Class: Compact Pickup
Miles driven: 217
Fuel used: 10.4 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 20.9 mpg
Driving mix: 55% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 18/22/19 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Diesel
Base price: $42.900 (not including $1095 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: ZR2 Bison package ($5750), 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine ($3500)
Price as tested: $53,245
The great: Off-road capability, sophisticated 4WD system, easy-to-use infotainment system
The good: Distinctive looks, cabin small-item storage space, decent fuel economy from available Duramax diesel engine
The not so good: Steep price for ZR2 Bison package and diesel engine option, high step-in
If you want to get away from the crowd, Chevrolet makes a Colorado ZR2 compact pickup that will do the job. But those who really want to leave the herd behind will need a Bison.
Bison is a new option group with features cooked up by off-road upfitter American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) designed to make the ZR2 a bit more capable than it normally is. The package is available on both ZR2 cab-and-bed configurations—extended cab with long bed and crew cab with short bed—for an expenditure of 5750 buffalo bills. Consumer Guide sampled a crew cab that was additionally bestowed with the extra-cost Duramax turbodiesel engine, which drove the final delivered price of the tested truck to $53,245.
ZR2s are exclusively 4-wheel-drive vehicles—no surprise there—but they are the only 4×4 Colorados with full-time 4-wheel drive. The full-locking front and rear differentials are put into play via an electrically actuated 2-speed transfer case. All-terrain rubber is clamped on the 17-inch alloy wheels, and the lower body panels are defended against threats from rocks, logs, and other trail obstacles by underbody bars. Adaptive Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) shock absorbers, a trailering-equipment package, and trailer-brake controller round out the complement of ZR2 gear.
The Bison relies on AEV for clearance-angle-enhancing stamped-steel front and rear bumpers with front winch provision and rear tow hooks; strong but light hot-stamped boron-steel skid plates under the differentials, transfer case, oil pan, and fuel tank; black wheel flares; 12-spoke black-finish aluminum wheels; and branded floor liners and embroidered seat headrests. Chevy rounds out the package with fog lamps and a specific grille with stencil-type lettering to spell out the brand name.
Despite being outfitted for off-road work—none of which this reviewer got to do in his time with the truck—normal street and highway ride was nicely composed and compliant, without undue jolts or hops over surface imperfections. It handled well and easily. There was no challenge in close-in parking-lot maneuvers, and the all-terrain tires didn’t induce any tramlining or disagreeable noise in expressway driving.
Step-in is somewhat high. The Bison is sort of in that in-between spot betwixt not really high enough to absolutely require running boards or step rails—which would just get in the way off road—but still lofty enough for even tall passenger to have to use the A-pillar grab handles for some leverage in hopping aboard.
At 181 horsepower, the 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel is the least powerful of the three available Colorado engines, a good 127 short of the 3.6-liter V6 standard in the ZR2. However, it’s packed with quickly available torque: 369 lb-ft at 2000 rpm. The Duramax throbs a bit at idle, but it’s quieter than you might expect for a diesel. It provides a nicely linear flow of power that starts pretty much at the touch of the accelerator. The diesel is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission (in place of an 8-speed unit that’s used with the V6). It exhibited smooth operation with prompt kickdown. This driver’s test stint of 155 miles, which included 55 percent city-style operation, worked out to 22.5 mpg—beating the EPA’s highway estimate of 22 mpg.
In addition to the Bison package, additional updates to the 2019 Colorado include a rear park-assist feature, which wasn’t on the test truck; an available high-definition rearview camera that was included; and revised infotainment systems that include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality, enhanced voice recognition, and real-time traffic updates. The Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus system was easy to use (audio presets proved simple and direct to input, though remote station changes via buttons on the back of the steering wheel were perhaps a count slow to respond). Handy climate-system dials—automatic air conditioning is standard—control fan speed and temperature settings, with buttons for mode and other functions. Below that is a row of levers for driveline and traction-system options. Main driving controls are legible and easily accessible.
Even though the ZR2 sits atop the Colorado price structure, it’s not conspicuously plush, which isn’t wholly out of character for a truck that’s more for open country than the country club. There are leather front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel—both heated—but other soft-touch materials are scant. Seats are comfortable, and there’s good headroom in both rows. Front legroom is fine, and the crew cab’s rear seat will accommodate more kinds of passengers than it won’t. Driver vision is pretty good all around.
The glove box and covered console cubby are pretty large. There are two exposed cup holders in the console, and a double row of small pockets and trays (with a lower-level bottle holder) in each front door. Rear storage is managed by a pouch on the back of the front passenger seat, bottle holders in the doors, cup holders in the pull-down center armrest, and a trough that runs under the fold-up 60/40-split rear seat cushions. A locking “EZ Lift and Lower” tailgate grants access to a cargo bed that’s slightly more than five feet long and protected by a spray-on liner. The ZR2’s high stance may make some loading a little bit more difficult, and it gives up considerable maximum payload and towing capacity even to other Colorado turbodiesel 4WD crew cabs.
Some other standard features include hill-descent control, remote keyless entry and starting, heated exterior power mirrors, power-adjustable front seats, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering column, sliding rear window, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless charging. CG has taken to the Colorado as a small-pickup “Best Buy” because of things like its up-to-date technology features and all-around refinement, but the ZR2 Bison is for those who like to feel a little rough around the edges now and then.
Though John Biel wasn’t able to take the ZR2 Bison off-road during his time with the vehicle, this driver had the opportunity to sling a little mud with it on a short off-road course at the Autobahn Country Club facility in Joliet, Illinois. We were there participating the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s Fall Rally, an annual journalist-only event that provides access to a number of the auto industry’s newest products.
Though there weren’t any super-challenging rock crawls or ultra-steep inclines or declines on that off-road course, the ZR2 Bison made quick work of the rugged dirt trails through a forested area, and also felt especially stable through a higher-speed section of the course. Plus, despite its serious off-road hardware and diesel engine, this ZR2 Bison felt a bit more refined all-around and more livable in day-to-day driving than Toyota Tacoma TRD Pros we’ve driven recently.
However, the $5750 price tag of the Bison goodies doesn’t strike us as a great deal. It could be a future collectible vehicle, but a lot of the upgrades are primarily cosmetic, and a greater degree of personalization is available from the aftermarket if you’re that focused on accessories.
Colorado ZR2 Bison