Ford ran away with the SEMA spotlight last year with their hardcore F-150 Raptor off-road truck, and when they did, GM sat up and took notice. This year, Chevrolet has fired back with the Silverado ZR2 Concept, a trail-ready, 550-hp monster aimed straight at the Raptor.
Now that Ford has debuted its new 6.2L V-8 engine with an impressive 411 hp, Chevy couldn't just throw a lift kit on an otherwise-stock Silverado. Instead, the crew dropped a supercharged 6.2L LSA V-8 under the hood, a 550-hp mill normally found on duty beneath the hood of a Cadillac CTS-V. Thanks to the cavernous space below the Silverado's hood, the LSA and its six-speed automatic transmission dropped right in with little effort and Chevrolet easily fitted a custom stainless steel exhaust system.
Power sufficiently addressed, Chevy turned to the suspension. A big part of what makes the Raptor the Raptor is its military-grade suspension, which Chevy did not try to match tit-for-tat. Instead, they turned to BDS, which outfitted the truck with a 4-in lift and gave them room to fit 20-in BBS wheels wrapped in 35-in Goodyear Wrangler tires, the largest tires they could fit on the truck without a bigger lift. Behind that suspension is, essentially, a Cadillac Escalade drivetrain that's more AWD than 4WD.
Of course, the Raptor is more than just a lifted truck, it's also wrapped in a whole new look. Naturally, so too is the ZR2. To keep weight down, Chevy fitted the ZR2 concept with a carbon-fiber grille, hood, tailgate, rocker panels, fender flares and front and rear fascias. With the exception of the fenders, the carbon-fiber has been left bare for all to see and looks quite good against the white paint. The real story, though, is in the styling itself. According to GM design chief Ed Welburn and ZR2 designer Dave Ross, the subtle upgrades to truck's styling offer hints at the next Silverado facelift. They include a boxier grille, exaggerated hood and fenders, rear fascia with integrated exhaust pipes and a new tailgate with "Chevrolet" embossed in it. The carbon-fiber, unfortunately, isn't likely to make it to production unless the cost comes down significantly.
Before finishing the project, Chevy also did a little sprucing up inside. Upgrades are minor and include carbon-fiber trim for the dash and new leather and suede seats finished in black, both of which will become options for the Silverado in the near future.
Ross and Welburn insist that the ZR2 is only a concept, a design study for next-generation Silverado styling, but it could be more than that. The LSA engine is already in production and spreading it around would ease the cost and the suspension modifications are fairly light in comparison to the Raptor. The body modifications, meanwhile, would simply require new stampings. Both Ross and Welburn hinted that this ZR2 package or something close to it could be pushed into production and both were visibly excited by the prospect, but whether or not that ever happens likely depends on reaction at SEMA, F-150 Raptor sales and the ability to make a business case for the ZR2. Could this be the start of an off-road war between Chevy and Ford? We sure hope so.