I think it’s fair to say I’m a total truck nut. (Oh, come on. Not that kind). I like tall tires, locking diffs, and winches because they help get the job done wherever it needs doing. With all that said, I didn’t grow up around Ford Raptors. Like a lot of people, I’m from the middle of the country where the roads are wide, and trails are oftentimes tight and technical, so while I love the idea of hitting desert whoops flat-out, it’s just not a reality for me.
Instead, rigs like the Chevy Silverado ZR2 strike my fancy for their versatility. And now that GM’s most hardcore full-size off-roader is available with the 3.0-liter Duramax diesel, I’m even more convinced it’s a special type of performance pickup. I’ll explain.
While I’d love to see Chevy build a high-speed dune basher like everyone else, the Silverado ZR2 serves a purpose. It’s an enthusiast model for people who still need a pickup, leaving the garish fender flares behind for a more traditional approach. The 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six adds a certain component to that with its smooth operation and 495 pound-feet of torque that’s available just above idle.
The Bowtie competes against the Ford F-150 Tremor—which now comes with a V8—as well as the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Up to now, this category has been a strange middle ground of sorts where the trucks are clearly capable off-road, but they’re far from factory racers. At the same time, they aren’t always the best fit for work thanks to some of their suspension upgrades. They have to give somewhere, and even though they boast impressive spec sheets, I’m not that interested in forcing a half-ton to do a three-quarter-ton’s job.
That’s where the Silverado ZR2 has stood out. It’s the only one with those magical Multimatic DSSV dampers that make any type of off-roading a breeze, so it wins in that category. I’d also make the case that the ZR2’s suspension is the best on the highway, beating even the coil-sprung Toyota. It does this while maintaining a max tow capacity of 8,900 pounds, which is lower than the Tundra TRD Pro’s but higher than an F-150 Raptor’s and Ram TRX’s. If you value practicality and real-world performance over numbers they flash on screen during splashy commercials, the Chevy is very likely the one for you.
It’s a great rig to drive, and that’s backed up by its stellar interior. Nearly all of the ZR2’s features come standard, so you don’t have to worry about checking a dozen boxes to get what you want. Back to that point about it being subtle, it helps that it isn’t red.
Anywho, the Duramax ought to elevate each of those areas for the ZR2 because it’s so well-balanced. It makes 305 horsepower, meaning it’s down 115 ponies to the 6.2-liter V8, though it’s up on torque with a 35-pound-feet advantage. Not only that, but it achieves all that twist at a measly 1,250 rpm compared to the gas engine’s 4,100-rpm torque peak. The diesel is also a lot more economical in terms of fuel mileage. While EPA figures for the 2024 model haven’t been released, existing 4×4 Silverados with the Duramax get 24 mpg combined compared to just 17 mpg for trucks with the 6.2-liter.
Hopefully by now you’re starting to see why I feel the way I do. Some people will prefer the Tundra TRD Pro and its even mightier 583 lb-ft of torque, but others don’t want to deal with a potentially finicky twin-turbo V6 hybrid. Others may want the Ford for the F-150’s reputation, but they’re missing out on trail performance as the Tremor’s monotube shocks just can’t compare to the Chevy’s Multimatics.
It takes different strokes for different folks, but I’m more tempted to go deep into debt for a diesel Silverado ZR2 than I am for any other truck right now.
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