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Car reviews - Chevrolet - Silverado - ZR2


We like
Left-right conversion feels ‘factory’, impressive V8 power and smooth transmission, stability over pockmarked and loose surfaces, outstanding cabin comfort and quietness
Room for improvement
More brake assistance would be welcomed, fuel consumption expectedly high, wipers foul on scuttle, quality of sound system poor for the price, it can be hard to find a park!

Chevy’s V8 powered pick-up one of the market’s best, despite its obvious thirst

27 Sep 2023



FULL-SIZE American pick-ups are becoming a much-loved fixture of Australian driveways, their ability to haul and tow more – and more capably – than the popular medium-segment ‘ute’ a standout for owners both city and country.


Chevrolet, Ford, Ram and Toyota are all in for a slice of the action, the former, imported and converted by General Motors Special Vehicles (GMSV), now offered in its fourth-generation form with diesel and petrol power – and an off-road focused ZR2 variant certain to prove popular with the recreational market.


The updated 1500 range arrived as something of a ‘sneak attack’ by GMSV as it sought to get a head start on Ford Australia’s newly introduced F-150. Locally engineered and converted (just like the F-150), the Chevrolet range arrived Down Under in March, bringing with it an up-to-the-minute feature list – and in ZR2 form, off-road capability and a thrilling 6.2-litre V8 engine.


Priced from $133,000 plus on-road costs, the Chevrolet 1500 ZR2 is $9000 dearer in its updated guise, and $5000 more than the diesel-powered 1500 LTZ Premium. For the coin, you get bolstered driveability, lifted suspension, bespoke dampers and unique styling details that elevate the model above its ‘Plain Jane’ donor.


The ZR2 is characterised by a deeper black-finished grille with higher-mounted logo, restyled bumpers, brighter C-shaped LED daytime running lights, raised (non-functional) bonnet insert with ZR2 badging, wheel arch flares, gloss black 18-inch alloys shod with Goodyear Wrangler Territory M/T rubber, and two-tone black/grey leather-appointed upholstery.


It also gains driver-selectable ‘E-locker’ electronic locking differentials front and rear, instead of the auto-locking rear diff in the LTZ Premium.


Raising the ZR2’s ride height to a towering 296mm (from 228mm in LTZ Premium) and incorporating a new three-piece black front bumper (to enable easier replacement if damaged) with a silver bash plate and red tow hooks dramatically improve its approach angle – from a modest 21.0 degrees in LTZ to 31.8 degrees.


The ZR2’s breakover angle rises from 20.0 to 23.4 degrees while its departure angle goes from 21.0 to 23.3 degrees.


Aside from the MY23 Silverado’s more imposing front end and muscular new ZR2 variant, it’s inside the cabin where the upgrades are glaringly obvious.


A completely new dashboard replaces the over-styled previous effort with a clean, horizontally configured layout dominated by a vast, crisp 13.4-inch centre touchscreen, joined by a configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.


Driving Impressions


The Chevrolet 1500 ZR2 is certainly a big vehicle, but one that is easy to adjust to. Why? Primarily because it’s so easy to see out of, making lane placement straightforward. But also because of the stability a long-wheelbase brings to the party – there is a lot to be said for a larger footprint, particularly when travelling on poorly maintained and unsealed country roads.


Measuring 5931mm in length, 2086mm in width and 1991mm in height, the 1500 ZR2 is appreciably larger than the mid-size ‘ute’. Its bus-like 14.4m turning circle also takes some getting used to, but it is not as difficult to park as you might expect – the large mirrors and nifty camera system giving a sense of confidence in close confines.


Hit the open road and the ZR2 really shines. It accelerates and maintains speed effortlessly, requiring a watchful eye on the speedo – or diligent use of the adaptive cruise control system – to maintain a lazy 110km/h. Honestly, the vehicle feels better ‘tuned’ to 120km/h, or 75mph in its home market. Makes sense, I guess.


The full-size cabin accommodates five adults comfortably and is a quiet as can be. Even with those chunky 33-inch mud-terrain tyres, the ZR2 cruises peacefully over degraded asphalt and gravel roads alike, an accomplishment given the separate-chassis design and leaf-spring live rear axle.


Aiding the serenity is GM’s DSSV Multimatic dampers which adjust effortlessly to lumps and bumps, even without a load in the tray or on the hitch. The setup also enables the ZR2 to corner with the kind of tenacity of a much smaller vehicle, the sweetly communicative steering playing its part in delivering a sense of enjoyment that defies the pick-up’s size.


It is also evident that the ZR2 is engineered – and not simply converted – to right-hand drive. Unlike some we have assessed the Chevrolet feels entirely natural to pilot without the shortcomings of a cobbled together left-right swap. The Ackerman effect sees no scrubbing or shunting at low speeds, and the neutrality of the ‘wheel at 12 o’clock is as organic as any built-for-Oz ute we can think of.


That conversion sweetness also shines through in the position and action of the pedal box. The placement of the pedals in relation to the seating position is close to perfect, likewise the action of the brake. Control over the all-disc stoppers might feel a little flat, but with a little legwork you’ll soon find the progressiveness required to get the ZR2 to a rapid halt.


Hit the throttle and the 313kW/624Nm EcoTec3 (L86) 6.2-litre petrol V8 will light up the rear tyres from standstill – even with the stability and traction aids on. It hustles the 2500kg pick-up to triple digits effortlessly and will keep pushing beyond the speed limit easily if you’re not watching the ‘dial’.


GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management system will shut down cylinders once cruising, helping to trim fuel consumption on longer trips. But with a few hills, some urban driving and a couple of ‘hard’ overtakes, the needle soon rises from an acceptable 12.2 litres per 100km to an expensive 16.6… ouch.


We were impressed by the smooth action of the 10-speed auto and how intuitively it responds to both throttle input and grades. We never caught the transmission ‘napping’ and found little use for manual mode. It may be a different story when hauling or towing, but then again, there’s a dedicated mode for that…


Extended seat time in the 1500 ZR2 is as calm and comfortable as a luxury SUV. The spaciousness of the cabin, the support of the 10-way powered seats – with heating and ventilation, no less – and the deep yet supportive cushioning of the seats makes the Chevy’s cab a terrific place to spend time – a pity then the stereo isn’t up to the task (see the separate review below from our resident audiophile, Richard Eycken).


Switchgear and controls fall easily to hand, though some shorter operators may find it a stretch to reach the passenger side of the massive 13.4-inch infotainment screen.


The ventilation outlets are well place, the instrumentation screen easy to read and the console layout decent – though personally I’d prefer the ‘American style’ column shift over the T-bar setup found here, as it frees up more real estate for drinks and the like.


We didn’t get the chance to take the 1500 ZR2 ‘properly’ off-road – something we might save for next time – or tow a massive float, van or boat. But if the abilities of this vehicle elsewhere are anything to go by, reckon it’d be a pearler to live with in just about any situation… assuming you have somewhere to park it and the coin to fill ‘er up.


100 Sound Words – with Richard Eycken


Our resident audiophile lends an ear to the 1500 ZR2’s updated audio system


Excellent stereo separation, crisp treble frequencies, and a fairly healthy mid-range are letdown by a shallow bottom-end and poor speaker performance. At higher volumes the quality of sound becomes muddled, losing the definition needed in such a large cabin. The rear speakers in particular do little to contribute to an immersive sound stage.


In all, the system is not what I expected for the money. I would have liked to see some pre-set sound fields or more detailed equaliser to counter the system’s shortfalls. Perhaps decent aftermarket speakers can improve things without losing that neat-looking screen. 4.5 out of 10.

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