2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 First Drive Review: It's All About the Shocks
Chevy's new ZR2 off-road full-size truck packs Multimatic spool-valve shocks that make a huge difference when the pavement turns to dirt.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Chevrolet's Silverado pickup gets a much-needed makeover for 2022, but what I'm most excited about is this new off-road-specific ZR2 model. What sets this truck apart from other off-road pickups is its set of Multimatic DSSV dampers -- suspension components that borrow Formula 1 technology to create a no-compromise ride both on and off the pavement.
Multimatic shocks ditch their internal shims for tiny variable-rate spring valves, which allow Chevy to precisely tune their action. On top of that, by changing the shape of the oil opening, the shock behaves firmly on pavement but instantly softens up when you hit the dirt. It's like having electronically adjustable dampers, but you never have to put the truck into a different drive mode. If you want to nerd out on this technology, editor Antuan Goodwin has a great explainer, but I'm here to drive the ZR2 and find out for myself if this expensive hardware is worth the money. I grabbed the key and headed out into the desert terrain surrounding Palm Springs, CA.
When these shocks are paired with the Silverado's 6.2-liter V8 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, the result is a truck that can scoot along quickly when the road is smooth, but then hit the dirt without breaking a sweat. Pushing out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, the V8 delivers its power smoothly, with a glorious note coming from the optional Borla cat-back exhaust.
However, this isn't a full-blown Ford F-150 Raptor competitor. The Silverado ZR2 only has a bit more than 9 inches of suspension travel in the front and a little over 10 inches in the rear. Meanwhile, a Raptor has 14 inches up front and 15 inches out back, so it'll run all over the Chevy when traversing desert whoops. Still, the Silverado's ride quality is much more compliant and comfortable than the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro or the Nissan Titan Pro-4X.
The ZR2 has a few drive modes, but they don't affect the shock tuning. Instead, these settings modify the traction control, throttle mapping, transmission tuning and so on. Off-Road mode will loosen up the traction settings and let the tail hang out a bit, and it's best for high-speed dirty fun times. Terrain mode is best for slow-speed rock crawling, and when the truck is also in low-range four-wheel drive, one-pedal driving is enabled. This allows the driver to just worry about moderating the throttle when doing any precise, slow-speed driving. The brakes are applied when your foot is lifted off the throttle, so no left-foot braking is necessary. It's a neat trick.
The ZR2 has decent off-road suspension geometry -- especially for a full-size pickup truck. The approach angle is 31.8 degrees thanks to the ZR2's cut-out front bumper, while the breakover and departure angles are both a smidge over 23 degrees. The truck has 11.2 inches of ground clearance, enough that I have to use the handle on the A-pillar to get in, and rides on 33-inch mud-terrain tires. Front and rear electronic differential lockers round out the off-road goodies. In all, those are not bad specs for a full-size truck.
If towing is a big part of your weekend fun, the ZR2 does an OK job, but it's definitely not the highest-rated Silverado. When properly configured a Silverado can tow over 13,000 pounds, but the ZR2 can only drag 8,900 pounds. Folks with large campers might struggle here.
The Silverado ZR2's payload rating is 1,400 pounds and there are plenty of tie-down points as well as a 110-volt outlet in the bed. General Motors' cool six-position Multi-Flex tailgate is also available for under $500, and I think it's a great addition to any truck. The added functionality it provides is well worth the money.
One of the biggest 2022 model year updates that improves the entire Silverado lineup is a vastly improved interior. A 13.4-inch touchscreen runs a new version of Chevy's infotainment tech, now with Google power. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa are all integrated as well, and the addition of Google maps is pretty rad. A 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster gives me all the information I could possibly need and it's easy to scroll around and find what I want. The available head-up display is large and reconfigurable, and I can easily see it through my polarized sunglasses.
The cabin materials are much nicer, and while there are still some cheap plastic bits, the overall vibe is more upscale. It's clear Chevy took complaints from customers to heart when updating the interior. It's super nice inside.
As for driver-assistance tech, the Chevrolet Safety Assist suite is standard, complete with forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, a following distance indicator and automatic high-beam headlights. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on the ZR2 but you'll have to pony up some extra cash if you want adaptive cruise control. Chevy's hands-free Super Cruise driver-assistance system isn't available on the ZR2.
The full-size Silverado ZR2 starts at $69,295 including $1,695 for destination. That's a bit more than a 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, but it makes sense given the upgraded suspension. However, you can get a 2022 Ford F-150 Raptor with its greater suspension travel for about $1,000 more.
The best thing about the ZR2 is that it's an off-road truck that offers absolutely no compromises in terms of on-road refinement. Add in Chevy's excellent tech and nicer interior, and the 2022 Silverado is more compelling than ever.
2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Is Ready for Desert Shenanigans
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of
staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.