GM had us out to a warehouse (where the climax of the movie The Departed was filmed, incidentally) where an obstacle course had been set up to demonstrate the ZR2’s capabilities. Like most courses of this sort, it was built expressly to show the ZR2 at its most impressive, so there was no chance the truck would fail at any point. Here’s an overview of the obstacles at the warehouse course.
There were half-cylinder whoops that we took at a healthy pace, a 30-degree incline with rollers, simulated train tracks at the top of a small artificial hill, and an articulation demonstrator that yanked one wheel a few feet off the ground. The expectation, on seeing the course, was that riding through it would be a little like being inside the blender in a “Will It Blend?” episode, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
On the incline, which the video above doesn’t do justice, the truck at one point had three wheels on metal rollers. This was a test of the ZR2’s front and rear lockers, and so the right front tire was the only thing keeping us from falling back down this metal mountain. As expected, it worked phenomenally.
When we hit the half-barrel hoops and the train tracks, the instinct was to tense up for a big event. The bracing wasn’t necessary, as the spool-valve shocks had 8.6 inches of travel up front and a full 10 inches in the rear. And as Gary Klein, Chevrolet lead chassis engineer, and Multimatic’s Michael Guttilla explained, the lack of drama also has to do with how the advanced shocks deal with the compression event throughout the range of that travel. As curated as the experience was, it was clear the Chevy and Multimatic engineers were confident that the ZR2 would hold its own in the real world, against the short list of competitors’ trucks that could be described as similarly off-road oriented.
We just drove one of these competitor vehicles, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, which represents a different, more conservative approach. That isn’t to say it wasn’t impressive in its own right; the long-travel Fox shocks provided a comfortable ride over some bumpy dual-tracks and a few gnarly rock outcroppings. But there were no artificial obstacles that could be described as comparable to the ZR2’s course. We’re licking our chops at a real-world, side-by-side showdown to see if the more conventional remote-reservoir Fox shocks, which are very impressive units, can stand up to the advanced and relatively unique Multimatic spool-valve shocks on the ZR2. And of course, we don’t need to mention the larger Ford F-150 Raptor, really the progenitor of the desert-ready production truck genre, and about to go into its second generation. We’ll be driving the Raptor soon, and will report back if the next act is as good as the first.
Until then we’ve driven all these trucks in the real world, over all sorts of terrain, it’s hard to tell which will prove to have the best compromise of real-world usability and off-road prowess. But the ZR2’s shocks seem like the killer app in this genre, so it’s Chevy’s game to lose at this point. Play on, trucks.