You’re out on the trail, splashing through creeks and enjoying the wind on your face, when you spot a Chevy truck maneuvering past you. Although you pay it little attention at first, you can’t help but do a double-take when you realize it’s too big to be the midsize Colorado, yet seems to have a powerful presence even beyond the Silverado 1500. You have to stop and stare in awe at the monstrous beauty deftly maneuvering down the trail, and you nod slightly when the driver notices you. They smile, give a half wave, and disappear into the wilderness. A moment passes, and you realize that wasn’t a dream or a hallucination caused by the haze of dirt. That was a three-quarter ton off-road truck.
This is no mere fantasy anymore, because Chevy is changing the game in a way I never expected by introducing their legendary ZR2 off-road trim to the Silverado HD Series. Whether you’re about to head to your local Chevy dealer to order one of these trucks right now, or you’re simply interested in what sort of things you’re going to run into out on the trail, this is a truck that you need to know more about. Trust me, Chevy hasn’t simply slapped a ZR2 badge onto a medium-duty truck and called it a day. The Silverado HD ZR2 lives up to everything its name suggests, and then some.
A Silverado HD Through and Through
There are two things that I really respect about the 2024 Chevy Silverado HD ZR2. First, it’s still every bit a Silverado HD. Sometimes you never really know what to expect from the auto industry, and something that seems impressive at first can end up just being marketing hype. That’s not the case here, and the fact that it’s a Silverado HD in every way is fantastic.
Second, it’s definitely a proper ZR2 model. One thing that’s important to note is that only the Silverado 2500 HD is available as a ZR2 model, not the even more robust Silverado 3500 HD. We can hope we’ll get that in the future if this one proves popular, but only time will tell. Still, you can choose from either the 6.6L gas engine with its 401 horsepower and 464 lb-ft of torque, or the 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel that delivers 470 horsepower and 975 lb-ft of torque for this truck. You don’t have to worry about missing out on something just because you want incredible off-road performance, which is perfect.
This also means the Silverado HD ZR2 can handle as much work as you would expect from any Silverado 2500 HD. With the gas engine, it has up to 3,397 lbs of payload capacity along with 16,000 lbs of maximum conventional towing and up to 18,070 lbs of gooseneck towing. Going with the Turbo-Diesel engine drops payload down slightly to maxing out at 3,193 lbs, while conventional towing goes up to an impressive 18,500 lbs. In other words, this ZR2 can get some serious work done with the muscle to haul a trailer full of building materials to a jobsite or pull a surprisingly big boat behind you.
Living up to the ZR2 Legend
You can already get a Silverado 2500 HD with 18,500 lbs of towing capacity, so what really sets this model apart is its off-road performance. I’ll admit that when I first heard about this model I was worried that it would just be a Silverado HD with ZR2 badges on it and maybe some unique visual touches, but little else. My fears were unfounded, however, because Chevy has gone all-out on this one to make it a true off-road truck.
For starters, the Silverado 2500 HD ZR2 features a bold front grille that immediately makes it a part of the larger ZR2 family of trucks, along with a suspension that’s raised 1.5 inches higher other four-wheel drive Silverado 2500 HD models. (As you’d expect, four-wheel drive is standard on the ZR2.) Beyond this raised suspension, the Silverado HD ZR2 also features special front upper and lower control arms and steering knuckles designed to ensure it’s incredibly rugged. It comes with Multimatic DSSV dampers, a hallmark of ZR2 models, along with a larger steel transfer case skid plate and front aluminum skid plate to protect it out on the trail.
You’ll find 18-inch aluminum wheels on the ZR2, wrapped in 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires that ensure amazing traction and grip in the wildest conditions. It also has a new Off-Road Mode, which was developed based on what Chevy has learned from other ZR2 models. This mode adjusts traction and stability control, plus other vehicle calibrations, to improve performance while driving off-road. The Silverado HD ZR2 has 11.6 inches of ground clearance with an approach angle of 32.5 degrees, a departure angle of 25.7 degrees, and a 21.2-degree breakover angle to make sure you can tackle anything you encounter on the trail.
Even More: The HD ZR2 Bison
Just in case all of those impressive specs and off-road design wasn’t enough for you, Chevy isn’t done as the first-ever Silverado HD ZR2 is also available as a ZR2 Bison model. Like other ZR2 Bison editions, this has been developed in partnership with American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), which is a leading brand in aftermarket off-road supplies and modifications. The result is a beast ready to tear up the trail with exclusive gloss black 18-inch AEV wheels, plus a distinctive cut high-approach stamped-steel front bumper with integrated recovery points and winch provisions.
The ZR2 Bison also features a unique stamped-steel cut rear bumper with recovery points for good measure, along with unique exterior badging and AEV logos inside. This creates a factory truck designed inside and out for avid off-road fans looking for something that you simply can’t find anywhere else. You’ll also enjoy impressive features found on other Silverado HD models like a DuraBed cargo box, six-position Multi-Flex tailgate, corner step rear bumper, and more. Combine all of that with interior features like a 13.4-inch Infotainment display and 12.3-inch configurable driver information screen, and you have an incredible off-road pickup.
nWhat Does This Mean for Other Brands?
Since the ZR2 and ZR2 Bison are so new, this is the big question that we won’t be able to answer for at least a year or two. There’s no denying that off-road trucks are hot right now, which is why we’re seeing new models like this Silverado HD ZR2, as well as the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison. Of course, Chevy isn’t alone in this. Just look at the Ram 1500 TRX or the Ford F-150 Raptor and Raptor R to see how far other brands are going. Will we see a Ford F-250 Raptor sometime soon? If the Silverado HD ZR2 proves popular, I could see that happening.
This also raises the question of whether we’ll see Chevy follow this trajectory and go even further with their off-road trucks. As I mentioned earlier, only a Silverado 2500 HD ZR2 is available at the moment, but it would be crazy to see a dually Silverado 3500 HD ZR2 built to dominate the trail while still able to haul more than 30,000 lbs behind it with a gooseneck hitch. I’d also love to see Chevy answer the challenge of Ram and Ford by delivering a high-performance off-road truck, but perhaps this is their effort to make something powerful that’s focused more on the muscle for work and play rather than boastful acceleration. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but one thing is for sure: this is a great time to be a fan of powerful off-road-focused trucks.