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Auto review: Conquering the Mojave in the burly Chevy Silverado ZR2

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, California — At 4,200 feet above sea level here in the arid Mojave desert, not much survives. The landscape is raw, rocky, brown. Except for the enduring Joshua Tree. As if taken from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, its hydra-like branches extend from the trunk — each topped by a head of sharp needles. Thanks to a deep root system and the ability to go months without water, the interloper is uniquely equipped to survive in this hostile environment.

Kind of like the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 performance truck I’m driving.

Armed with fearless Goodyear Wrangler Territorial MT tires, Multimatic shocks, three bash plates, two-speed transfer case, twin-locking differentials and a relentless 6.2-liter V-8 engine, this stubborn pickup is remarkably well-suited for the rocky desert.

Amongst the green groves of Joshua trees, a media-piloted caravan of red, blue, sand, and white ZR2s added welcome color to the scorched landscape. A winding dirt road cut to extract gold from a solitary mine stretched out in front of us.

Transfer case on 4-wheel-drive high. Terrain mode selected. Wrangler tires aired down to 25 PSI. I nailed the throttle and the beast awoke. WAAAUUUGGHHHRGH!

I tested a GMC Hummer EV in similar Arizona desert terrain a few weeks before, its silent drivetrain creeping through Boulders ORV Park’s low brush. Hear the crunch of rocks below. The rustle of leaves. SSSHHHHH.

 

The ZR2’s V-8 is a different sensory experience. WAAAUUURGH! You want to keep your boot on it to hear its heavy metal beat. Carbon prohibitionists despise it, of course. It’s fun. Loud. Ban it.

But like Brian Johnson screaming “Hell’s Bells,” ZR2 sends goosebumps up my spine. Windows down. Sunroof open. I crested 65 mph on the open road, pushing through the cloud of dust created by the ZR2 in front of me, another link in our speeding truck train.

It’s an experience that Liana Prieto and her Dirt Days crew share with off-road customers in Joshua Tree and Salton Sea and the Baja Peninsula, home to some of the world’s greatest off-roading over thousands of acres of desert wilderness. Dirt-kickers welcome: super trucks, Wranglers, Broncos.

Before organizing trips like our ZR2 train for Chevrolet, she drove a Tesla Model S in LA. Then she experienced the joy of F-150 Raptor super trucks in the desert and she was addicted. Goodbye EV, hello 4WD.

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