In case you haven’t noticed, off-road trucks are a thing and they’re gaining in popularity. No longer do you need to up-fit a garden variety pickup with aftermarket parts to accomplish the task. Companies like GM are providing the opportunity to buy these serious off-road trucks straight from the factory. Case in point: the new Colorado ZR2.
This is the performance halo of the Colorado lineup. Chevy’s midsize truck can be had for as little as $21,195 – if you’re cool with a 2WD extended cab powered by a 4-cylinder and 6-speed manual. But the ZR2 starts at about twice that with standard 4WD and an automatic transmission. My attractive Cajun Red tester has been optioned with the Duramax diesel and 6-speed auto in crew cab/short box livery. A V6 and 8-speed auto is standard.
A brutally cold week and a couple of small snowfalls accompanied my ZR2 test, so the favored muddy, rocky off-roading wasn’t to be. But this Colorado’s impressive engineering resume translates to a number of driving environments and clearly stands alone in the midsize segment. Forget about the Tacoma TRD Pro, this Chevy has bigger fish to fry like the mighty Ford Raptor. When it comes to hitting the trail, bigger is not better, so the ZR2’s much shorter and narrower dimensions make it more manageable. The kicker on this truck is the DSSV dampers. Short for Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve and sourced from the racing gurus at Multimatic, these are highly engineered dampers specific to off-road use and imbue the ZR2 with an amazing sense of composure no matter where it’s being driven. Wheel movement and body motions acts as though they’re being micromanaged to the finest degree. The jounce and relaxed nature usually associated with driving a truck are nonexistent leading to enhanced ride and control whether you’re driving on- or off-road. It feels more like the suspension of a performance-tuned car and considering DSSV dampers have been used on such elite machines as the Ford GT and Mercedes-AMG GT it makes perfect sense. They’re not available aftermarket either but GM uses them on certain Camaros and this is their first outing on a truck. This is no doubt the leading contributor to the ZR2’s formidable sticker price but as they say, you’ve got to pay to play and DSSV dampers are the golden ticket.
But there’s more to the ZR2 than just that. Compared to a standard Colorado, the it features front and rear tracks that have been widened by 3.5 inches and a suspension lifted by two inches affording nearly 9” of ground clearance. Functional rockers have been added for better protection over obstacles, the front and rear bumpers have been modified for better off-road clearance and a transfer case shield protects the underbody. And these 17” Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac all-terrain tires absolutely love wintry conditions. Add to that standard front and rear electronic locking differentials, a sophisticated 4-wheel drive system with an Off-road Mode and 2WD, Auto, 4WD and 4 Lo settings, and a quiet hill decent control system and you’ve got yourself one incredibly capable truck done in a modern fashion.
I always wanted Marty McFly’s truck from Back to the Future and this ZR2 kind of reminds me of that. It has an undeniable coolness factor and is equipped to go just about anywhere. It’s sized just right and has modern 4-wheel drive controls and a trick suspension. The diesel’s sounds are more pronounced than others but totally acceptable in a truck and its torquey-ness is what truck buyers crave. And all is good on-road where the ZR2 feels tight and sharply engineered.
The 2.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel is a $3,500 option that produces 369 pound-feet of torque and 186 horsepower while netting 20mpg, extending the Colorado’s driving range to 420 miles. But it’s not going to save you anything at the pump and can’t tow any more than the V6’s 5000 pounds so its advantages are more subjective. It does come with an exhaust brake, trailer brake controller and new for 2018 Active Tow for help in aligning the truck with a trailer. With options this ZR2 checks in at $47,970 and there are a million and one upgrades and accessories you can add to make it your own.
It’s a big step up to get inside but once hoisted reveals a fully modern interior featuring the Chevy MyLink touchscreen including Wi-Fi, OnStar, Navigation, and CarPlay, wireless device charging, 2 USB ports, premium Bose audio system, a color multi information driver display, teen driver feature and rear seat reminder. The Easy Lift and Lower tailgate and spray-on bedliner for the 5’ 2” box are also nice touches. Can you imagine Toyota putting in an effort like this? Heated seats and remote start were also definitely appreciated this week. There are 2 big omissions however: smart entry with push button start and blind spot detection.
Also available as an Extended Cab with an extra foot of bed length, the ZR2 is the truck you never knew you needed but have always wanted.