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A red 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 is shown from the front at an angle.

What Makes the Silverado the King of Off-Road Trucks?

I know that’s already a loaded question. Some people are going to disagree with me, but first, hear me out. Whether you’re looking for a Chevy Silverado 1500 near you to buy, or you just like knowing what’s out there – if you like to go off-road, then the Silverado can’t be beaten. For years now, the Silverado has been one of the absolute best trucks available for hitting the trail, and it just keeps getting better every year. While some people might prefer the smaller size of something like the Colorado, I think a full-size pickup can often be a better choice.

For one thing, a full-size truck gives you a lot more space to utilize, which I know is an obvious statement, but it’s not something to overlook. Whether you want a roomier cab for friends and family or need a larger bed to load up with gear before hitting the trail, the Silverado gives you more to use than a midsize truck. Even more importantly, the Silverado is powerful. It has incredible engines that are perfect for handling rough terrain and going the distance when heading out for the weekend. Plus, it’s a lot easier to haul a boat or camper to your favorite destination, giving you everything you need to enjoy four or five days (or longer, I won’t stop you) filled with the great outdoors.
But what really puts the Silverado ahead of every other option? Well…

Three Fantastic Off-Road Trim Levels

What immediately stands out about the Silverado is that it offers three different off-road-focused trims for you to choose from. These days, every truck I can think of has an off-road trim with at least a few features to make it better on the trail. Though sometimes these extras can be a little underwhelming and consist of some tow hooks and a skid plate (if you’re lucky). In general, though, you’re looking at one trim that (hopefully) has a real off-road design that elevates the truck for hitting the trail.

Chevy has clearly designed the Silverado to be an off-roading beast; they understand that not everyone cares about going off-road, so it’s not the only function of this truck. That being said, rather than deliver one paltry off-road trim that feels like an afterthought, they’ve provided three different options. Admittedly, the two Trail Boss trims are quite similar, but this is still much more than you’ll find from most other brands. Let’s take a look at all three.

A grey 2023 Chevy Silverado Custom Z71 Trail Boss is shown from the front at an angle after leaving a dealer that sold a Chevy Silverado 1500 near me.

The Custom Trail Boss

As I said, the two Trail Boss trims are similar in terms of the sort of off-road performance and engineering they deliver, but there are some significant differences between them in other ways. Essentially, these are off-road versions of two other trims for the Silverado (the Custom and LT), so they take the features found on those trims and then beef them up for hitting the trail. I love this approach to creating off-road trucks because it lets you look at the features you want in terms of tech or comfort and pick what you like while still getting great off-road power.

The Custom Trail Boss is the starting option for an off-road Silverado, building on its second trim. For starters, the Custom Trail Boss is only available with Four-Wheel Drive, as it should be for an off-road truck, and it comes with the Silverado’s standard 310-hp 2.7L Turbo engine. The standard Custom model only offers this engine. But to make the Trail Boss version a superior choice for the trail, two other engines are available: a 355-hp 5.3L V8 and a 3.0L Duramax Turbo Diesel with 305 hp and 495 lb-ft of torque.

We’re already off to a good start here, but the Custom Trail Boss keeps going with a 2-inch factory suspension lift designed to give this model superior ground clearance and angles than standard Silverado models. Yeah, you can slap a lift kit onto any truck you want, but I’m a big fan of factory-installed lifts that ensure the work is done properly and the truck handles the way it should. This pickup also comes with an Autotrac 2-speed transfer case and a Z71 Off-Road suspension with monotube shocks, skid plates, recovery hooks, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac mud-terrain tires.

Inside the Custom Trail Boss, you’ll find a 7-inch Infotainment display with a six-speaker sound system, which is good enough for going off-road. It also has a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar control, cloth seating, a 3.5-inch monochromatic Driver Information Center display, and wireless functionality for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This truck has remote keyless entry, remote start, single-zone climate control, and a host of other nice features – as a relatively low trim for the Silverado; however, it doesn’t blow me away.

The LT Trail Boss

Fortunately, that’s where the LT Trail Boss model comes into play. Mechanically, it’s almost identical to the Custom Trail Boss in that it has the same standard and available engines – though it also has the Silverado’s 6.2L V8 engine available. With this, you get the same Z71 Off-Road suspension, 2-inch factory lift, and tires. So the off-road features on the two Trail Boss models are pretty much the same.

Inside the LT Trail Boss, however, things are quite different: it features a massive 13.4-inch Infotainment display and a 12.3-inch color Driver Information Center that you can customize to your needs. A six-speaker sound system is still standard here, but a Bose Premium audio system is available. Plus, the LT Trail Boss has heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control, all of which are perfect if you’re not one to let a little ice and snow keep you from getting out and having fun. Having these two off-road options is terrific, but the real icing on this proverbial cake is still to come…

A white 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison is shown from the front at an angle.

The Silverado ZR2

The true king of the trail isn’t just the Chevy Silverado 1500; it’s the Silverado ZR2 and the incredible off-road features it brings. For starters, the ZR2 features the Silverado-first application of Multimatic DSSV dampers to enhance wheel travel and maneuverability on rough terrain. It has an off-road-cut front bumper that provides a 31-degree approach angle, with steel front and rear bumpers designed to be hardy on the trail while giving you excellent overall clearance as you tackle anything that comes your way. Plus, there’s an off-road chassis with suspension calibrations and large underbody skid plates for protection from debris.

The ZR2 has a 6.2L V8 engine that delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, with 18-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory mud-terrain tires with an aggressive tread designed to find grip in even the slipperiest conditions. Looking at the latest model, the 2023 Silverado, a new ZR2 Bison Edition includes American Expedition Vehicles stamped-steel front and rear bumpers, five hot-stamped Boron steel skid plates, and off-road rocker protection to take trail performance to another level entirely.

Inside, the ZR2 is also incredibly luxurious, with a 13.4-inch Infotainment display, 12.3-inch driver screen, and the Bose Premium sound system. It has perforated leather-appointed seats, 10-way power driver and front-passenger seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and much more. There’s even a wireless charging pad in the ZR2, which is perfect for keeping your phone charged while you’re out on the trail. Altogether, this is my kind of combination of luxurious interior and rugged exterior.

I’d Trust the Silverado on the Trail Any Day

You can see for yourself why I stand by the Silverado being the ultimate choice for an off-road truck, even more so than offerings from other brands. I’ll admit it might not have the power of something insane like the Ram TRX, but that thing is completely overkill as far as I’m concerned. You’re not going to go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds on the trail or take full advantage of its engine while navigating rough terrain. The Silverado 1500 ZR2 delivers fantastic performance with incredible off-road features, and it doesn’t go overboard just to be needlessly showy. That’s everything I’m looking for in a trail truck, plus much more.

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