We have reviewed the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 AEV Bison on Texas roads, but how does it perform in its intended habitat: off-pavement, and is it any good? Today we take the Bison to the red dirt of Barnwell Mountain for a little off-road fun.
First off, I will say that this was my favorite vehicle to test on our home turf, to date. Despite the Silverado’s large size, thus prohibiting it from doing some trails I would normally want to tackle, the overall package that Chevrolet and AEV were able to deliver is a hit.
Some complain that this is in the same price range and thus in the same discussion as Ford’s F-150 Raptor and Ram’s 1500 TRX. I can say from driving all three, it is not. Nor was it designed to be a direct competitor. This is missing the true “Baja racer” persona of the other two, even though off-road racing champion Chad Hall has been competing in the full-size stock production class with a prototype Silverado ZR2 since 2019. Working with Chevrolet engineers, the team leverages racing to test and validate the truck’s off-road performance in some of the world’s most extreme and grueling conditions. Since 2019, the prototype ZR2 race truck has competed in 10 professionally-sanctioned off-road races, including the legendary Vegas to Reno Best In The Desert race, finishing a flawless race, stopping only to refuel.
Maybe it is the lack of supercharged or turbocharged power under the hood or the fact that Chevy went with DSSV spool valve dampers versus Bilstein or Fox long-travel units. Or perhaps it is due to the fact that the ZR2 “only” gets 33’ tall Goodyear Wrangler tires versus the 35” or 37” options from the aforementioned competitors.
Tackling the “Twister” trail out at our beloved Barnwell Mountain, the “Terrain mode” of the ZR2 AEV Bison was a feature I was very much looking forward to testing. Acting as a one-pedal solution, Terrain mode will apply the brakes as the driver pulls off the throttle, allowing for easier rock crawling…in theory. In my experience, I still preferred the tried and true two-pedal method taught to me by my good friend and off-road legend Sue Mead. Simply keep a steady foot on a low throttle and modulate your speed using your left foot on the brake pedal.
Proceeding this way, proved to be a lot of fun, and while it may not look like much on camera the terrain I was able to conquer in this pickup was quite intense. From approach, breaker, and departure angles to ground clearance and underbody protection, and lastly, articulation and traction, Twister and the subsequent washout area showed the ZR2 AEV Bison to be very capable.
I should mention that the ZR2 AEV Bison is the only Silverado offered with fuel and differential skids from the factory. Even the ZR2 does not have that extra protection underneath. AEV adds their press-hardened steel skid plates and steel rocker panel protection, along with their steel bumpers for a strong pickup ready to take on a serious beating from a day of rock crawling.
The Bison handled everything I threw its way without really breaking a sweat, nor did I…break a sweat that is. Inside, not only did I have a very comfortable environment with dual-zone automatic climate controls and ventilated leather seats up front, but the DSSV spool valve dampers meant the ride over all the different terrain was very comfortable as well. I have been on some of these trails in lesser vehicles and can attest to the comfort of the DSSV dampers. They allow you to drive much faster over rough terrain than say the 13-year-old Tahoe Z71 that was our film production vehicle for the day. While both were able to tackle some of the same terrain (the Tahoe didn’t do all the fun stuff we did in the ZR2) the ZR2 made it a much more pleasant experience for those inside the vehicle.
Yes, all around I would say Chevy has a hit with this one, the only real downside to me is the price point. At $84,905 as tested, this ZR2 AEV Bison is something I would aspire to own versus something I could go buy at this stage in my life. I wish Chevy and AEV offered this package on lesser trims outside of the range-topping ZR2 that already starts at $71,500. Yes, if you could get an $8,000 AEV Bison package on the Custom or LT Trail Boss models, I think we would see more Bison roaming the trails across the nation.
2023 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 AEV Bison Specs:
6.2L V8 Engine
460 lb-ft of Torque
Optional 3.0L Diesel Duramax Inline-6 Engine
495 lb-ft of Torque
10-Speed Automatic Transmission
Two-Speed Transfer Case
Multimatic 40-millimeter DSSV Spool-valve Dampers
Electronic Locking Front and Rear Differentials
Terrain Mode: Allows for One-pedal Rock Crawling
High-clearance Dual Exhaust System
Stamped Steel Bumpers
Improved approach angle: 32.5 degrees vs. 31.8 degrees on standard ZR2
Improved departure angle: 23.4 degrees vs. 23.3 degrees on standard ZR2
Heavy duty recovery points and integrated step pads; winch-capable front bumper
3-millimeter-thick steel that is both powder and e-coated
5 Press-hardened Steel Underbody Skid Plates
Front and Rear Differentials
Steel rocker panel protection
Gloss Black 18-inch AEV Wheels
33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT 275/70R18 Tires
Body-color Grille Bar
Black Tailgate Trim
AEV Bison badging
AEV Badging on the Front Headrests and All-weather Floor Liners
Seating for 5
Heated and Ventilated Front Seats
Rear Seatback and Under Seat Storage
Leather-wrapped Heated Steering Wheel
12.3-inch Configurable Digital Instrument Cluster
13.4-inch Infotainment System with Google Built-in
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
8 available cameras
Standard Chevy Safety Assist
Dual-zone Automatic Climate Control
Damped Multi-flex Tailgate
Proximity Key with Push Button Start
EPA Fuel Economy 14/17/15 (city/hwy/cmb)
Starting Price: $71,500
Price As Tested: $84,905
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