Spirit An­i­mal


Motor Trend - - Contents - Scott Evans

2019 Chevro­let Colorado ZR2 Bi­son

Chevy cre­ates a Colorado built for over­land­ing.

Have you ever seen a bi­son run? It’s not a grace­ful gal­lop like a horse, more skip­ping like a goat. I imag­ine most read­ers won’t be fa­mil­iar with such mat­ters. I am, only be­cause one charged my car once. I don’t know if it was per­sonal or if bi­son just don’t care for Volk­swa­gens, but he gave up af­ter a short chase. The ZR2 Bi­son, how­ever, doesn’t give up so eas­ily.

If you’re into trucks, you’re likely fa­mil­iar with the stan­dard Colorado ZR2. It trans­forms the al­ready solid Colorado 4x4 into an in­cred­i­bly ca­pa­ble off-road truck with lock­ing front and rear dif­fer­en­tials, beefy tires, un­der­body pro­tec­tion, hacked-off bumper ends, and Mul­ti­matic DSSV shock ab­sorbers.

Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion Ve­hi­cles, Chevro­let’s de­vel­op­ment part­ner, takes the ZR2 to the next level. It’s ap­pro­pri­ate that AEV fea­tures a bi­son bull as its mascot, be­cause the even-more-rugged ZR2 skips over rocks like Billy the kid.

Known for sell­ing fac­tory-qual­ity af­ter­mar­ket truck and SUV parts (not to men­tion com­plete ve­hi­cles) for hard­core off-road­ers, AEV spe­cial­izes in over­land­ing—those who travel long dis­tances off-road and camp along the way, com­pletely self-suf­fi­cient.

For the ZR2 Bi­son, AEV sup­plies new bumpers with tubu­lar steel pro­tec­tion for the cor­ners of the truck. The front bumper gets a winch mount, and the rear gets re­cov­ery points. The ZR2’S rock slid­ers re­main to pro­tect the rocker pan­els, but the Bi­son gets ad­di­tional boron steel skid­plates un­der the truck to pro­tect all the crit­i­cal bits.

The looks are up­dated with 17-inch alu­minum wheels in 31-inch Goodyear Wran­gler Du­ra­trac tires, a new black grille with punched-out “Chevro­let” let­ter­ing, and AEV Bi­son badges. A snorkel is op­tional, and Chevy says the shocks are re­tuned for rock crawl­ing.

You can tell the Bi­son is about get­ting into (and out of ) places other trucks don’t (or won’t) go. Your stan­dard 4X4 isn’t much good at un­main­tained trails, deep wa­ter cross­ings, or rock crawl­ing. And spe­cial­ized trucks like the Ford Rap­tor and Ram Power Wagon are way too big for the real back­woods stuff. The Bi­son hap­pily goes places nor­mally re­served for Jeep Wran­glers and cus­tom-built off-road­ers while pro­vid­ing you a bed you can fill with gear, at­tach racks to, and set up a tent on.

This is no mall-crawl­ing brodozer. To prove it, Chevy took us to the Sonora Desert and let us bang its $48,045 truck (to start for an ex­tended cab V-6; Crew Cab runs $49,645, and the diesel adds $3,500) off all the rocks we could find. The rock gar­den re­quired spot­ters on ev­ery el­e­ment to limit dam­age to parts meant for such off-road­ing.

And dam­age those parts we did. The rock slid­ers be­low the doors got the big­gest workout, fol­lowed by the un­der­body pro­tec­tion. Most of it doesn’t show, and even the dings you

can see didn’t look that bad, a tes­ta­ment to the strength of the guards. The mas­sive ex­haust tip on the diesel mod­els didn’t fare nearly as well.

In most cases, the grip from the Goodyears and the torque mul­ti­pli­ca­tion pro­vided in low range were enough to get through ob­sta­cles—but the lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial came to the res­cue when needed. Only a rare ob­sta­cle and a bad driv­ing line ne­ces­si­tated the use of the front locker, but when it did, the truck went through, no winch­ing re­quired.

Its new­found strengths haven’t led to com­pro­mises. Skid­plates thor­oughly bashed, we dis­abled the lock­ers, popped the Bi­son back up into four high, and bounded out the trail and dirt ac­cess road no dif­fer­ently than we would have in a stan­dard ZR2. Back on the high­way, the rum­ble of the off-road tires was the only in­di­ca­tion of the truck’s spe­cialty.

The Colorado ZR2 Bi­son does all the things a ZR2 can while spe­cial­iz­ing in get­ting out of the worst sit­u­a­tions you con­front. It also of­fers an ideal plat­form for the off-roader of your dreams. It’s no Craigslist spe­cial, but if you’re bas­ing your off-road build on a new truck, you’re go­ing to dump some se­ri­ous money into it re­gard­less. Why not start with the best? n

The ZR2 Bi­son is about get­ting into (and out of) places other trucks don’t go.

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