Test Drive: 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2
2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 4WD
Class: Large Pickup Truck
Color: Hot Red
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||420-horsepower 6.2-liter|
Miles driven: 514
Observed fuel economy: 13.5 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 14/17/15 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas
Base price: $69,800 (not including $1795 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Hard Tonneau Cover ($1250), Rocker Guard ($1195), power sunroof ($995), Multiflex Tailgate ($445), not equipped with steering-column lock credit (-$50)
Price as tested: $77,400
The great: Serious off-road capability, roomy and comfortable cabin
The good: Better-than-expected ride and handling, ample power
The not so good: Disappointing fuel economy
If your serious about leaving the pavement, Chevrolet serves up four distinct Silverado options to help you scratch that itch, available at equally distinct price points. Here’s what’s available in ascending order of capability:
- The standard 4WD system, available on nearly every Silverado trim level, includes 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD HI, and Terrain Mode. Note that Terrain Mode is not the same as 4LO, and that this system does not include a 2-speed transfer case or low-range gearing. AWD adds about $2700 to most Silverado trim levels on which it is not included as standard.
- The Off-Road Suspension Package, generally knows as Z71, includes 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4HI, and 4LO. This system includes a 2-speed transfer case providing additional low-end muscle for serious off-road- and towing muscle. The Z71 Package also includes such trail-ready niceties as hill-descent control, Rancho-brand off-road shock absorbers, a heavy-duty air filter, under-body skid plates, and 18-inch all-terrain tires on alloy wheels. The Z71 Packages goes for $1250, plus the cost of 4WD. The package is available on most Silverado trim levels.
- The Z71 Package is included as standard equipment on the TrailBoss, which is available in Custom and more upscale LT trim levels. In additional to the Z71 equipment, TrailBoss trucks include a locking rear differential, front recovery hooks, and auto-leveling rear suspension. The TrailBoss also enjoys unique interior and exterior trim. In short-bed crew-cab trim, including destination charge, the Custom TrailBoss starts at $55,590, and the LT TrailBoss at $60,790.
- The new-for 2022 ZR2 trim level brings the Silverado off-road experience up a notch. In addition to the equipment found on the TrailBoss, Chevy’s most rugged Silverado comes standard with electronic front- and rear locking differentials, additional skid-plate protection, and added ride height. Also standard are even beefier tires and Multimatic-brand DSSV shock absorbers with external oil cooling. The ZR2 also features a unique grille and bumpers designed to provide added clearance for improved approach angles, handy when crawling over large rocks.
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As for body styles, the TrailBoss can be had with an extended- or crew cab, and with the standard or short bed. The ZR2 is only offered as a crew cab with a short bed. The 2023 ZR2 starts at $71,595, including destination.
As for ground clearance, Silverados with the standard 4WD system afford operators 8.1 inches, while Z71 equipped trucks including the TrailBoss come in at around 10.1 inches. The ZR2 boasts more than an inch of additional ride height, at 11.2 inches.
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Note that all Silverado 4WD drive systems are “full time,” and can be left engaged on dry pavement. That said, you might want to disengage 4WD when not needed to improve fuel economy.
Consumer Guide recent spent a week with the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2, and learned that this highly-capable off-roader is relatively easy to live with as a daily commuter, assuming you’re OK with the predictably troublesome fuel economy.
This author happened to score his time in the ZR2 over the Christmas break. This meant filling the big Chevy with four adults and plenty of holiday gear—gifts, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie most importantly—and driving from the Chicago Suburbs north to Milwaukee, a 200-mile jaunt all told.
While Chevy offers a number of engine options for Silverado shoppers to consider, the ZR2 comes only with the beefy 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain combination provides ample passing and merging power, plus a rewarding exhaust growl when tapped aggressively. And, despite ZR2’s generally rugged demeanor, the drivetrain is impressively refined in around-town driving.
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While not quite as stable and planted at highway speeds as a pickup shod with something other than massive off-road tires, the ZR2 is pleasant enough on the road, and will happily cruise at 75 mph for protracted lengths of time. We averaged 13.5 mpg over our 514-mile evaluation, which is below the EPA’s 15-mpg combined estimate for the ZR2, despite having spent most of our time on the highway. More bad news: Chevrolet recommends feeding your ZR2 a strict diet of premium-grade gasoline.
That’s all of the bad news, though. We found our test truck to be an otherwise entirely likeable ride, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that, despite the ride height, the ZR2 was not especially difficult for taller adults to enter or exit. Shorter and older passengers registered a few complaints about the embarkment process, however. If you have a habit of taking seniors shopping on a regular basis, this truck may not be for you.
The cabin has a nice near-premium feel, and the most of the cabin materials looked and felt to be of high quality. One quibble: The headlight control knob, located to the left of the steering column, felt loose, and didn’t rotate between detents with reassuring engagement.
Like so many Chevrolet products today, the ZR2’s digital interface is well designed and easy to use. The touchscreen is also easy to read, even in bright sunlight. Though branded Bose, the audio system was pretty average though, and not quite up to the task of presenting a number of new Jimmy Smith albums this driver had recently acquired.
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Our test truck came loaded with options, driving the price up to $77,400. While that may feel like a pile of money, there’s a lot of legitimate rock-crawling hardware here, and there’s the promise of robust resale value.
While the ZR2 is surprisingly easy to live with in a suburban environment, and a capable highway hauler, we suggest that while you’re at the Chevy store you test drive a TrailBoss as well. Unless you’re serious about heading off road—and we mean really far off road—you may be better served by the surprisingly capable TrailBoss.
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