The bison are getting bigger.
Learning from its smaller brother Chevy Colorado, the full-size Silverado pickup gains yet another rugged off-road version: the ZR2 Bison that’s been popular on the midsize pickup since its introduction in the 2019 model year. Leading the Silverado Trail Boss and ZR2 off-road models, Bison takes the ZR2’s unique suspension, tires and styling, then dons his battle armor.
Chevy has teamed up with renowned aftermarket manufacturer American Expedition Vehicles to outfit the Bison with rocker protection, unique skid plates and a custom front bumper, continuing a partnership that began with the Colorado ZR2 Bison.
In other Silverado news for the 2023 model year, the pickup’s 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel inline-6 engine — though not available in the ZR2 or Bison — gets a boost. down 10 percent from grunt to 305 horsepower, with torque increasing 7.6 percent to 495 pound-feet.
“The Silverado ZR2 Bison is the ultimate half-ton truck for backcountry adventures,” said AEV CEO Dave Harriton. “It ticks all the boxes – heavy-duty stamped steel bumpers, full underbody protection, factory-tuned off-road suspension and locking front and rear differentials.”
The midsize Colorado also pioneered the ZR2 off-road package that Silverado adopted in 2022. Although the Silverado ZR2 did not reach the super-truck heights of the Ford F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX with a special engine, it made significant off-road upgrades such as Multimatic spool dampers and front/rear locking differentials to deliver ample bandwidth for low-speed canyon exploration and higher speed trail races. Silverado Bison starts with the ZR2 model’s 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine and off-road tools like Terrain Mode, which enables one-pedal driving.
The Bison elevates the ZR2 for the serious overlander. It also raises the price to $78,490 (including destination charges) when the vehicles go into production in early 2023.
The pickup adds another item to the Silverado’s menu to feed the market’s insatiable appetite for trucks – a market dominated by the Detroit Three. As manufacturers face an uncertain future in building electric vehicles, trucks like the ZR2 Bison are adding the necessary profit margin.
“Our most recent collaboration with AEV resulted in the highly acclaimed Colorado ZR2 Bison. We are thrilled to partner again to bring customers the next chapter in Chevrolet’s off-road dominance, this time on Silverado,” said Chevrolet Vice President Scott Bell.
Compared to the ’22 Silverado ZR2, Bison improves the forward approach angle to approximately 32.5 degrees (compared to the ZR2’s 31.8 degrees) and departure angle to approximately 23.4 degrees (compared to 23.3 degrees), while sharing the same 11.2-inch floor clearance.
To tackle twisty terrain, the front/rear bumpers are constructed from 3-millimeter-thick AEV-stamped steel, then powder-coated and e-coated. The Silverado Bison front bumper is winch compatible. The underside of the vehicle is protected by five unique hot-stamped boron steel skid plates to protect vulnerable components such as the differentials, transfer case and fuel tank.
Other standard items include steel rocker panel protection, three-piece steel front bumper with tow hooks and knobby 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires.
You’ll recognize the Silverado ZR2 Bison by its body-color grille bar that bisects the prominent black grille just below the Chevy “flow tie.” At the rear, the standard Multi-Flex tailgate receives a matte black finish.
In a nod to Chevy’s collaboration with AEV, there are little Easter eggs throughout the truck, like an AEV badge on the seat headrests and all-weather floor coverings.
Silverado’s Duramax diesel engine, available in Custom Trail Boss, LT, RST, LT Trail Boss, LTZ and High Country models, benefits from upgrades including revised steel pistons and new fuel injectors.
“These enhancements to the popular Duramax diesel engine build on the already advanced design of the first generation engine,” said John Barta, Assistant Chief Engineer, Diesel Engine Plants, to provide “customers with exceptional fuel economy and silent power”.
Like the V-8, it’s mated to GM’s 10-speed transmission and will be available by the end of the year.
Henry Payne is an auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or Twitter @HenryEPayne.