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2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison First Test: A Sleeper of a Mechanical Bull

2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison First Test: A Sleeper of a Mechanical Bull


  • Traditional 6.2-liter and 10-speed automatic pair nicely
  • Factory-backed AEV gear protects and looks legit
  • Well-rounded Multimatic DSSV shocks perform exceptionally well


  • 33-inch tires are small in the off-road world
  • Small 24-gallon fuel tank necessitates frequent fueling
  • Steering wheel feels unsubstantial and outdated

Now is a great time for pickup trucks. Whether you fancy off-road, go-fast, or ultra-luxury—most likely a tasteful blend thereof—there’s an electric-, gas-, diesel-, or hybrid-powered truck with your name on it. One such recent mammoth charging the truck world  is the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison Edition. With its American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) treatment in the form of unique front and rear bumpers, skidplates, and wheels, all piled onto the awesome ZR2 off-road halo trim—Four Wheeler’s 2023 Truck of the Year—the AEV Bison stands as the wildest animal Chevy offers off-road aficionados. It happens to have a fraternal twin in the GM stable, the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X AEV Edition, attracting those who prefer GMC’s more traditional front-end styling.

028 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison trim badge

GM And AEV: A Perfect Match

The partnership between Chevrolet and AEV began with the 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison and has since expanded to include this test’s Silverado 1500 and also the new 2024 Silverado 2500HD ZR2 Bison. The concept is pretty simple: take a cool off-road truck and add some AEV upgrades to create the ultimate factory-backed off-roader. The collaboration—spread to the GMC brand under the AEV Edition moniker—is brilliant, purposeful, and spot on.

Protection befitting a top-dollar truck like the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison was key for the collab, so four press-hardened hot-stamped Boron steel skidplates shield the steering gear, rear differential, fuel tank, and transfer case. Chevy says they’re three-and-a-half times stronger than cold-stamped high-strength steel. It’s difficult to put a value on this armor until it’s used, at which point it proves its mettle. AEV bumpers front and rear are constructed from 3-millimeter-thick stamped steel that’s E-coat primed and powder-coated. The winch-capable front bumper is a three-piece unit whose outer edges are removable and replaceable. And yes, there are front and rear recovery hooks. The Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison also gets steel rock rails (not to be confused with side steps, which they aren’t) and special 18-inch AEV gloss-black wheels (not the Saltas of the AT4X AEV Edition).

Visually, the Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison gets a body-color grille bar that contrasts the all-black grille and highlights the Chevy “flow tie” emblem. The Multi-Flex tailgate gets a matte-black decal and AEV badge, and large “Bison” bedside decals further delineate the special package. Inside, the front headrests are stitched with the AEV logo, and there are also AEV-badged all-weather slush mats. Otherwise, it’s standard ZR2 attire.

004 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison rear three quarters

Worth Its Weight

As every overlander and off-roader knows, off-road additions—the aforementioned AEV products, in this case—add weight. But the Silverado Bison is engineered to handle this extra heft, whereas DIY projects might not be.

Our 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 AEV Bison test truck weighed about three large bulls (male bison), or 5,968 pounds—almost exactly the same as a Ford F-150 Raptor R but considerably less than a Ram TRX. It weighs about 200 pounds more than the non-Bison “standard” ZR2 and about 575 pounds more than a Trail Boss, for example. Does this matter when it comes to track performance? Yes, a little.

However, just like actual bison are deceptively fast and nimble for their shape and size, the Silverado ZR2 Bison, when compared to the lighter aforementioned ZR2 and Trail Boss (which share the Bison’s 6.2-liter V-8s), doesn’t completely embarrass itself in a straight line. The Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison clocked a 0-60-mph time of 6.4 seconds, 0.3-second slower than the ZR2 and 0.7-second slower than the Trail Boss. In the quarter mile, the Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison clocked a 14.8-second time at 94.1 mph, trailing the non-Bison ZR2 by 0.2 second and the Trail Boss by 0.6.

If you’re purely looking for a truck that’s fast in a straight line, the ZR2 Bison isn’t it. But you knew that—and a sub-15-second off-road truck is nothing to scoff at. Our test vehicle may have been underperforming slightly, as a functionally identical GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X AEV Edition, was 0.3 second quicker.

