Well, that didn’t take long. Only a few short years ago, the mid-size truck mar­ket was all but hang­ing by a thread. The Ranger, Dakota, Colorado, Canyon and B-Series had all got­ten the axe and the Ta­coma and Fron­tier were left to wither and die from a lack of at­ten­tion.

Fast-for­ward to the present day, and a ma­jor shift has taken place. The Colorado and Canyon are back, the Ranger is on its way and the Ta­coma has not just re­ceived a com­plete makeover, but a full out off-road trail edi­tion that comes as close to a pure­bred off-roader as any­thing south of the Jeep Wran­gler.

Well, Toy­ota’s mo­nop­oly of hav­ing the only true mid-size hard-core off-roader will be a short and sweet mo­ment in au­to­mo­tive his­tory. Soon it will have some very stiff com­pe­ti­tion to con­tend with, the return of GM’s ZR2 name­plate that will first be plas­tered on the Chevro­let Colorado.

GM has now of­fi­cially an­nounced the ad­di­tion of the ZR2 into the line-up later this year and on pa­per, it looks like it might just have the Taco on the ropes.

At the heart of the spe­cial off-road fo­cused trim is the ap­pli­ca­tion of Dy­namic Sus­pen­sions Spool Valve (DSSVTM) damper tech­nol­ogy, pro­duced by Cana­dian sus­pen­sion gu­rus, Mul­ti­matic.

“Our engi­neers have been in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ing Corvette and Ca­maro per­for­mance vari­ants with broad per­for­mance en­velopes,” said Mark Reuss, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, Global Prod­uct Devel­op­ment. “The ZR2 ap­plies

that same phi­los­o­phy to off-road per­for­mance. You can go rock crawl­ing on Satur­day, desert run­ning on Sun­day, and com­fort­ably drive to work on Mon­day. This truck can do it all, and do it all well.”

Com­pared to de­flected-disk valv­ing com­mon on most dampers, the ZR2 em­ploys spool valves that of­fer in­creased pre­ci­sion and man­u­fac­tur­ing re­peata­bil­ity along with en­hanced ride and han­dling per­for­mance both on- and off-road.

The Colorado ZR2’s DSSV dampers are po­si­tion-sen­si­tive. Their alu­minum bod­ies each house two spool valves pro­vid­ing both com­pres­sion and re­bound damp­ing op­ti­mized for ev­ery­day driv­ing. Dur­ing ex­treme off-road use, a third, pis­ton-mounted spool valve de­liv­ers ad­di­tional, uniquely-tuned, com­pres­sion damp­ing. The front dampers also em­ploy a sep­a­rate re­bound valve, which comes into play when the sus­pen­sion ap­proaches full ex­ten­sion.

“A tra­di­tional, de­flected-disc damper only of­fers two force-ve­loc­ity curves for tun­ing,” said Mark Dick­ens, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Per­for­mance Vari­ants, Per­for­mance Parts and Mo­tor­sports Engi­neer­ing, Chevro­let. “The ZR2 dampers of­fer six tun­ing curves for the front, four at the rear. For the driver, this trans­lates to greater con­fi­dence and con­trol in a wider range of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.”

De­sign­wise, the ZR2 has a more ag­gres­sive side pro­file, with the sus­pen­sion lifted two inches for greater ground clear­ance com­pared to a Colorado Z71. The front bumper of the ZR2 has ta­pered

ends to in­crease the tire clear­ance when ap­proach­ing ob­sta­cles. The bumper also in­te­grates a thick, alu­minum skid plate pro­tect­ing the ra­di­a­tor and en­gine oil pan, while an ad­di­tional shield pro­tects the trans­fer case. Above the bumper, the ZR2 features a more ag­gres­sive grille and hood – with black in­sert – to com­ple­ment the other ex­te­rior changes.

The front and rear track has been widened by 90 mm (3.5”), with new ca­st­iron con­trol arms for greater dura­bil­ity in off-road sit­u­a­tions. As a re­sult, the ZR2 of­fers greater wheel travel and sta­bil­ity while travers­ing steep grades. The ZR2 also features 17 x 8 inch alu­minum wheels, in a pat­tern ex­clu­sive to the ZR2, wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Du­ra­trac off-road tires.

Another im­por­tant fea­ture is the four-wheel drive sys­tem that is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive for a mid-size truck. With clas­sex­clu­sive, elec­tronic-lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials front and rear and Chevro­let’s Au­toTrac trans­fer case, the ZR2 of­fers nine drive con­fig­u­ra­tions:

• 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

• 4WD Lo, locked trans­fer case, locked front and rear dif­fer­en­tials

GM says that ex­ten­sive work was done to in­te­grate the elec­tronic lock­ers and al­low them to seam­lessly in­ter­act with the trac­tion con­trol, sta­bil­ity con­trol, and hill-de­scent con­trol. In ad­di­tion, a new “Off-Road Mode” but­ton, in com­bi­na­tion with the trac­tion con­trol switch, al­lows the anti-lock brakes, trac­tion con­trol, and sta­bil­ity con­trol cal­i­bra­tions to be tai­lored to dif­fer­ent driv­ing con­di­tions. Off-Road Mode also al­ters the throt­tle pro­gres­sion and shifts cal­i­bra­tions to give the driver bet­ter con­trol and re­spon­sive­ness.

The ZR2 will re­ceive the same pow­er­trains as the stan­dard Colorado, with an all-new 308 hp and 275 lb-ft 3.6L V-6, mated to a Hy­dra-Matic eight-speed au­to­matic. The 181 hp and 369 lb-ft Du­ra­max diesel will be par­tic­u­lar ap­peal­ing to the off-road and pro­vide over­land com­mu­nity.

There is a lot of air un­der that chas­sis; this could be a good sign.

Some usual trim badg­ing will dec­o­rate the in­te­rior along with ad­di­tional of­froad tech.

Canada’s own Mul­ti­matic sus­pen­sion man­u­fac­turer is re­spon­si­ble for what could prove to be game chang­ing sus­pen­sion dy­nam­ics.

An in­crease in approach and de­par­ture an­gles is ob­vi­ous.

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