquely tuned springs allow a little more wheel travel and are paired with trick DSSV shocks pioneered by Canada’s own Multimatic. The suspension lift is the same 7 cm. as on Trail Boss, though tall 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory off-road tires add about one centimetre more ride height. A unique skid plate package and high-approach (31.8 degrees) front bumpers promote clearance and protection. There are also e-locker differentials front and rear, and a special Terrain Mode allows one-pedal rock crawling.
As for the rest of the lineup, the base 4.3-litre V6 has been discontinued, handing that role to the revised 2.7-litre four-cylinder turbo that is now the torquiest base engine in its class, Chevrolet claims. The engine’s bottom end was extensively fortified to handle a substantial boost in torque, now a 420 lb-ft peak at 3,000 rpm vs. last year’s 348 lb-ft plateau from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. That’s even more torque than the available 5.3-litre V8. Maximum power for the 2.7 remains 310 hp at 5,600 rpm.
Super Cruise, available only on the High Country trim, is GM’s hands-free drive-assistance technology (for compatible roads) which, in an industry first, can also be used when trailering. The control systems can sense and adjust for the greater aerodynamic drag and increased braking distances that come with trailering.
Separately from Super Cruise, other trallering-focused driver-assist features include blind-zone alert that accounts for the length of the trailer, and appropriate enhancements to adaptive cruise. Standard on every trim are Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Following Distance Indicator, and IntelliBeam auto high beams.
Chevrolet is aiming to have the 2022 models on sale in the first quarter of next year, unless the ongoing global shortage of computer chips throws a wrench into that works.