2017 Chevrolet Colorado Zr2 Test Drive

The Colorado ZR2 is an extreme off-roader, the likes of which haven’t been seen from GM since Hummer was honorably discharged in 2010. But unlike those hulking, wannabe war machines, the ZR2 was engineered to excel at rock crawling, high speed desert running and the daily commute. Juggling chainsaws is easier than that.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Zr2

The $40,995 ZR2 comes standard with front, rear and center locking differentials; 31-inch tires; and a 2.0-inch lift and 3.5-inch wider track than a Colorado Z71, courtesy of a longer rear axle and redesigned cast iron front control arms. That’s a serious effort, but not too shocking. The shocks that Chevy chose to keep everything in check are.

They’re known as Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers, and were originally invented by Canadian automotive engineering firm and race car builder Multimatic for use in Indy and F1 cars. Chevy borrowed a set for the last Camaro Z/28, which was engineered by some of the same people that did the ZR2. Putting them on a pickup is thinking way outside the cargo box.

Rather than a stack of flexible discs to regulate the flow of fluid inside of them, DSSVs feature spring-activated spool valves that are more precise and help prevent overheating. No two applications are the same, however, and the ZR2’s mission called for an all-new version with two remote chambers located off the main cylinder that deliver the type of wheel travel required for off-roading. It also offers multiple damping and rebound curves that allowed Chevy to tune them to take on a wide variety of surfaces. They are a giant leap for truck kind.

The shocks get stiffer as they compress, so the ZR2 can get plenty of air. Chevy held the launch event for the ZR2 on a trophy truck-style track in Gateway, Colo., that had a big jump that I was hitting at close to 50 mph, which was more than enough to get all four wheels off the ground.

The Tacoma is the closer rival, and a right-sized rock crawler. But it’s less powerful than the ZR2, smaller inside, and a more traditional off-road suspension that makes it nervous at high speeds on paved roads. (Bonus points for offering a six-speed manual, though.)

On the other hand, the more powerful, full-size Raptor can handle higher speeds and bigger jumps out in the desert, and should leave the ZR2 in its dust there, but it’s a little bouncy on the street and too big for a lot of trails. Not to mention some garages. It also starts $10,000 more than the ZR2 before you even look at the options list.

Chevy could close the performance gap with the Raptor by offering an even more powerful engine in the ZR2. It already has the bulging hood for it, and the suspension seems up for the challenge. There’s a killer twin-turbocharged V6 in the GM parts bin that would turn it into a really wild truck.

In the meantime, it’s a fun one, and a good deal considering all that it comes with. Expect to see plenty of them flying off dealer lots and other things soon.

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