Chevrolet is taking a detour with its midsize Colorado pickup lineup — rolling a new version off city streets and onto challenging wilderness trails. This rugged truck, which is created to lure hardcore off-road enthusiasts, is the 2017 Colorado ZR2.
The robustly engineered, aggressive-looking ZR2 is expected to appear in dealerships in the spring of 2017. It will be available in extended-cab and crew-cab configurations. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but its estimated base price is about $40,000.
The first look at the ZR2, which Chevrolet touts as a “segment of one,” was at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show. Standing in front of an elevated portion of a rough-trail-simulating test course, Mark Dickens, executive director of performance variants for Chevrolet, explained that his team’s mission with the ZR2 was to give the truck a wide performance envelope.
“We set out to create a truck equally capable for rock crawling on Saturday, desert running on Sunday, and driving to work on Monday,” Dickens said.
The Colorado is naturally well-suited for off-road, he said, noting that it’s narrower and lighter than full-size trucks, allowing access to a greater variety of trails and providing greater agility over rough terrain.
Traction, wheel travel, and obstacle clearance is enhanced over a standard Colorado with a 3.5-inch-wider front and rear track, 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires on 17-by-8-inch aluminum wheels, and a 2-inch suspension lift. The ZR2 is fitted with longer, beefier cast-iron control arms to enhance durability.
Ends of the front bumper are tapered to increase tire clearance, and it incorporates a thick aluminum skid plate that protects the radiator and engine oil pan. Eliminating the rear corner steps reduces potential contact with obstacles. Bumper modifications contribute to 30-degree approach and 26-degree departure angles. Trail-scraping encounters are minimized via a skid plate shielding the transfer case, and steel-tube rocker protectors guarding the body sides.
“For the dampers, we pushed the envelope with the first use of Multimatic spool-valve dampers on a production off-road vehicle,” Dickens said. This spool-valve design, a technology transferred from motorsports, offers the advantages of greater tuning range and precision, more resistance to fade, and more consistent performance.
Standard power for the ZR2 is an all-new 3.6-liter V-6. Mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it generates 308 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy figures haven’t been announced, but Chevy reports “it will provide excellent range to overland drivers.”
The ZR2 tows up to 5,000 pounds, which is adequate for hauling dirt bikes, jet skis, and snowmobiles. Payload capacity is rated at 1,100 pounds.
An advantage the ZR2 has over its competitors is the availability of a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel I-4, which Dickens boasts is a “torque monster, perfect for rock crawling.” The Duramax, which partners with a six-speed automatic transmission, produces 181 horsepower and an impressive 369 lb.-ft. of torque.
An AutoTrac four-wheel-drive transfer case teams with electronic-locking front and rear differentials to provide nine drive configurations.
In sync with a truck built to take on the challenges of hostile terrain, the ZR2 looks the part. Its profile is aggressive, with the lifted body, giant tires, and black tubular rocker protectors. A bad-boy look is created up front with a raised black dome hood, black grille insert, and the revised bumper with integrated skid plate.
In the rear, the truck can be fitted with an optional bed-mounted spare-tire carrier, which can help prevent damage to the spare from off-road obstacles.
The Colorado ZR2 is well-equipped to conquer off-road trails, but it’s yet to be seen how successfully it will combat formidable off-road truck competitors. Its price tag versus the competition will be a key factor in its success. The ZR2 joins new midsize Toyota TRD Pro and full-size Ford F-150 Raptor off-roaders for the 2017 model year, benefiting off-road fans with more enticing choices than ever.
— Tim Spell, Motor Matters
2017 CHEVROLET COLORADO ZR2 CREW CAB
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger 4WD midsize pickup truck
BASE PRICE___________________ $40,000
ENGINE TYPE__________________ V-6
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 308
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 275
TRANSMISSION_________________ 8-speed automatic
TOWING CAPACITY______________ 5,000 lbs.
PAYLOAD CAPACITY_____________ 1,100 lbs.
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2017