Off-road pickup trucks are popular this year, with many brands offering extra-tough full-size trucks for performance under the most challenging conditions. Chevrolet might have responded by producing a special edition of their full-size Sierra pickup, but instead Chevy chose the mid-size Colorado to be the off-road leader. It was a genius move.
As a mid-size, the Colorado is quite a bit more nimble than bigger trucks, and the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine makes a great power plant for off-road use. The comparatively small diesel makes 369 pound-feet of torque, which drives the 6-speed automatic transmission very effectively. You can also get the ZR2 with a gas-powered 3.6-liter V6 at 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque with an 8-speed automatic.
You can put the Colorado ZR2 into 2WD or All-Wheel-Drive mode on the street, or in 4WD high or low range for off-road use. You also get controllable locking front and rear differentials for when the going gets really tough.
The best part of the ZR2 is its suspension, which has been strengthened and redesigned. Upgraded front control arms are 3.5 inches wider than the basic Colorado, and made of cast iron instead of stamped steel. The front hubs and steering knuckle have also been redesigned for strength. The ride height has been raised by 2 inches over the stock truck, with retuned springs all around.
Then Chevy went all the way and added special Multimatic shock absorbers on all four wheels. The shock design includes variable valving that delivers the toughness required to handle big jumps, while still giving you a smooth and responsive ride on pavement, even after you've been crawling around on rocks or bumping your way down a trail. You can use a Colorado ZR2 as your daily driver and your tool for wheeling in the back country, without giving up comfort or handling on the street, or capability in 4WD.
Inside, the ZR2 is a completely modern truck. You get Chevy's MyLink system, and a 4G/LTE data connection with WiFi. The seats are comfortable and the optional Bose audio system is as good as anything on the market. The Colorado ZR2 is available in a full crew cab, or a smaller extended cab. If you need to tow, the ZR2 will pull up to 5,000 pounds and has an integrated trailer brake controller on the dash.
The bottom line on the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is that if you've been dreaming about the current crop of super off-road trucks, but you don't want to wrestle a giant around town, this is your rig.
2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Base price: $42,580
Price as tested: $47,060
Type: Mid-size Pickup
Engines: 2.8-liter turbo-diesel (186 hp, 369 lbs-ft); 3.6-liter V6 (308 hp, 275 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic; 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 19/22
Overall length: 212.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,985 pounds
Final assembly: Wentzville, Missouri