2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 | Review and Off-Road Test

 



The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is a rock-crawling, trail-blasting dirt goblin spawned from Chevrolet’s mid-sized
Colorado pickup truck. The ZR2 has been meticulously modified
for an unpaved world. It has electronic locking differentials front and rear, the
bumpers have been altered for improved off-road clearance,
there’s underbody protection for the rocker panels, radiator, oil pan, and
transfer case, you can swap the standard carpet for easy-to-clean vinyl
floor at no cost and rubber meets whatever via 31 inch Goodyear Wrangler
Duratrac off-road tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels. Oh and a
dealer-installed tire carrier can be mounted in the bed for redundancy and
style points. Unsurprisingly the off-road tires make a fair bit of noise on
pavement. Consider that motivation to avoid pavement. Most impressive is the
ZR2’s suspension. In addition to cast-iron control arms, a 2-inch higher ride, and a
three and a half inch wider track the suspension’s movements are damped by
Multimatic DSSV dampers.

 

Without diving down a technical rabbit hole
the Multimatic dampers replace the piston and shims found in traditional
shocks with spool valves, offering superior reliability, tunabilty, and
performance on or off road. For perspective, my first exposure to
Multimatic DSSV dampers was in the Camaro ZL1 1LE. It’s kind of cool to see
that technology applied to an off-road pickup truck. So all the pieces are in
place for a top-shelf off-roader let’s see what two days driving Zulu Romeo
deuce can teach us. We just arrived at our first off-road
location. I’d like to point your attention to the gauge cluster. There’s
two things that are vexing me right now. One is the check engine light. The other
is that even if you go through the process of turning off Stabilitrak it
will still reactivate, which means the kind of, you know, fun sideways
shenanigans you would hope to do in like an off-road truck aren’t really possible
if you can’t use that power on oversteer. As I turn and floor it Stabilitrak says
“no”.

 

I am making the truck dusty though that is a form of fun. Yeah. Making my way around. I’m doing a lap!
I’m doing a lap! Okay. So, after a little bit of messing about
on the playa here I’ve discovered that the ZR2 can be fun when you pick up the
speed. So if you do parking lot style, slow-speed donuts not a great jam but if
you pick it up a little bit you can brake into corners and get the the truck
to rotate and that’s kind of fun. And I will point out that with its
small form factor you can squeeze between bushes and all sorts of fun
stuff. Alright, day one taught us that the
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 can be fun and fast but in our case that fun included
complications. Of course as soon as we’d wrapped the check engine light magically
disappeared. As for the unwanted Stabilitrak intervention our contact at
Chevy suggested my rally-inspired, left-foot braking might be the culprit.
Undeterred we marched onward to day two. Though I love driving fast and sideways
my hope is that the ZR2 is better suited to traditional off-roading.

 

You know, trails,
rocks, articulation. Off-road the ZR2 rides more firmly than I
would have expected. If you go bouncing through some whoops
you will notice. I have noticed there’s a ton of bumper
and ground clearance. In fact I haven’t scraped yet which means I might not be
trying hard enough. Hmm, just scraped. I guess I am trying hard enough. Despite being a midsize the turning
circle on the ZR2 is not great. So if you need to backtrack on a trail and do a
u-turn it’s gonna be Austin Powers style.

 

 

Mostly though I’m impressed with the way the ZR2 claws its way up rock-strewn hills. It’s small enough that you can
choose the smart path but also capable enough to handle with dumb one. And I
will say that slow speed rock climbs are the right application for the diesel
engine. There’s so much torque the only question is whether the tires have
enough grip for the surface. So far the answer is yes. If you have a passion for dirt the
Colorado ZR2 is a clearly capable choice but there are others.
The iconic Jeep Wrangler is one and the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is another. At the same time, even though it’s a larger truck and costs at least ten thousand
dollars more, comparisons to the Ford Raptor
are inescapable.

If driving as fast as possible across the desert is your goal
the infinitely-driftable, Baja-ready Raptor remains to go to choice. Even so
there are some very good reasons to choose the Colorado ZR2. As a midsize-er
the Colorado slips through gaps that would confound a full-size pickup. That
manageable form factor also makes domestic life much more enjoyable.
Speaking of size the ZR2 is offered as an extended cab with a six-foot bed or
an optional crew cab with a 5-foot bed. If you have more friends than stuff choose the crew cab. Considering its off-road technology the ZR2’s $41,000 base price, including destination charges, is a relative
bargain. For that sum you get 6 airbags, MyLink infotainment with an 8-inch
screen, a trailering package with integrated brake controller, and Teen
Driver; a feature that lets parents customize vehicle behavior for
inexperienced drivers. Because not every teenager will make the kind of smart,
mature decisions that I do.

 

Yeah, responsibility! If you want the towing and fuel economy
benefits of a diesel in an off-road package there aren’t many choices. The
diesel ZR2’s superior range also addresses range anxiety when exploring
true desolation. That said, for driving quickly the 3.6-liter gasoline engine is
the right choice. The 2.8-liter is rich in torque but it is not quick. For transmission duty the diesel uses a
6-speed automatic while the gasoline engine sports an 8-speed. Interestingly
the gas and diesel engines are both rated to haul 5,000 pounds, though I’m
guessing the diesel’s nearly 100 pound -foot advantage makes that load more
bearable. Alright, the check engine light is off. My
left foot is well clear over the brake and the rear differential is
electronically locked.

 

Let’s see if I can slide this thing. Saints be praised. The ZR2, she slides! Weee! The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 might not
replace my favorite domesticated trophy truck but it is still a very fun,
effective, right-sized tool for off-roading. For those occasions where
you absolutely positively need to flee the city, the ZR2 is a brilliant ride .

Source: YouTube

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