First Look: Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

Heavy Duty ZR2 gets trick Multimatic shocks and all the off-road capability you need.

By Matthew Guy Wheels.ca

Apr 13, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Doe-eyed marketers often stake their claim on a so-called “multi-pronged” approach to business, a tactic which – despite its name – has nothing to do with taking several forks to the all-you-can-eat buffet. In reality, it means offering numerous products in various segments, with the goal of attracting a diverse lot of customers.

This has been on the mind of Chevrolet – especially in its truck division. The ZR2 trim has appeared on numerous vehicles throughout the company’s history, with its most recent interpretation first showing up on the midsize Colorado pickup a few years ago. Shod with meaty tires and equipped with trick DSSV dampers from the Canadians at Multimatic, its guts (and right-sized dimensions) made it a popular off-road whip for bowtie fans. In succession, Chevy applied the same treatment to its half-ton Silverado and next-gen Colorado.

You know what happens next, right? A third prong – in the form of a ZR2 trim for the brutish three-quarter ton Silverado HD.

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

It’ll be offered exclusively in 2500 Crew Cab configuration, a style which is the beyond dominant choice of customers in this segment since it makes up a reported 90 percent of builds. The familiar 6.6L gasoline engine will be standard, making 401 horses and 464 lb.-ft of twist, though GM expects over 70 percent of HD ZR2 buyers to select the Duramax diesel with its 470 ponies and 975 lb.-ft of towering torque. Current gas/diesel split on other trims sits at about 65 percent; personal experience leads us to suggest shoppers should check the box for that optional diesel without delay. Both mills are hooked to a 10-speed automatic, and it should go without saying the HD ZR2 will come standard with four-wheel drive.

GM’s excellent spool-valve DSSV dampers are present and accounted for, tuned here for the extra weight presented by an HD frame. For those unfamiliar, these suspenders have a unique spool-valve design with a trio of different spools, meaning the truck can provide precise wheel travel depending on the driving surface and rebound demand. In other words, these dampers can adjust the travel of fluid inside their cartridge to absorb large bumps while off-roading but also provide a smooth ride home on pavement after leaving the trailhead. It’s trick tech which works very well on Silverado 1500 and Colorado.

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

Also on board are ZR2-specific front upper and lower control arms, specific steering knuckles to help handle the 1.5-inch lift kit, unique skid plates, a rear e-locker, and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler off-road meats. You’ll notice the absence of a front locking differential, a decision GM explains by saying they didn’t want to add the mass of a locker and the stability control, plus a smattering of drive modes should dish up appropriate traction needs in 95 percent of off-road situations.

Not enough for ya? Then you’ll be gratified to know Chevy is continuing to forge its relationship with American Expedition Vehicles, a company that has provided factory upgrades for the ZR2 trim on both Silverado 1500 and Colorado. Called the ZR2 Bison, these trucks were born out of the mission statement from GM to AEV boss Dave Harriton that he add whatever off-road gear required to suit his own personal needs. This means the HD ZR2 Bison will come equipped with a steel front bumper with integrated recovery points and winch provisions, a unique rear bumper also crafted from steel, skid plates made of even sterner stuff than what’s found on the standard ZR2, plus the expected badges and identifying visual cues.

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison

Thanks to mission-specific off-road gear, some trucks of this ilk trade some towing prowess for dirt road glory but the Silverado HD ZR2 posts solid numbers in this category. Conventional trailering maxes out at 18,500 pounds for the diesel, with gassers coming in at 16,000 pounds. Both those numbers are good for ZR2 and Bison but the picture changes slightly for payload: 3,397lbs for ZR2 gas, 3,193lbs for ZR2 diesel, 3,013lbs for Bison gas, and 2,811lbs for Bison diesel.

The latter is a remark on how much weight (approximately 400 pounds) the Bison gear adds to this truck. In fact, an HD ZR2 Bison diesel will press a stunning 8,495lbs into the dirt when it hits the trail. This thing’s a brute. And yes – customers can fit the Bison bumper onto other HD trims after the fact if they so choose.

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

These off-road trims will get the same interior upgrades as others in the Silverado lineup for 2024, finally binning that Playskool environment in all but entry-level trucks. The instrument panel houses a 13.4-inch infotainment screen plus an expansive 12.3-inch gauge cluster ahead of the driver, with smart off-road tech such as a 15-inch heads-up display and surround vision camera views on tap for those who select those options. The space and materials promise to be a massive leap over the old truck.

In a conversation with Wheels, spox from the company told us its ZR2 trim is a high source of conquest buyers, meaning shoppers who don’t currently own a Chevy. These can be the most difficult customers to snag, especially in the pickup truck segment where loyalty to a brand can span generations. Until now, Chevrolet didn’t really have an answer for anyone looking to trade out of a Ram 2500 Power Wagon or Ford F-250 Tremor; the new Silverado 2500 HD ZR2 now gives dealers a hook with which to reel such customers into the showroom.

Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison

Prices are a secret for now but we did manage to extract a suggestion that this truck’s ZR2 trim will ask a similar price premium compared to Silverado 1500 and Colorado price structure. At present, ZR2 sits atop the half-ton heap, commanding roughly 5 percent more than the High Country. If that follows suit to the HD ZR2, expect a sticker price starting just north of six figures in Canada.

Production of the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 and ZR2 Bison begins later this summer at GM Flint Assembly in Michigan.





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