Silverado Widow Ideal – Bringing the ZR2 treatment to Chevy’s bread-and-butter pickup lineup strikes a nice balance of drivability, off-road capability, and bounce.
Do you like to bounce? You know, up and down, back and forth, and flipping around? In a good day of bouncing, there are moments where you feel like your kidneys have switched places and you somehow swallowed your own pancreas. And others where you’re sure you’ve reached near-weightlessness, and everything moves in slow motion. As long as you’re in control, it’s all good fun. Does that sound appealing?
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You’re in luck, Chevrolet refreshed the entire Silverado lineup for 2022, and that includes a new trim called the Silverado bou—excuse me: ZR2. A new adult-sized four-wheeled trampoline that gives you the chance to travel across landscapes you choose as a child again. Think of it as a full-size version of the Colorado ZR2, or perhaps a way to recapture your adventurous youth while keeping your older bones comfortable.
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Chevrolet considers the ZR2 the flagship Silverado. And with a base price of $69,295, the bowtie brand has a point. For that money, you get the most powerful of four Silverado engines offered, the 6.2-liter V8 that pumps out a maximum 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That power goes through a 10-speed automatic transmission, a two-speed transfer case, and on to your choice of rear wheels or all four wheels (although the ZR2 is all-wheel drive).
What makes the ZR2 a bouncy machine is a higher ride height than the already raised Trail Boss, 11.2 inches versus 10.9. That, and a unique front end, give you an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, a breakover angle of 23.4 and a departure angle of 23.3 respectively. More than ride height, you also get suspension travel: 9.8 inches worth for the front axle, 10.6 inches for the rear, which is about two inches and an inch better than the front and rear of the Trail Boss.
You also roll on 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler mud tires mounted on 18-inch wheels. The rolling stock is held up by a unique set of springs and suspension struts, which are damped by MultiMatics’ exquisite DSSV (Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve) shock absorbers. Instead of standard deflecting disc shock internals, DSSV shocks use a precisely cut hole into an internal rod, and as an external rod moves up and down through compression and rebound, it exposes more or less of the hole for oil to pass through, which dictates damping force.
Excuse me for geeking out for a second, I just love the design. Simply put, these shock absorbers work brilliantly and are durable, but cost quite a bit. We know that because Chevy used them on the Colorado ZR2 as well as the 2014 and 2015 Camaro Z/28, where they also worked great.
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Chevy also added e-locker differentials on the rear and front axles. And the Silverado ZR2 comes standard with skid plates on the front, under the body and under the transfer case – all important things to protect.
Finally, you get visual hints of the nature of this Silverado in the form of a “flow-tie” outline emblem instead of the usual bow, ZR2 logos mounted on the front fenders and tailgate, a unique grill and a black hood inset. It’s also quite tall at 78.7 inches (it could probably dunk a basketball if engineers only thought to include hands).
Excuse me for geeking out for a second, I just love the design. Simply put, these shock absorbers work brilliantly and are durable.
With such a rough and purposeful look on the outside, the inside can come as a bit of a surprise. The instrument cluster is fully digital and has a customizable 12.3-inch screen. The center console touchscreen measures out to 13.4 inches and is available on all LT and higher trim levels for 2022. The new screen also comes with Google Maps and Google Assistant built-in, allowing the use of voice commands for many functions on the truck. This is of course in addition to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Bluetooth technologies. You also get a wireless charging pad for your smartphone.
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More traditional luxury includes comfortable and adjustable leather seats. And because it’s the largest Crew Cab body, the ZR2 offers plenty of room for two rows of passengers. Front seat passengers get both heated and ventilated seats and can be picky about the ambient temperature thanks to the dual-zone climate control system.
All in all, it’s clear that Chevy could no longer stand by as Ford and Ram had all the fun from the factory with the Ford Raptor and Ram TRX. Yet it’s also obvious that the Silverado represents a distinct approach to that segment. Compared to the others, you have the least horsepower, by a lot when you compare the Hellcat powered TRX. And less impressive wheel travel, et al number when you brag in the bar. But is that a bad thing?
Chevrolet’s choice of equipment for the ZR2 certainly makes for a very capable machine. But even the most hardened off-roader will ride on pavement more often than not. Here, the ZR2 remains quite civilized and comfortable. Rolling on 33-inch tires mounted on 18-inch wheels means you have plenty of sidewall to absorb bumps. Furthermore, engineers tuned the massive shocks and springs to absorb protruding rocks and large pock-marked trails, meaning it glides over bumps in the road like hot butter over toast.
All in all, it’s clear that Chevy could no longer stand by as Ford and Ram had all the fun from the factory with the Raptor and TRX. Yet it’s also obvious that the Silverado represents a distinct approach to that segment.
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The one downside to the superb ride is the less precise feel of the steering wheel. Large knobby mud tires with massive sidewalls lead to some play in the steering. Nothing unsafe or unstable, just less than ideal when soaking up the miles on the highway.
Also, the seats themselves are comfortable and include all the adjustment you need, including the lumbar support, to find a good fit. The truck is easily comfortable no matter the destination, whether it’s the grocery store, work, or, I don’t know, maybe Joshua Tree National Park. Home to vast expanses, beautiful rock formations and some of the most rigorous off-road trails around.
That’s where Chevrolet pointed me to test out this brand new flagship. In addition to all the standard kit, my test car was fitted with a set of large black steel tube rocker guards which cost an additional $1,150. And a Borla exhaust for an extra $1,399. On startup, the cat-back exhaust proved worth the money with a nice throaty bark and rhythmic rumble from the naturally aspirated V8.
The rocker protectors seemed like a bargain not too far into Joshua Tree. At first the trail was harmless enough, a disjointed two-track with a few ruts and small rocks to overcome.
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But the first hill I encountered was a doozy. With a track barely wider than the ZR2, the hill offered a steep climb of loose dirt with a left turn in the middle, ruts the size of bathtubs and ridges on either side that would happily uninstall the wing mirrors if they got off the trail even an inch. Yes, the rockers could use the protection of this inexperienced off-roader.
Good thing the ZR2 includes off-road and off-road driving modes – I chose off-road – as well as low-range shifting. For good measure, I also locked both the front and rear differentials. With both 4LO and off-road modes selected, Chevrolet activates a system called one-pedal drive mode. It only works while driving at low speeds and automatically engages the brakes when you lift off the gas, making it easier to carefully maneuver the truck through some daunting obstacles with just one pedal. Understand?
With all of the above to help, the ZR2 merrily marched up the grade with little drama, despite at times only one front wheel touching the ground, and sometimes only one rear wheel. There was never a concern about losing grip, and the bumps cushioned landings brilliantly as the ZR2’s weight shifted from left to right and front to rear. You know, a little bouncy.
After successfully climbing that hill my confidence increased and so did the toughness of the terrain. Large sections of jutting rocks covered a narrow path flanked by 10-foot-tall prickly bushes and cacti. At times they would reach out and leave beautiful pinstripes across their bodies. These narrow trails meandered through the national park until we finally reached an abandoned gold mine with old storage facilities and run-down crane equipment, and another epic hill that challenged all the ground clearance and suspension travel and gear the ZR2 had.
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On this ascent, there were several occasions where looking out the windshield revealed nothing but the horizon and a sense of dread that has driven you to the edge of the world. Fortunately, the ZR2 comes fitted with multiple front, rear and side cameras to give you a much better view of the terrain ahead and actually drastically improve your ability to steer clear of what feels like cliff edges.
After I summited the last ascent, a
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