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A blue 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 is shown parked off-road after visiting a Chevy dealer near you.

Off-Road Chevy Trucks Big & Small: Taking a Closer Look at the ZR2s

If you’re taking a look at the trucks on display at a Chevy dealer near you, you’ll find a wide variety of options. While Chevrolet only has two truck nameplates––the Colorado and Silverado––there are plenty of different trim levels, bed sizes, and cab styles, not to mention the heavy-duty and all-electric variants of the Silverado. Even if you’re looking for something more specific, like an off-road capable truck, you’ll be able to choose from multiple options.

Off-road Chevy trucks run the gamut from the midsize Colorado all the way up to the Silverado HD. There are also different ways to get off-road capability, from adding the Z71 off-road package to getting a dedicated off-road trim like the Trail Boss. But all enthusiasts agree that the most rugged Chevy trucks are the ZR2 variants. The Colorado ZR2 has been accruing fans for quite some time, but the Silverado ZR2 models are newer to the game. The Silverado 1500 ZR2 debuted for the 2022 model year, and the Silverado 2500 HD ZR2 is making its premiere for the 2024 model year.

If you’re interested in getting one of these all-terrain pickups, you may be wondering what the real difference is between the different ZR2 models? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to dive in and see what each one brings to the table.

A blue and black 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown parked on sand.

Colorado ZR2

The midsize Colorado is perfect for maneuvering in tight spaces. If you’re mostly kicking up sand in the open desert, then that won’t matter too much for you. But it’s a big advantage if you enjoy trails that wind their way through the woods and involve a lot of steering around mighty trees and massive boulders. The smaller size does mean less room for people and cargo compared to the Silverado, but it also means a lower price tag since the Colorado uses fewer materials.

The 2023 Colorado ZR2 is powered by a 2.7L Turbo High-Output engine that produces 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque, which translates to high speeds in open terrain and enough power to climb over boulders at lower speeds. A three-inch factory lift keeps the underbody away from obstacles that can harm vital components. The Colorado ZR2 sports an off-road-tuned suspension with segment-exclusive Multimatic DSSV dampers to keep every ride as smooth as possible. On the tech side, there are five selectable drive modes that drivers can use to optimize the truck’s settings for various situations, like towing and hauling, heading off-road, or Baja driving.

Colorado ZR2 Bison

With unique additions from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), a company that specializes in off-road equipment, the Bison variant takes the Colorado ZR2 even further. There’s an AEV heavy-duty front bumper capable of supporting a winch, AEV fender flares around the tires, and boron steel skid plates to provide even more protection. While the ZR2 is already plenty capable on its own, the Bison takes this truck’s capability and performance to the next level. The Colorado ZR2 Bison is all-new for the 2024 model year, having last made an appearance in 2022.

Silverado 1500 ZR2

The full-size Silverado is a bigger truck, so you have more space to work with. If you like to load up the cabin with friends and family and the bed with all kinds of outdoor equipment, then you might want to consider upsizing to this iconic pickup. The Silverado ZR2 has been available since the 2022 model year, and drivers have been appreciating the combination of ZR2 capability and a full-size truck body.

The Silverado ZR2 comes standard with a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 that produces 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. New for the 2024 model year, you can opt for the available Duramax 3.0L Turbo-Diesel engine instead. While this engine only has 305 hp, it produces 495 lb-ft of torque, which is an important factor in towing capacity and capability on rough terrain. Diesel is also a more efficient fuel source than gasoline, which can come in handy when you’re going deep into the wilderness, where you’re not likely to come across a gas station.

Like the Colorado ZR2, the Silverado ZR2 features Multimatic DSSV dampers and a performance-tuned suspension system. It also has an off-road cut front bumper and aluminum skid plates that provide plenty of underbody coverage. The Silverado ZR2 comes standard with a set of massive 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud Terrain tires that have deep grooves and are ready for action.

A red 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 HD ZR2 Bison is shown parked off-road.

Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison

The Silverado ZR2 Bison features unique gloss black AEV wheels, including a matching spare wheel. AEV front and rear stamped steel bumpers are both tough in the face of rough environmental conditions and provide a rugged aesthetic. A full set of AEV skid plates protect the underside of the truck. There are exclusive touches inside as well, with an AEV logo on the front headrests that features a bold Bison graphic.

Silverado 2500 HD ZR2

The latest addition to the lineup of ZR2 trucks is the Silverado 2500 HD ZR2, which is debuting for the 2024 model year. When it comes to bodystyle, this heavy-duty ZR2 is only available in a crew cab configuration. But under the hood, you have two different engines to choose from. The 6.6L V8 gasoline engine produces 401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque, while the 6.6L V8 turbo-diesel engine produces 470 hp and 975 lb-ft of torque. That power allows you to unlock the Silverado 2500 HD ZR2’s maximum towing capacity of 18,500 lbs, making it easy to bring an impressive trailer along for the ride.

Equipment-wise, the Silverado 2500 HD ZR2’s list of off-road features should sound familiar by this point. It has protective skid plates, a rear e-locker (but not a front locker), and Multimatic DSSV dampers. At 35 inches, the Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud Terrain tires are two inches bigger than those on the Silverado 1500 ZR2. The heavy-duty model also features a new Off-Road Mode that adjusts various settings, including the anti-lock brakes, traction control system, and throttle progression, in order to make everything optimized for rough terrain.

Silverado 2500 HD ZR2 Bison

A Bison variant is premiering alongside the basic ZR2 trim. The Bison features extra-tough stamped-steel underbody skid plates and front and rear bumpers. Both bumpers feature integrated recovery points, and the front bumper is able to handle a winch. There are also aesthetic touches like exclusive exterior badging, the AEV logo on the front headrests, and exclusive gloss-black, 18-inch AEV wheels.

A blue 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown driving on a hill of sand.

How to Choose

Having several options to choose from is great, but you do run the risk of getting decision fatigue. If you can’t make up your mind, try starting with the big things and then getting more granular from there. When choosing a size, consider the space you have to park your truck, both at home and the campsites you like to vacation at, as well as whether or not you’ll be navigating tight spaces very often. If you don’t need a bigger truck, then you can save some money by sticking with the tried and true Colorado ZR2. On the other hand, if you have a heavy trailer, then that might make the towing capacity on the Colorado or even the Silverado 1500 a dealbreaker.

As for the regular ZR2 vs the ZR2 Bison, that’s mostly a matter of budget and personal preference. While some of the AEV equipment adds capability, the standard fare on the ZR2 is plenty for most rides. If you have the money and the extras feel worth it, then go for it. No matter which variation you choose, as long as you’re looking at a ZR2, you can expect all the equipment and power you need to have a great time on your favorite OHV trail.