First Drive: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

 by Michael Satterfield

Since the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 was announced for production in 2016, I wanted to get behind the wheel of one. I loved the offroad styling, its stance, and even the wheels, I was hoping it would drive as good as it looked. While I had driven the standard Colorado on the Chevrolet Texas BBQ Tour the ZR2 never seemed to make it into my tester rotation, until now, and now that I have driven it, it was everything I hoped it would be. 

While the base Colorado offers a 2.5L 4-cylinder gasoline engine, the ZR2 is only available with a 3.6L V6 or a 2.8L Duramax Turbo-Diesel 4-cylinder, the latter adds $3,500 to the price tag, a big premium to pay to pick up a few more MPG and no difference in towing capacity. But it is nice that Chevrolet offers the option for those diehard diesel fans since most trucks in this category only offer one engine choice across all models. Having driven both, my personal preference is for the higher-revving performance-focused 3.6 V6 which more fun to drive and while the diesel has more than enough power, it feels sluggish both on and off-road. My V6 tester also had the optional performance pack which helped with throttle response and gave the exhaust a nice growl. 

Engine Specs:
2.8L Duramax Turbo-Diesel 4-cylinder: 1
86 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque
8-Speed Automatic
MPG: 18 city/22 highway
Max Towing: 5,000lbs
Base Price: $47,595

3.6L V6 Gasoline:
308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque
6-Speed Automatic
MPG: 16city/18 highway
Max Towing: 5,000lbs
Base Price: $44,095

Both the test trucks were in premium colors the Diesel in Cajun Red ($495 option) and the V6 in the Kinetic Blue ($395 option). I have yet to find a color that doesn't look good on the ZR2, so you can go with one of the six standard colors, on the interior you are limited to Jet Black leather as the only option. Where you really need to spend some time when shopping for a ZR2 is with the special packages, that give the truck completely different looks depending on which one you choose.

The $5,750 ZR2 "Bison" package gives the truck a much more sporty appearance a lot more off-road capability. The package is limited to select colors, but include a redesigned grille wit CHEVROLET spelled out, AEV front bumper with winch provisions, and rear bumper with recovery points, AEV Hot-stamped Boron Steel skid plates for front differential, engine oil pan, transfer case, fuel tank and rear differential, AEV-designed fender flares, AEV-designed 17" wheels, Fog lamps, Contoured front and rear floor liners with AEV logo and more. With Ford not offering the Ranger Raptor in the US, the ZR2 Bison is the only real alternative on the market offering similar style and performance.

ZR2 Dusk Edition

The $3,215 ZR2 Dusk and Midnight Special Editions get an Off-Road sport bar with side pannels, Off-Road lights, 17" gloss-Black aluminum wheels, and a 17" spare aluminum wheel. The Midnight Edition is only offered in Black, while the Dusk can be ordered on any color.

If you go with the V6 you can also add the $1,850 power package which includes a performance air intake and cat-back performance exhaust system. Chevrolet has done a great job at providing a lot of value with these packages, with an aftermarket exhaust from coming in at $922.99 and a K&N performance air intake (which is not legal in California) costing $347.99 plus installation the $1,850 power package is steal considering it is fully covered by the factory warranty and 50 state legal.

Inside the options are a lot more limited with the only choices being Navigation, a Bose premium audio system, and several accessories like floor mats and under-dash lighting. The interior of the ZR2 is a nice place to be, the seats are comfortable and there is a great balance of luxury and function, perfect for a daily driven sports truck. The dash and controls are laid out well and the rear seat offers more than enough room for adults, even on long road trips. Having logged many miles in both the gasoline and diesel versions the gas wins again for interior noise, even with the V6 performance package the exhaust note that is only loud when you want it to be.

The Colorado ZR2 is perfect for the weekend warrior who wants a truck but still needs a daily driver that isn't unwieldy in the city. Not being a ranch hand or someone who tows often the Colorado offers all the truck I need. I used the Colorado ZR2 for everything from everyday errands to longer road trips and never had issues finding parking like I have with some full-size trucks. The bed could use a few more tie-downs and with its lifted loading deck some kind of step would come in handy, as would power running boards, but from hauling the Christmas tree to hauling the family around the ZR2 was the right sized truck for the job and the ZR2 offers a lot of content for the price point.

Having driven the Ford Ranger FX4, the Tacoma TRD Pro, and ancient Nissan Frontier SL, the Colorado ZR2 is the clear winner in the mid-sized sport truck segment. The only small truck that might give the ZR2 a run for its money in fun factor, features, and practicality is the new Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, which I have yet to drive.

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