First re­port: Mid­size mob­ber

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First re­port: Mid­size mob­ber

FROM A SUR­PRIS­ING CON­CEPT that de­buted at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show in 2014 to a full-fledged pro­duc­tion truck in 2018, Chevy has awak­ened the souls of any mid­size off-road en­thu­si­ast tired of be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of a Ta­coma butt kick­ing. With real per­for­mance in mind, the team at Chevy got se­ri­ous with their mid­size per­for­mance truck by en­list­ing the help of Mul­ti­matic for a rev­o­lu­tion­ary shock de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing an elec­tron­ics-off of­froad driv­ing mode, and equip­ping the ZR2 with front and rear lock­ers. It is clear that Chevy’s Colorado ZR2 team came to win. And win they did, by tak­ing home the 2018 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year Tro­phy.

As with ev­ery win­ning pickup, we were able to spec one out for a year­long eval­u­a­tion. We started with a 2018 Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab with a base price of $42,000. From there we added the 2.8L Du­ra­max diesel and six-speed au­to­matic ($3,500), Premium In­te­rior Pack­age ($750), Premium Bose Au­dio ($500), Ca­jun Red Tint­coat ($495), Chevro­let In­fo­tain­ment with Nav­i­ga­tion and 8-inch Touch­screen ($495), Gearon Bar Pack­age ($415), Cargo Divider ($305), Perime­ter Bed Light­ing Kit ($265), Key­less En­try Key­pad

($155), and En­gine Block Heater ($100). We ad­mit­tedly went a lit­tle crazy by se­lect­ing the Il­lu­mi­nated Black Bowtie ($495) for the grille, but we won’t apol­o­gize be­cause it is just cool. With a $995 des­ti­na­tion charge, our Colorado showed up in our drive­way with an astested price of $50,400.

The real head­line is that the ZR2 sits 2 inches higher than a non-zr2 Colorado and has rev­o­lu­tion­ary spool valve shock tech­nol­ogy—some­thing used on the race track and toyed with in the off-road mar­ket, but never be­fore on a fac­tory off-roader. These shocks have very dis­tinct ride char­ac­ter­is­tics, al­most feel­ing like they’re equipped with hy­draulic bumps, but with­out the noise. Also in­cluded with the ZR2 pack­age: a wider track, 31-inch Goodyear Du­ra­trac tires, front and rear elec­tronic lock­ers, rock rails, al­most full skid­plat­ing (a fuel tank skid is cu­ri­ously ab­sent), all-off trac­tion and sta­bil­ity elec­tron­ics, a match­ing spare, spray-in bed­liner, trai­ler­ing pack­age, and a few stylis­tic dif­fer­ences over the stan­dard Colorado.

Around town, the Du­ra­tracs feel a lit­tle chunkier, a lit­tle nois­ier, and di­rec­tion sta­bil­ity isn’t quite as good as a Colorado Z71, but these are all mi­nor draw­backs to the over­all pack­age. The diesel ZR2 runs no­tice­ably stiffer springs, and we’ll ad­mit we like the softer spring rates and lighter weight of the V-6 over the nose; how­ever, the truck feels as if it were springed with the idea of ad­di­tional ac­ces­sories in mind (such as a winch bumper). We do wish the truck was an inch lower and that the inch went to­ward down­travel, as cer­tain cross ditches and railroad tracks eas­ily max out the sus­pen­sion; you can feel the wheels yank the chas­sis down when the droop limit is reached.

The torque-dol­ing baby Du­ra­max could use an ad­di­tional 20-25 hp and a lit­tle less turbo lag, but it is ad­e­quate for merg­ing into traf­fic and rarely needs to downshift at high­way speeds. The fuel econ­omy la­bel rates the ZR2 at 19/22/20 mpg, which is ex­actly in line with our av­er­age of 19.88 and best high­way of 21.27. We reg­u­larly see over 420 miles of range from the 21-gal­lon tank. It also has a de­cent amount of DEF ca­pac­ity, not re­quir­ing any ad­di­tional fluid through the first 5,000 miles.

On-road com­pro­mises aside, the Colorado ZR2 is a riot in the dirt. It would be a shame if peo­ple bought the ZR2 and never took it off-road, be­cause they would miss out on the real pur­pose of this truck. With off-road mode ac­ti­vated, the Colorado is play­ful and en­gag­ing, easy to drift, fast, and with the sus­pen­sion work­ing, we rarely feel like there isn’t enough travel—save for the sur­prise Gout, and huge whoops. Thanks to a stiff cab and chas­sis, the sus­pen­sion is al­lowed to work, and when the sus­pen­sion is breath­ing, the Colorado feels just about per­fect. The Mul­ti­mat­ics make a 9-inch­travel truck feel more like an 11-inch-travel truck, thanks to the ef­fi­cient way they dis­si­pate en­ergy.

We are ex­cited to ex­pe­ri­ence the spool valve tech­nol­ogy over the course of the Colorado’s year­long stay with us, and to as­sess the re­li­a­bil­ity of the 2.8L Du­ra­max driv­e­train and see what kind of fuel econ­omy we can eek out on some up­com­ing high­way trips. So far we are im­pressed with the mid­size Chevy, and we are pretty sure we saw a few Ta­coma TRD Pro guys ad­mir­ing our ride out of the cor­ners of their eyes. We weren’t sur­prised though—the Colorado ZR2 is cur­rently the bet­ter truck.

->Mul­ti­matic spool valve shocks are the se­cret sauce in the ZR2’S recipe. While not a true mono­tube or an in­ter­nal by­pass, they re­sist heat well and have sim­i­lar per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics.

|>The 2.8L four-cylin­der Du­ra­max makes 186 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s a great lit­tle mill but could use quicker spool up and a bit more horse­power.

->The light-up Bow Tie is a bit gra­tu­itous, but we don’t care; wher­ever we go, peo­ple think it’s cool. And so do we.

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