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Torque or suspension? Serious off-roaders have been asking themselves this question since the days of the covered wagon and have been improving both areas through aftermarket performance items for just about as long. Ford’s specialty performance off-road truck, the SVT Raptor, is now in its second generation. General Motors fans have long hoped for a Gm-branded offroad performance truck of their own, and Chevy has finally delivered with the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 pickup. To make things even better, the ZR2 can be had with the venerable 2.8L Duramax diesel engine under its bulging hood.
If we were scratch-building an off-road truck, we’d choose a diesel engine and equip the chassis with a sturdy suspension, an interior filled with 2017 must-haves, and of course try to keep the price reasonable. That’s what Chevrolet has done with the Colorado ZR2, a truck that looks designed to push Ford’s Raptor, and priced at $40,995 including delivery (adding in another $3,500 for the Duramax option) and you will be ready to rock—or hit the rocks! Yep, leather seats are standard with this truck.
Starting with the Colorado mid-sized pickup, Chevrolet engineers widened the track by 3.5 inches (88.9 mm) and lifted the suspension 2 inches (50.8 mm), both critical to enhancing off-road prowess. Then the not-so-secret sauces were added: class-exclusive electronically locking front and rear differentials, steel tube rock rails, bumpers at the front and rear modified for clearance, cast-iron control arms for
robustness, an aluminum skid plate to protect the oil pan and radiator, Autotrac transfer case with its own shield, a 3.42:1 axle ratio, and 31inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires on 17x8-inch aluminum wheels. The final touch was exclusive Multimatic DSSV dampers on all four corners to give the truck serious off road handling characteristics.
Multimatic’s Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers, a.k.a. shocks, are fitted to Red Bull Racing Formula 1 cars, Ford’s GT race car, Aston Martin’s Vulcan supercar, and in fact many racing vehicles including Indy Lights and Ferrari 458 Challenge cars. Another car with DSSV dampers is Chevrolet’s “ultimate track car,” the Z/28 Camaro. It is the first large-scale production car to use them. Where most dampers rely on orifices in the piston with shims to control rate of flow for the enclosed hydraulic fluid, Multimatic’s DSSV dampers use spool valves that open and close at a rate that depends on speed of the damper shaft. Each valve is created with variable tuning, for instance soft for highway or firm for off-road bumps.
It wasn’t enough that the dampers would be sensitive to piston velocity, for off-roading the spool valves needed to be sensitive to position—for instance at full extension with all four wheels in the air. Another game-changing feature is that spool valves are less sensitive to fluid viscosity, which typically thins during heavy use (such as off-roading).
“A traditional, deflected-disc damper only offers two force-velocity curves for tuning,” says Mark Dickens, Executive Director of Performance Variants, Performance Parts and Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet. According to Dickens, the ZR2 Multimatic DSSV 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.”
Major ZR2 options are the 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel (186 hp/369 lb-ft) paired with GM’S 6-speed automatic. (We tested a Z71 Colorado 4WD with the same engine in the April/may 2016 issue of Ultimate Diesel Builder’s Guide.— Ed.) You can delete the cabin carpeting in favor of black vinyl, and we think many of you will. The dealer can install a bed-mounted spare tire carrier, and you can also select the optional upgraded 7-speaker Bose audio system.
Size matters, and Chevy will offer crew cab ZR2S and extended cab ZR2S, the crew cab with a shorter bed than the extended cab, which keeps overall length reasonable at just under 213 inches.
The more you look at the ZR2 specifications and what’s included as standard equipment, the more impressive it is, and for an off-road vehicle there’s a lot of luxury included. Like heated front driver and passenger seats, wireless phone charging, automatic cruise control, a suite of modern telematics including standard six-speaker audio with Mylink Radio with Navigation in an 8-inch touchscreen and both Apple Carplay and Android Auto, plus voice activation and Bluetooth streaming. Onstar 4G LTE builds in Wi-fi capability.
For the entry price you’ll get remote start, four-way power seats (the driver’s seat with lumbar control), sprayed-on bedliner, a tow-haul mode for the transmission and integrated trailer brake control, and standard trailering package with a hitch and 7-pin connector.
But what really nails its performance credentials is this: You can only get a ZR2 with fourwheel drive. Together with the locking transfer case and lockable front AND rear differentials, there are nine drive modes from highway cruising 2WD to rock crawling 4WD low with locked transfer case and locked front and rear differentials. Now that’s off-roading. For more details and information visit chevrolet.com, or better yet visit your local dealer and take a test drive for yourself. Just be sure to tell them that you read about it here in Ultimate Diesel Builder’s