LAUNCHED: Chevy Colorado ZR2

Colorado ZR2

The best mid-sized pickup I’ve ever driven. Yep, figured I’d just cut to the chase. The new Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is an impressive off road capable truck right from the factory. Chevrolet invited me to drive the new ZR2 outside Grand Junction, CO, on the road, on a Baja style off road course, on a mild off road trail and on a rock crawling course. Needless to say, I was impressed! Lets start with the interior. Heated leather seats and an impressive integrated infotainment system are standard, while a 7 speaker Bose sound system is optional. The interior of the ZR2 is a nice place to be, with better than average materials throughout and absolutely top notch fit and finish. My favorite part of the interior is probably the super comfortable height and shaped arm rests, on both the door and center console. My least favorite has to be the flat/non-angle adjustable bottom seat cushion, with the nearly non-existent dead pedal a close second. This combo makes my legs go to sleep, and I find myself continually hunting for a comfortable spot to rest my left leg. Overall though, the ZR2’s interior is arguably still better than the competition.To truly grasp the value of the ZR2 you have to consider that a top of the line Colorado ZR1 comes in at only about $5,000 less. For that extra $5K you get: front and rear Eaton E-Lockers, Multimatic DSSV dampers, aluminum skid plates, stainless steel sliders, 31” Wrangler Duratrac tires, new bumpers, hill descent control, wider fender flares, new hood, new front fascia, a stronger steering rack, stronger CVs, stronger axels and wider cast iron front control arms. Talk about bang for your buck! You do lose some fuel economy however, as the upgrades add extra weight. Chevy did well on most of the upgrades found on the ZR2, all of which combine to make it an impressive factory 4×4. The stainless steel sliders don’t rust, and bolt to reinforcement points on the body, which can easily support the vehicle’s weight. They lengthened the rear drive shaft to provide an appropriate pinion angle and a bit more droop in the rear axel. My biggest gripe is with the computer processing time. It takes way too long to engage/disengage the low range 4wd and there is quite a lag in the hill descent control realizing that it should activate. On the flip side of this coin is the fact that the ZR2 allows you to turn off all the computer aids, like traction control, which allows you to drive the truck in a much more playful manner. Something I found out on the high speed Baja style course, as it is quite fun to turn off the nanny controls and let the backend hang out in some tight turns on loose dirt. The ZR2 is offered in both gas V6 and 4cyl turbo diesel options. You can choose between the 3.6L V6 (308 hp/275 lb-ft /16-18 mpg) with 8 speed automatic or the Duramax 2.8L 4 cyl Diesel (186 hp/369 lb-ft/19-22 mpg) with 6 speed automatic. Both are good, and surprisingly comparable in many ways. While the Duramax diesel option is a $3,500 upgrade, with 250 lb weight penalty, I believe it is worth it. The added torque is extremely useful off road, the added fuel economy is always appreciated and the exhaust brake is a useful included option. Over 84 miles of spirited mixed terrain driving I managed to get 26.2 mpg out of the little diesel. Overall the ZR2 seems to be incredibly stiff and well built. It was impressive how much the bed stayed with the cab while off-roading, even when the truck was in a twisted situation. The flip side to this of course is that you do tend to find a tire in the air quite often when tackling off road obstacles, which isn’t ideal. Luckily a smart computer and the selectable lockers are there to keep things moving when things get slippery and tires are in the air. I also chose to tackle the rock crawling course without the use of the lockers, and can attest that left foot braking does work on this truck, without the computer interfering. The ZR2 does offer up a 21-gallon fuel tank, 1,100 lb payload capacity and 5,000 lb towing capacity. Range, impressive payload and strong towing all add up to a vehicle that is perfect to create an overland advneturemobile. A 1.5” lift and the taller 31” tires give you nearly 9” of ground clearance and a tight 44’ turning radius. The ZR2 does have a 3.5” wider track width than the standard Colorado, which gives it much more lateral stability, especially when the truck is loaded down with gear for the adventures ahead. The front control arms are also cast iron, versus aluminum, which widens the tack width and is much more durable to the abuse that driving over rocks is sure to afflict. The true magic in the new ZR2 lies in the Multimatic DSSV dampers. They provide a truly impressive precise on road ride, while also providing really good high speed and big obstacle impact dampening off road. I managed to get all four wheel off the ground numerous times on the high speed Baja style course with soft and controlled landings every time. It’s nice that the dampeners also dampen the axels at full droop, which helps in a smooth flight off obstacles and a controlled landing. I did find the slow speed small bumps to be a bit harsh, but I can’t say any worse than any of the competition.Chevrolet also provided a glimpse of what can be done with this platform with their Trail Leader Truck. The ZR2 was lifted 1” with a body lift and fitted with 33” tires, which required little trimming of the front fender wells. A service body was fitted to the back, and tow hitch receivers were installed at both ends of the truck, which provide mounting points for a Warn winch on a hitch mount winch carrier. An LED light bar was also installed into the front grill, with a clean integration into the factory headlight switch. If I were to buy a new ZR2 I’d buy the extended cab Duramax Diesel configuration, and upgrade to the Bose sound system and optional rubber floor. This option offers up a 6’2” bed, which is great to haul adventure sports gear and is long enough for me to sleep in, and an interior that you can easily wipe down and clean. This configuration will set you back a bit over $45K.I would love to see an SUV body on this chassis, squarely aimed to compete with the Toyota 4 Runner. There aren’t enough small to medium size capable off road wagon style SUVs in North America, and a ZR2 based wagon bodied SUV would be a very capable adventuremobile.

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