How would the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison do against its V-8 truck competition? A 280-pound-lighter 5.0-liter V-8 Ford F-150 King Ranch was 0.2-second quicker (in both 0-60 and quarter-mile testing), but both trucks would beat a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi Ram 1500 Rebel G/T. Here’s a fun side note: The ZR2 Bison and a new Silverado 2500HD run almost side-by-side at the track.

As for our MotorTrend figure-eight test, the ZR2 Bison was, well, a Bison out of pasture—although its time of 29.3 seconds was respectable. Its size, heaviness, off-road suspension, and soft, knobby tires made it fumble its way through the figure-eight like a nearsighted bull in a fine china shop. It’s worth noting the transmission was on time with its downshift kick-down exiting the skidpad portion of the figure eight. As for braking, there’s lots of dive, considerable wander, and side-to-side wobble. You’ll want to limit panic stops.

062 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison engine

Bison Visits The Trough

The 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison’s big-displacement 6.2-liter V-8, the only engine option for 2023, accelerated confidently, never lacking when it came to on- and off-road power. The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts smartly and without issue in general, maximizing the small-block’s 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The exhaust is rather subdued, and the sweet, nostalgic tone of the naturally aspirated V-8 is much preferable to wheezy-sounding V-6s and faint turbo whistles.

Of course, driving the AEV Bison means you’ll look often for your next gas station—and this gets tedious. Our biggest complaint about the 6.2-liter is the 24-gallon fuel tank that feeds it. That’s a rather small trough for the thirsty V-8, which is rated at 14/17 mpg city/highway, providing 360 miles of range. We would appreciate a 36-gallon tank like the one that feeds the F-150 Raptor, for example. The 6.2-liter is the only engine for the ZR2 for 2023 (Bison and non-Bison), but the 3.0-liter inline-six Duramax diesel is available for 2024. The diesel should improve fuel economy—and range.

055 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison front seats

Saddle Up

From the inside looking out, the Silverado 1500 ZR2 AEV Bison is all hood. As with all GM pickup trucks, you sit lower in the cockpit rather than higher, meaning you feel more like you’re inside a car rather than on top of it as you tend to do in a van. This potentially leaves drivers straining to see beyond the ZR2 Bison’s large hood. But nestled nicely inside the best and most refined cabin Chevy has ever presented for the Silverado, you really appreciate the 13.4-inch touchscreen (although a bunch of real estate is wasted by a useless right-side widget) and the cabin’s overall modernity. Alas, a few complaints remain: there’s more hard plastic than we’d like for such a premium price point; there may be a few too many colors, materials, and textures (although Chevy is getting better at this); and the steering wheel feels thin, spindly, and underwhelming. Overall, though, the Silverado’s interiors are competitive, intuitive, and very livable. Oh, and the exterior color-matched LATCH hooks (for car seats in the rear) are a nice touch.

026 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison trunk space and door configuration

Beware Of Sleeping Giants

At first glance, the Silverado 1500 ZR2 AEV Bison Edition appears rather tame. With its petite 33-inch tires (the ZR2’s standard 275/70R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT), narrow hips, gentle exhaust tone, and classy-not-flashy AEV products, the pickup truck comes off as subtle and subdued. Its off-road stats—11.2 inches of ground clearance, 9.8 inches of front and 10.6 inches of rear suspension travel (controlled by 40-millimeter Multimatic DSSV dampers)—also appear underwhelming at first glance. But numbers don’t always tell the whole story. In reality, the ZR2 Bison makes phenomenal use of that wheel travel.

Indeed, the ZR2 Bison is a sleeper that’s easy to underestimate. Aesthetically and technically, it’s no Raptor or TRX. Don’t take that as a blow to the Bison; it has horns if you know where to find them (ahem, standard front electronic-locking differential). It’s a no-BS pickup that rises to the (off- or on-road) challenge.

041 2024 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison driver seat


Your wallet may not be thrilled when it coughs up $7,895 (model year 2023) for the ZR2 Bison Edition package plus the required $495 Multi-Flex tailgate, and perhaps an additional $1,970 for the gotta-have Technology package (rear camera mirror, 15-inch head-up display, and adaptive cruise control). Hold onto your reins: Our Glacier Blue Metallic 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 AEV Bison Edition test truck rang in at $86,540. But if you can swallow an expensive bull ride, it’s worth every penny.

2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 AEV Bison Specifications
BASE PRICE $81,685
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck

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