With winter oncoming and the Farmers Almanac predicting several snow storms, it would be comforting to know you have a vehicle that can negotiate deep snow. And so it is with Chevy’s 2017-18 ZR2 midsize pickup truck.
Chevy launched their ZR2 Colorado pickup that began life as a standard ZR1, but with beefy modifications. This model isn’t new for Chevy, as the ZR2 designation first appeared back in 1994 as an S-10 compact pickup with higher stance, larger tires, wider rear axle, special shocks and springs. The new ZR2, Chevy added several heavy duty goodies to make it an extra capable mid-size pickup.
For starters, the suspension was raised two inches for 8.9-inches of ground clearance, while the front and rear track were widened by three-and-a-half inches for greater stability. Used for the first time on an off-road vehicle, Multimatic dual-zone dampers (designed for rallycross racing) offer longer suspension travel (8.6 inches front/10.0 rear) to negotiate rugged terrain.
Aside from that, the ZR2’s front bumper has tapered ends for better tire clearance and a 30-degree approach angle when encountering obstacles. The bumper includes an aluminum skid plate to protect the radiator and engine oil pan and an additional shield protects the transfer case.
Now all this rides on 31-inch (8.75-inch wide) Goodyear Duratec off-road tires with deep treads for tackling snow, mud and sand. On-road, there is noticeable tire hum because of their knobby tread design.
To make all this work over serious terrain, Chevy included front and rear locking differentials. Toyota’s top selling Tacoma midsize pickup only has a rear locking differential. Add to that ZR2’s AutoTrac transfer case and the ZR2 offers nine drive configurations of 2WD; 2WD, locked rear differential; Auto 4WD; Auto 4WD, locked rear differential; 4WD Hi, locked transfer case; 4WD Hi, locked transfer case and locked rear differential; 4WD Lo, locked transfer case; 4WD Lo, locked transfer case and locked rear differential; and 4WD Lo, locked transfer case, locked front/rear differentials. This gearing was integrated to interact with traction control, stability control and hill-descent control, plus a new “Off-Road Mode,” which, in combination with the traction control switch, allows all the above to conform to different driving conditions. The mode also alters throttle progression and shift points for better control and responsiveness, says Chevy.
ZR2 is offered with two engine choices: A 3.6-liter, 308-hp V6 that produces 275 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 16 city, 18-highway mpg with an 8-speed automatic transmission and modified 3.42 rear. This combination carries a tow rating of 5,000 pounds that’s sufficient for a variety of small ATV trailers or campers. It’s peppy from a standing stop and passing, but the trucks’ 4,734-pound heft can be felt.
The other engine is the optional ($3,500) 2.8-liter turbo-diesel with 186-hp and whopping 369 lb/ft of torque for EPA ratings of 19/22 mpg with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
During a tall 26-inch step-in into the cabin of the tested four-door Crew Cab (Extended Cab also available), rock rails positioned along and slightly below the doors are just that – to prevent rocks from damaging the body. They really don’t help ingress/egress, and they can get pant legs soiled when sliding over them.
Inside, nicely padded and heated leather front seats are semi-supportive, yet comfy. Back seats split and fold up against the bulkhead exposing two storage bins underneath for small items. The rear seats are semi-soft with ample head room and a comfy back angle. If the fronts aren’t racked too far rearward, rear leg room is adequate for two adults on short trips.
A standard 8-inch color touchscreen serves the navigation, rearview camera, MyLink infotainment and audio systems with a weather app featuring 5-day forecasts. As with all GM vehicles, Colorado came with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability. For smartphone users, there’s a convenient console mounted wireless charging pad.
Back in the 59.25-inch short box bed, cargo load height is 36-inches with an EZ lift/lower tailgate that slowly lowers upon releasing the latch. Multiple tie-downs secure loads in the bed that came with a sprayed-in bedliner.
Despite ZR2’s off-road capabilities, it easily doubles as a daily driver. Over winding roads, the ZR2 exhibits control and poise for a high-stance truck. Off-road, the suspension with the Multimatics easily soak up harsh terrain.
Now all this versatility doesn’t come inexpensively. With a long list of safety and amenity features, the ZR2 carried a base price of $41,625. The only extra cost options were $500 for a Bose premium audio system; $495 for MyLink and a delivery of $940 brings the bottom line to $43,560. Yes, a full-size Silverado could be bought for about this price. But with its large size and width it can’t get through tight outback spots as easily as the slimmer, smaller ZR2. And it’s available in Extended and Crew Cab that was tested.
The truck also received favorable overall government safety ratings of four out of five stars; four each for driver/passenger frontal crash; five stars for front/rear seat side crash and three for rollover.
This rock crawler may not be for everyone. But if you’re adventuresome and trek far off the beaten path be it for truck camping, hunting, fishing or hiking, you may want to consider the ZR2.